Bakers Journal

CRFA Show serves up ideas

April 21, 2014
By Colleen Cross

Ideas were bubbling like chocolate fountains at the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) show

Ideas were bubbling like chocolate fountains at the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) show, which highlighted a recent rebranding of the association as Restaurants Canada.

Joseph Montinaro  
Joseph Montinaro of Dolcini by Joseph in Woodbridge, Ont., stands beside his inviting display cooler of mini cakes that drew steady crowds and proved that small is still big. Photo: Colleen Cross


Among the plethora of product introductions and creative concepts on offer were strong hints that the need to reduce waste by repurposing continues to be a key trend at the annual March show held in Toronto.


Industry experts were on hand to teach bakers how to turn potentially wasted product into delicious profit.

Truffle magic
Momofuku Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi, whose bestselling product – the compost cookie – seems a symbol of repurposing, demonstrated how to turn less-than-perfect cake into Birthday Cake Truffles.

Tosi told a rapt audience about her approach to baking: serve unusual items that “breathe new life” into baking classics. She aims not to compete with her customers’ favourite chocolate chip cookie, but instead to tap into what they love about that comfort food.

The Birthday Cake Truffle was inspired by vanilla box cake and sprinkles, two components of her most popular cake flavour. The cutting-edge baker said these elements embodied the idea of birthday cake without mimicking a specific taste.

One driver behind this latest creation was efficiency. Tosi said she had to get away from slicing cake, a task that was too time consuming and labour intensive.

Another was excess. The standard rectangular baking pan she favoured for its ability to bake evenly left plenty of excess cake around its edges after cakes were cut out.

She set about reusing the cake scraps in crusts and cookie mixes, and in truffles – all great ways, she said, to repurpose overbaked, underbaked, staling cake.

Ironically, the truffles bred such demand that Tosi and her team needed to bake fresh cakes to meet it, she shared with a laugh.

Tosi offered several truffle tips:

  • Break down the cake by hand.
  • Soak the cake in a flavoured liquid that will reinforce the flavour profile you want to achieve, for example, milk and vanilla extract to complement vanilla cake.
  • Experiment with using alcohol.
  • Roll truffles by hand to get a thinner layer.
  • Toss the “sand” mix around them while they are still hot, touching them as lightly as possible.

Tosi entertained as she and her assistant created by explaining that Momofuku holds “truffle parties” where employees congregate to compete with each other. Baking is such a solitary profession, she said, that bakers love to get together and compete in such tasks as scooping, enrobing and rolling.

She tossed in a few new flavours Momofuku is developing. Dulce de leche involves cooking down sweet and condensed milk. Malted milk truffles are soaked in ovaltine, which doubles as a binder.

Tosi told Bakers Journal the Canadian market differs from the U.S. in that it prefers full cakes, so one challenge in bringing her concept to Toronto has been figuring out which product ideas are practical to transport. She referred to Canada’s “continuing strong cupcake culture” and said Canada offers lots of potential for experimentation with traditional Canadian flavours such as maple.

“I love the joy of finding ways to see what’s essentially Canadian in a new light,” she said.

Inventive, practical and profitable
Despite this year’s seemingly everlasting winter, there were unmistakable signs summer is on its way.

Daniela Saccon and Camille Bedu of PreGel offered a slide show entitled “Profitable Dessert Innovations” crammed full of creative yet practical ideas for presenting and repurposing leftover gelato.

The mouthwatering concepts took a backseat to practicality as the duo got busy breaking down costs and calculating profits.

The speakers tackled the age-old problem of how to sell cold products when it’s cold outside, a theme that resonated with the well-chilled Toronto audience. One solution came in the form of the Panini Gelato, made using a sweet bun, leftover gelato and a panini press.

With a 22 per cent food cost, total cost of $1.20 and suggested retail price of $5.50 (based on GTA market pricing), the panini leaves a profit of $4.30.

Affogato, which translates as “drowned in coffee,” is espresso topped with gelato for a dessert and drink in one. Easy to incorporate into your menu, it has a 13 per cent food cost, total cost of 59 cents and SRP of $4.50, leaving a projected profit of $3.91.

Frozen cakes offer what the Saccon and Bedu called “a visual upsell” aimed squarely at customers looking for a unique gourmet experience. The “mono” portion is popular and makes for an attractive display item, they said. Bakers may choose to cover the sides of the cake with cookies or reduce waste by creating a crunchy layer using leftover bakery product. The food cost for an eight-inch cake is pegged at 22 per cent, with a total cost of $7.60, SRP of $35 and a profit of $27.40.

More money-making ideas reside at the PreGel Channel at .

Audience members did not have to go far to indulge their interest in the gelato giant’s product lines of gelato, Arabeschi fillings and sauces, and toppings – and their craving for the cold, creamy bakery complement. PreGel’s own version of the press, released last year, was put to good use on the trade show floor cranking out the hot-cold treats. Judging by the regular lineups at the PreGel booth, gelato is still very much a draw.

Catch an aisle-full of new products
There was no dearth of innovative products at the show this year. Here is a sprinkling of what was on offer.

Natural Chocolate Works of Coquitlam, B.C., demonstrated several new products especially for bakers, including a ready-made ganache that does not require refrigeration.

Cacao Barry made the most of the industry face time by talking up its new Purity line. The company has developed a line of couvertures featuring cocoa beans developed using the Q-fermentation method.

Club Coffee educated everyone on the unrealized potential of coffee for bakeries and restaurants. Customers will pay for high quality in their coffee, Rino Carbone told those gathered for the launch of the roaster’s single-cup coffee pods with superior extraction and 35 per cent less packaging.

By the looks of things, what’s old is new, and what’s new is new, but what’s good is always good – especially if it’s good for the bottom line. 

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