Artisan baking opportunities emphasized at A.S.B.

by Jeff Gelski
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CHICAGO — Artisan bread gives bakers an opportunity to tell origin stories about a product that many consumers view as healthy, said Klaus Tenbergen, a baker and assistant professor in the Department of Food Science at California State University in Fresno. While labor costs increase during the production of artisan bread, bakers should not fear charging more for the bread to make a profit, he said in a March 6 session at the American Society of Baking’s Baking Tech 2012 session in Chicago.

A native of Germany, Dr. Tenbergen was awarded the title of backkermeister in Germany and the title of master baker in South Africa. He has taught at California State University since 2006.

Consumers will show interest in the history of a bread product, Dr. Tenbergen said. For example, croissants were invented in Vienna, not France. Marie Antoinette, a native of Vienna, asked her personal baker to make croissants after she moved to Paris.

Sourdough was popular during the 1849 California gold rush, Dr. Tenbergen said. “Sourdough Sam,” the mascot of the San Francisco 49ers football team, draws his name from the bread. Ancient grains offer another opportunity for storytelling when used in artisan bread. Quinoa was known as the “gold of the Incas,” Dr. Tenbergen said.

While manual labor will add costs to artisan bread production, Dr. Tenbergen said bakers probably will be able to charge double for the product and make a profit.

“Yes, it’s labor-intensive, and yes, you can charge extra cents,” he said.

Sourdough also offers cost-savings benefits in hydration rates that may range from 50% to 72% or even higher. More water, which is inexpensive, will lead to more weight and more cost-savings, Dr. Tenbergen said.

Artisan bread is not well-defined, he said. An “Old World” image may bring to mind hand-crafted small batches of bread, little or no automation, brick ovens, and proprietary starters and fermentation. Bakers may give bread a more artisan appearance through the use of such ingredients as flour dusters, poppy seed, cracked wheat, rolled oats, sesame seed and flaked almonds. Inclusions may come in such forms as olives, cheese, fruit, nuts and cocoa nubs.

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