PARIS — Two giants in the retail bakery world dished on how fermented bread production shouldn’t scare bakers. Like all other bread recipes, it can be repeated and perfected to synchronize production in any size of bakery.
Daniel Leader, founder of Bread Alone, Lake Katrine, N.Y., and Apollonia Poilâne, third generation baker at Poilâne Bakery, Paris, discussed trends in fermented bread and how their bakeries have mastered the art during a forum discussion at Europain 2020, being held Jan. 11-14 in Paris.
Mr. Leader discussed how bakers may be hesitant to start a fermented bread line because of the factors involved with slow fermentation, but it can be broken down in simple terms if understood correctly.
“If you want to build a lot of sourdough and control it, you simply need the space, the time and the temperature,” Mr. Leader said. “If you stick with the basics, meaning a good culture and a good feeding schedule, and can control time, there’s no reason why big bakeries can’t benefit from sourdough.”
He used Ms. Poilâne’s bakery as an example. As a semi-cool underground room with a hot oven at the end, bakers are able to control fermentation by simply moving the dough around the room, he said.
“Now with computer-controlled retarders and proofers, bakers have the ability to fine tune their fermentation,” he said.
Because of new technologies, Mr. Leader said it’s a great time for bakers of any operation size to start creating sourdoughs.
From his own experience as a baker, Mr. Leader described the process of ramping up Bread Alone’s sourdough production from 2,000 kg of product per hour to 10,000.
“We didn’t change how we did our sourdough; we just had more doughs and bigger rooms to control them,” he said. “The only thing we’ve changed is that now we have temperature-controlled tanks for our liquid sourdoughs. It’s very easy, very controlled. They automatically stir every 20 minutes.”
In addition to new technology, there’s more research than ever available to help bakers start their own production, he noted.
In Europe, the collaboration between bakers and millers is critical to developing proper fermentation techniques.
“Bakers in France can just go to their local flour mill, do a two-week course on how to optimize their flour and come away as better bakers,” he said, adding that North American bakers need to further develop these relationships.
“I’d love to see millers not just supply product, but I’d really like to see American milling companies providing baking know-how,” Mr. Leader said. “It’s a logical step.”
Europain also is offering a wealth of solutions for European bakers that apply in North America. There are companies selling sourdough starters and temperature-controlled tanks. And there is a plethora of alternative grains available from European millers. Mr. Leader said the U.S. market is warming up to the idea of healthier bread using alternative and ancient grains, but the market still needs to evolve. What’s already developed and will continue to grow over the next decade, Mr. Leader hypothesized, is the continued growth of sourdoughs and fermented bread.
And that goes for retail bakeries and industrial bakeries alike.
“It’s kind of like the Starbucks analogy,” he said. “When Starbucks came to some cities, people thought it would kill all the little coffee houses. When, in fact, Starbucks created a lot more interest in coffee and now there’s more good coffee than ever. So I would think as the industrial bakers start producing better bread, it’s going to be better for the industry in general.”