Do the bake and vac and put the freshness backit’s not often that a technology comes along that rewrites the rules of baking. Well, at least a technology that shouldn’t get people’s knickers in a twist for bastardising bread. So here it is: the world’s first glimpse of vacuum baking, showcased by Centravac (majority-owned by Rheon). As discussed in British Baker’s Plant Baking Supplement in July, baking under vacuum conditions which is the next step on from vacuum cooling reduces the boiling point of water and is much more energy-efficient.

"Vacuum cooling is not a new development. However, the vacuum oven is," explains Rheon Europe’s Masahiro Yonemaru at IBIE. "The water boils at 20-40C under vacuum conditions, so it takes less energy."

The technology is coupled with a vacuum cooling system, which cools tinned bread in 3.5 minutes, ready for slicing, rather than a typical hour. While the obvious application would be frozen bake-off manufacturing, it could eventually even find its way into craft bakeries or supermarkets, he believes.

Vacuum cooling also eliminates shrinking of the side walls of loaves or with croissants. Ian Ort of London Food Machinery, which distributes Rheon, says there are even side-benefits for reducing waste. "I’ve seen in tests that you can take a 10-day-old loaf of bread, put it into the vacuum oven and you can make it totally fresh again," he says although the Real Bread folk might take issue with the merits of that.

Bakers on the rack

If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. If it’s not worth doing, build yourself an army of robots to do it for you. Such was Miami baker Luis Lacal’s approach to the issue of loading and unloading racks. While rack loading systems are par for the course in large bakeries, they’ve been out of the reach of many small to medium-sized businesses. So Lacal came up with Robotray an affordable labour-saving system to improve efficiency around the bakery.

"This is very accessible compared with the equipment available on the market these days," he says. "We are bakers and we needed something easy to handle, at a lower price than what was available on the market. We decided to build these, which we use at our bakery in Miami on a daily basis, and we are now able to offer it to fellow bakers." A base price for a rack loading and unloading system is around $60,000 (£37,800), plus optional extras. He says the firm is keen to supply into the UK.

Enough of duff muffins

"I’ve noticed how big American-style muffins have become in the UK, but everyone does blueberry, chocolate and one or two others," observes Cereal Ingredients’ Bruce Hoffman quizzically. Yes, the Americans have noticed. "Everyone’s got the same variety. Come on guys, there are more flavours out there!’ Hear hear.

So, pray, how does one go about jazzing up one’s muffins? Hoffman proposes the firm’s Flav-R-Bites ingredients processed flavoured and/or coloured particulates for adding flavour, colour or texture. They can be mixed into a dough and are hydrated in the process, turning them into a soft inclusion. The colour, colour ’bleed’, flavour, size and textural qualities are all tweakable for your product, whether that’s a cake, cookie, bread or bagel.

They can also be used as a crunchy cake or muffin topping. The product uses wheat flour, wheat starch, sugars, flavours, colours and oils. "Say you’re doing a cherry muffin maybe you’re using a dried cherry such as morello," he suggests. "If you put a blend of cherry and cherry and vanilla on top for eye appeal and texture, it will stay a little bit crunchy after the bake and it will add a point of difference. We know of people who are adding frozen fruit to a dough, but they’re still adding flavour to the base dough. We can drive that flavour with our product." Bags are 20kg with a nine-month shelf-life.

Stay off the crack

To stop cake decorators cracking up under time pressure, Fondarific launched a fondant icing that doesn’t crack. "It has improved stretchability and it’s not going to dry out and crack after a few minutes, like most other fondants, so you don’t have any waste," says Laura Darnell. "It remains pliable, so it’s also a great product to teach with, because students don’t feel pressured for time."

A wide variety of flavours range from buttercream to vanilla chocolate, fruit flavours and peppermint. "You can use it on cakes, cookies or as centres. Most fondants you don’t eat you pull it off. But you would eat these."

Another US-based fondant icing supplier looking to make inroads into the UK is Satin Fine Foods. Founder Dubliner Kevin O’Reilly, who set up the company in 2001, was promoting Satin Ice, which he describes as "softer, has a better flavour and the real difference is the workability". The product currently sells into Canada, Australia, Asia, parts of Europe and the Middle East.

"We’re now at the point where we’re looking to work with a distributor to bring it in and sell it in the UK," he adds. "A lot of professionals here use it and you see it on TV shows Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes. People in the UK are now seeing those shows and are becoming aware of the brand."

Satin Ice is available in coloured and flavoured versions, with pastels launched at the show.

Get juiced up

Good news from across the Atlantic: since Canadian cranberry producers successfully lobbied the EU to axe an 18.3% export tax on cranberries, they are now competitive with US cranberries. So why would you opt for them over the US?

"We are a grower and a processor that offers dried cranberries as our primary product. Some other cranberry suppliers make juice first, so they extract the juice from the berry. Ours are juicy and puffed up, which is why people like them," says Jean-Michel Jalléo of Fruit d’Or, which is the biggest organic cranberry processor in the world.

The firm also offers juice-infused cranberry products, with apple juice concentrate used as a sweetener rather than sugar, and is distributed by Tantivy Produce in the UK.

Caffeinated cakes to give you wings

Once you’ve glugged your morning cappuccino and washed it down with a Red Bull, what’s going to get you through your elevenses munchies without the jitters? A caffeinated baked good, of course.

"We are testing out something right now, which is a guarana extract, a natural product, that has a 10-12% caffeine content. It’s suitable for bakery and energy bar applications," says Mike Malone of Prova. "It could be an area for development. Right now, one of the hottest products in grab-and-go in the US is something called 5-hour Energy (a herbal stimulant drink with just four calories). So we’ll see how it works in bakery."