A toast to toasters

We were just thinking, 'the world of toaster innovation has gone a bit quiet of late', and then three major domestic bread-heating advances drop on our desks.
First up is the 'bacon butty toaster'. Following last year's Toast N Egg a toaster with an egg fryer unceremoniously bolted onto the side the boffins at Tefal have put their scientific learning to best use by devising the Toast N Grill. This is an all-in-one toaster and grill, filling the gap in the market for those people who are unable to face the arduous task of operating a grill and a toaster at the same time.
Next is the 'slotless toaster', which, for a mere $90 in the US, allows you to toast without having to lift your bread out of a slot. It features a 10.25 x 7-inch heated surface the obvious failing being that you have to turn your toast over to brown both sides. One gadget website aptly described it as "much like your existing toaster, only less useful".
Last but not least literally the 'Wallace & Gromit' of the toaster world. Devised by former art student Yuri Suzuki, this all-in-one breakfast device, which cost £900 to assemble, can spread butter and jam onto toast, fry omelettes, freshly-squeeze orange juice and even freshly grind coffee beans. Surely the last word in toasting? Tefal, take note.

My Career

How did you get into baking?
My twin brother started a catering course, so I decided to do something different and chose a full-time two-year bakery course at Tameside College in the mid-1970s before going to Hollings College, where I did a technician certificate in bread and confectionery, and then finally a bakery national diploma.

Danish take the crown

The in-store bakeries (ISB) seem to have Viennoiserie and Danish wrapped up this year.
The Danish pastry category is worth £45m and is growing by 10.4% (IRI 52 w/e 5 September 2009), year-on-year, making it the second fastest-growing sweet bakery sector in ISB behind a resurgent muffins category, and outstripping croissant sales. In contrast, Warburtons' recent Bakery Review pointed to a 20% drop in wrapped Danish pastries value.
Andy Clegg, head of bakery at Morrisons, says there has been no great push on promotions, but sales are soaring nonetheless. "We're seeing a small growth in packaged croissants," he says. "But ISB Viennoiserie has seen a market growth of 6% and we've got a growth of 38.9% (Nielsen, 12 weeks to 10 October), mainly driven by ISB croissants. Both the Bakery and Cake shop at Morrisons are performing beyond expectations this year."
So why is Danish, in particular, performing so well? "There is more promotional activity in Danish than croissants, but it also comes back to affordable treats, which people want at the moment and which is really helping ISB in general," says supplier Bakehouse's brand manager Claire Warren. "NPD has been a little more cautious, but people still want to see new things out there and it's really important to deliver that to help grow the category.
"We're seeing more NPD being generated than in other categories, such as Danish crowns with seasonal flavoured fillings, which helps maintain interest in the category. Traditionally, Danish pastries are popular with men and older consumers but lighter flavoured variants, such as lemon Danish, which is new to the category, are being aimed at younger consumers."

Night riders

Anyone who uses the roads during normal daylight hours knows only too well the delays and frustrations caused by the overload of traffic in many areas. While a missed appointment can be re-scheduled, a missed delivery costs serious money for all involved with that particular load retailer, supplier and logistics firm alike.
In 2005, The Freight Transport Association and the Rail Freight Consortium raised with government the problems associated with the general ban on deliveries taking place between 11pm and 7am. This long-standing local authority guideline was designed to reduce noise levels for nearby residents. However, the movement of some retailing to out-of-town shopping centres and the growing road congestion during the day have led people to question this.
Recent evidence has emerged to show that blanket curfews are increasingly inappropriate. A survey of members of the British Retail Consortium, who run more than 7,000 outlets, identified for the first time the true cost of delivery restrictions. About 60% of the outlets are subject to a ban on delivering at specific times, with high street stores relying on kerbside deliveries the hardest-hit. A simple relaxation of one to two hours would save them some £30m a year.

Turning a corner

Imagine the scene: a model with mid-length hair appears on TV before Christmas. With a swish of her hair, she announces that she has discovered the latest appliance that will "Curl & More".
The catch is: it's not available at Boots or any other leading high street chemist for that matter because Curl & More is aimed at bakers, specifically those who want to curl pastries and bread doughs. And our fantasy model might like to know that all those not-so-filled croissants she had for breakfast can now contain more jam or cheese than ever before, as the new Curl & More allows a ratio of filling right up to 1:1.
Manufacturer Rondo's general manager Richard Tearle is delighted at its success: "We sold a machine on the stand on the first day," he tells British Baker at Iba. "We also won two new equipment innovation awards at the show." (See British Baker, October 23.) And we have patented the design, which actually allows more filling than dough if required.
He explains that Curl & More closes the gap between the familiar artisanal Croissomats and the powerful Tornado and Spira industrial croissant machines. It means Rondo now meets requirements for operations of all sizes, from very small through to industrial firms.
The machine is flexible and can be used for automatic production of curled pastries, ranging from croissants to pretzels. And, depending on the pastry size, it produces filled or unfilled curled pastries in two to six rows, achieving a capacity of 4,000 to 12,000 units per hour.
Centrepiece of the innovation is the curling process, which involves low curling speed and clearly separated process steps. These, says Tearle, "result in a consistently high-quality production process". He adds: "The design enables the application of large filling quantities. Until now, the industry believed a ratio of dough to filling of this magnitude could not be achieved, but Rondo has achieved it."
The company also unveiled a new industrial pastry line in washed-down design. 'Wash-down' is a method of cleaning and disinfecting lines that is increasingly becoming a requirement. On the wash-down design, the line is hosed down with a hot jet of water and then disinfected with cleaning foam. It is particularly important for products filled with meat or similar and is increasingly used for sweet pastry.
Rondo's wash-down line is made of stainless steel and features solutions designed to simplify the cleaning process, according to Tearle. For example, the line has smooth and slanted surfaces that enable water to run off easily. They also prevent water or particles from collecting in corners and tight sections. The belts have sealed edges and can be released quickly and easily to allow access for cleaning the underside and the table-top.
New accessories from the firm, also on display, included a fat pump and updated automation and enhancement of its various bread and pastry dough processing lines.
Rondo recently rebranded its image, merging the names Rondo and Doge, so what has the effect been? Tearle says: "The new branding has brought the whole company together with a focused approach." Not so far from Rondo's European headquarters lies Venice, which also relinquished its Doge, but held on to its famous designs and traditions while modernising its trade, transport, and machinery. There's a parallel in there somewhere.

A Swede in Scotland

When running a mountain lodge in his native Sweden around a decade ago, Peter Ljungquist came to the conclusion that he would like to make the best jam, chocolate and ice cream in the whole country. And since he had "always been passionate about bread" too, a bespoke brick oven was installed in the traditional farmhouse in southern Sweden, which became his production hub.
When visiting Edinburgh several years later, he immediately liked the place and decided to see whether the concept, tested on a largely rural customer base in Sweden, would translate to an urban environment in a different country. The central Quartermile district was chosen, because Ljungquist regarded the mix of heritage and striking new business and residential structures as "an interesting idea".
Launched in 2007, the Peter's Yard coffee shop and bakery has become renowned for its high-quality, handmade artisan crispbreads made to an authentic Swedish recipe, using all-natural ingredients, including sourdough, fresh milk, rye flour, whole wheat flour and honey. Its product range also extends to traditional Swedish cakes/pastries and cardamom buns, which Ljungquist describes as "probably the most common bun in Sweden and now our most popular line". This Christmas, Ljungquist intends producing two Swedish festive favourites namely saffron bread and pepparkakor (a ginger biscuit).
In terms of quality, there is far more to Peter's Yard than the products it sells. The 10 members of staff have received training from one of Sweden's premier chefs, while the high-spec décor has been chosen to create a welcoming atmosphere "where people want to relax and meet friends" over a bite to eat and a cup of coffee a concept known in Sweden as fika. Pointing to the light, airy design and to the lack of a partition between the 600sq ft bakery area and the 50-cover, 1,200sq ft customer area, Ljungquist elaborates: "We didn't want to hide anything. We wanted people to see what we were baking and to see us making the sandwiches."
The outlet in Edinburgh, which also sells assortment packs of company products, is on course to beat its budget by 30% this year and record a turnover of £700,000. And although launched only this summer, Ljungquist is confident that the wholesale arm, run by Wendy Wilson Bett and Ian Tencor, will add significantly to this success by supplying crispbreads to high-quality food halls, delis and farm shops, as well as into the foodservice sector. He notes: "Our customers already include food halls at Fortnum & Mason, Harrods and Fenwicks; cheese shops like La Fromagerie; farm shops such as Secretts and Cheshire Smokehouse; and major retail outlets, such as Lewis and Coopers. We also supply Martin Wishart's Michelin-starred restaurants in Scotland."
The wholesale arm's best-seller is the 200g crispbread pack, which retails for £3.50. At the coffee shop, meanwhile, hot drinks, cakes, sandwiches and soup are good earners but not the selection of breads. Ljungquist observes: "We make 100 loaves of bread by hand each day, on which we make no profit, because price expectations in the UK are still so low even when it's 'real' bread. But we believe a bakery has to have bread for sale, so we continue to make it to help build our positioning and reputation."
Although a man of seemingly the calmest of personas, he admits to one slight irritation: being described in magazine and newspaper articles as "a Swedish businessman". He explains: "I am Swedish, that's true. But you couldn't find anyone further from being a businessman."
Clearly, success for Ljungquist is derived from feeding his own soul, as well as the Edinburgh public. Despite offers to extend the Peter's Yard concept to other cities in the UK, he is not leaping at the opportunity. He says: "I ask myself 'How will it benefit my life?' I'm perfectly alright where I am."

It's a family affair

Some of the best-known bakery businesses in the UK have started, and continued, as a family business. Bakery retailer Greggs began life as a family venture, and Warburtons is still one. So what makes family-owned firms so special?
A new study into the UK business sector, carried out by Warwick Business School, reveals that small family-owned firms are regarded as more employee-friendly, motivational, passionate and creative than non-family private enterprises. Commissioned by insurer More th>n Business, it also reveals that family firms are perceived as offering better welfare conditions and more flexible hours, unity, purpose, trust, and less stress. Head of More th>n Business Mike Bowman says these perceptions could spur a surge in interest from job-seekers, who have suffered at the hands of the recession. With unemployment levels at their highest, rising to 7.9% in September that's 2.47 million people out of work and with the 16-24-year-old age category hit the hardest, could this be an opportunity for bakers looking to recruit?

Brand clinic: Can government hurt brands?

Brands are sensitive, delicate things even the most robust ones. Treat them inappropriately and without the care they need, and they'll suffer. Remember Mr Kipling, when the packaging forgot about the brand? Remember Tropicana in the US recently, when a design disaster caused sales to plummet? Some memories might stretch back to when Babycham killed 'Bambi' and repackaged it in a trendy blue bottle. And who cannot remember the Coke Classic debacle or the awful squeezy Heinz Ketchup bottle, which collapses in use, leaving at least a quarter of the product inaccessible? How that got to market is a total mystery! I can just picture the meeting that sold that design to the client! It's easy to excite with 'innovation'.
There are countless examples of brands suffering at the hands of change, whetherit be design, advertising or product formulation. Some of these wounds are self-inflicted, but some can be the result of nanny government interference in product functionality. Part of a food brand's equity is its taste, smell and texture.
So when the government tells manufacturers to remove fat, remove sugar or, for example, the recent FSA demand to cut salt in bread give them half a chance and they'll remove everything but water, because, let's face it, everything is bad for us and will kill us in the end it inevitably has a knock-on effect on the consumer's experience of the brand. Brands with signature tastes rely on consistency of delivery.
What amazes me is this constant haranguing of the food market when there are products out there that everyone, especially government, knows are seriously and undeniably dangerous, wreck lives and actually kill thousands of people every year. We all know what they are! Don't get me wrong, I'm absolutely not calling for them to be banned because I firmly believe that people should be educated about potential risks though it's almost impossible to find anything that isn't a potential risk but be permitted to actually make their ownlife decisions.
Surely choice must be left to individuals not some bureaucratic, holier-than-thou quango, made up of people who seem to inhabit a different universe to mine. But instead of tackling the really serious problems presumably because of the revenue they generate they seem to tick their little boxes by finding easy targets because they are easy and, in that way, they can be seen to be doing something anything.
The thing that terrifies me is that we all just roll over every time we're instructed by our (in)glorious leaders. Isn't it time manufacturers took a real stand against bullying and strike a blow for freedom of choice and real-world common sense?

Spice rack: Black pepper

Peppercorns are the fruit of a flowering vine grown in South India. The peppercorns are harvested and dried before use. Different varieties available are green peppercorns, which are the immature fruits, white peppercorns, which are the centre of the peppercorn with the black husk removed and black peppercorns, which are the whole dried fruit and, as such, the type with the most kick. Many savoury recipes the world over contain salt and pepper, but in some recipes it is pepper that has a starring role. You would expect to find pepper in savoury baked recipes, for example foccacia with cracked black pepper and rosemary, black pepper and cheese scones and black pepper and parmesan biscotti, but it can also be included in sweet baked recipes, particularly when combined with other spices. The Scottish Hogmanay favourite, Black Bun, is a pastry case packed with dried fruit and flavoured with spices, including a half teaspoon of black pepper. Black pepper also mixes well with cinnamon and cloves in Spice Cake.

Your say: letter

Reading all the latest articles about salt in bread was purely academic to me until two friends came to stay. They asked us not to put any salt in our cooking as they both had high blood pressure.
I thought that there were just three main reasons to use salt in bread: flavour, control of fermentation and getting the dough through the plant.
As regards flavour, the FSA's demand for a maximum amount of 1g per 100g of bread seems perfectly reasonable. If one thinks carefully about it, most bread is eaten in conjunction with a filling, so the predominant taste is that of the other food.
In any case, these excess amounts of salt did not start until the 1950s. A hundred years ago, the most common amount of salt used was 3.5lb to 3.75lb per sack of flour. This is at, or below, 1g per 100g of bread.
The point being missed is that some bread is so overdeveloped that some describe it as "cotton wool bread", while other bread breaks up nicely when it is consumed.
Turning to the other issues, control of fermentation was a factor in the days when we made doughs that lay in the trough from two to 10 hours, according to need. But with today's no-time processes, it is irrelevant.
Lastly, great play is being made of the difficulty of getting dough through the plant with salt at this level. This is absolute rubbish, as there is already plant bread with salt at this level on the supermarket shelves.
Ian Barrett
Berkhamsted, Herts

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