Editor's Letter: June 2018

Flour: the staff of life
Naomi Szeben
May 16, 2018
Written by
In the words of Laura Aiken, former Bakers Journal editor: “The first and last editorials are so hard to write. It’s hard to say goodbye, but it’s also hard to say hello.” Having Laura’s kind support and mentorship means so much to me, particularly as this is my first issue.
I’m proud to say “hello” to our talented columnists, my gifted co-workers at Annex Business Media and the creative bakers and pastry chefs that I will get to know over time.I look forward to breaking bread with you all – literally and proverbially.

Bread is by nature a communal food. It’s eaten at the start of a meal and can symbolize a new venture or even the start of a new season in some cultures. The term “breaking bread” is shared by many and intended to break down barriers. Symbolically, breaking bread means sharing an experience, taking part in a social gathering. I’m proud to start my new venture as editor of Bakers Journal and hope to serve a readership that will enjoy the contents of this publication.

Wheat sheaves are the original “staff of life.” Wheat was traded in kind and in coin throughout antiquity: One of the earliest forms of currency found in an archeological dig featured an ear of wheat stamped on a coin, representing what humans valued most for survival: Food. Flour is both the simplest and most complex of wheat’s possibilities. Sourdough bread starts with only three ingredients: Water, flour and air. From these simple basics, wonderfully complex flavours emerge. Bread is often seen as a metaphor for life; So much can happen with so few ingredients.

Sourdough’s mystique comes from air, in the millions of airborne particles that help ferment the wild yeast in its culture. Bakers Journal was honoured to speak with Karl de Smedt, the sourdough librarian who keeps and catalogues an international store of sourdough cultures in an attempt to understand the complexities of this modest food.

Flour is deceptively simple. As Karen Barr’s article, “Flour Power” demonstrates, regional differences in flour can result in a different texture to pastry. The gluten content in each country’s flour can help identify and make a locality’s piecrust unique. It’s not summer without biting into a crisp, flaky crust enveloping fresh berries. Barr discusses the delicate balance between filling and crust and what makes pies a popular international summer dessert.

We can all become loyal – even too loyal – to the tastes that we identify in our local “chomping grounds.” Nostalgia plays a big part in taste, and sometimes, getting clients to try something new may present a challenge to the creative baker. How do you get customers out of a rut they didn’t know they were in?

In this issue, we celebrate the 2018 winner of the Jake The Baker award, Paul Nicholl, who shows us how to guide potential customers around the often baffling array of bread choices. The Dobbit Bakehouse owner demonstrated how he contributed to bringing more than baked goods to the town of Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S., and shows us how bread brought his community together.

Bread and community often go hand-in-hand. I look forward to learning from the baking community, and putting each issue together with the same care and creativity bakers put into their wares. I thank you all for your warm welcome.

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