Bakers Journal

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Editor’s Letter: Roaring Twenties Redux


February 6, 2020
By Bakers Journal

Happy New Year, readers! The holiday rush has died down long enough for you to catch your breath and prepare yourselves for the next big bakery rush: Valentine’s Day.

2020 is a strange time, so far. The last century’s Roaring Twenties were a time when women were fighting for equal rights, the wealthy were living lives of hedonistic excess, while countries were on the brink of world war. It doesn’t seem like much has changed, except, now we have the Internet.

Pastries a hundred years ago were served in smaller portion sizes. Due to the limitations in refrigeration technology, they also were restricted to local and seasonal flavours. Today’s pastries are often smaller due to cost, or to create “cute” pastry that is easier to post on social media. Some bakeries may even market bite-sized treats as a form of portion-control for customers who still want to indulge while reducing their fat and sugar intake. Flavours are now local and seasonal in deference to environmental concerns and sustainability.

One element has truly changed: Bakers now look more to more international inspirations that add a multi-cultural flair to their creations. Chef Franck Buiron adds matcha and passionfruit to classic French pastry. We don’t shy away from bright colours, but today’s bakers are likelier to get eye-catching hues from fruit and vegetable-based dyes.

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It’s not that synthetic food dyes weren’t available in the late nineteenth century to early twentieth century. A variety of synthetic food dyes then became available to industrial bakeries, but it was only by the late 1930’s that the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. began to test them. Only seven – which still exist today – were approved, and still remain on the list of safe dyes to this day.

Puratos’ Taste Tomorrow consumer survey last year revealed that clients want natural and “clean” ingredients. Today’s bakers are using fruit juices, spices and herbs to create their colour palate, and sometimes, to influence taste. Matcha tea adds a subtle, light green hue: cherries evoke a cheery Valentine’s Day greeting in between the lacy ruffles of white cream in La Boule’s eclairs.

Today, we’re seeing greater diversity of choice when it comes to cruelty-free or better-for-you food options. Jane Dummer’s article on FODMAP friendly breads shows how science has improved the health of those who experience IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome.) The creation of the FODMAP-friendly diet is another change that this brave new century has wrought, along with new products for those who can’t or won’t consumer dairy. You can read how Master Baker Lionel Vatinet melded ancient bread techniques to create fermented doughs that are FODMAP friendly.

Instead of looking to our own countries and traditions, chefs are peeking into other countries for inspiration. Ingredients that are were once considered exotic and un-traditional add spice to the life of a recipe. Both chefs and consumers are looking towards the past with one foot in the future. Multiculturalism is the future, and we’re perfecting the art of mixing cultures for a better loaf, and a better society.

This is a brave new world and a new decade to explore; sometimes to go forward, we need to look back. /BJ