Basic bread handling techniques

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Source: The National Culinary Review, Dec'93 The issue is freshness.

With a United States Department of Commerce study indicating a rise of nearly 2 percent in American bread con- sumption yearly, and with a consumer movement gaining momentum favoring a return to preparing breads with natural ingredients (Proposition 65 of the California legislature cautioning about the use of bromates), it is necessary to relearn basic bread-handling techniques. Prevention and delay of bread staling, the goal of bakers everywhere, again becomes a priority. Most of us recognize when a bread product has staled, or has gone beyond what is acceptably palatable. Yet, how many of us understand the process of staling? The process of staling, scientifically known as starch retrogradation, begins as soon as a product is removed from the oven. Starch retrogradation is a process involving starch granules (present in flour) containing amylopectin and amylose molecules, which undergo transitions. During baking, starch granules begin to swell and form a paste. Within this paste, some of the amylose molecules leak out and surround the other swollen granules, becoming disorganized. When removed from the oven, as cooling begins, moisture moves from the starch to gluten strands. The amylose molecules become orderly, allowing the bread to become firm, a desirable state. The remaining amylopectin molecules are the culprits. They take considerable time to reorder themselves, and during this period is when the texture changes from soft and pliable to firm and crumbly. It is this reordering process we hope to delay.

In operational terms, what does this mean to us as chefs, bakers, managers, producers and consumers? It means the-issue of training (and retraining) becomes of utmost importance. It means that we need to re-equip our workers with the tools and information necessary to ensure fresh quality baked goods to meet consumer demands. We need to let our employees know that getting fresh prod- uct from the oven to the consumer is everyone's responsibility. Pathway to freshness: A primer for handling baked products Serve hot and fresh if possible.

Nothing can compete with a baked good direct from the oven. Cool.

Allow your baked products to cool draft free at room temperature. Do not wrap warm product. Be certain your product has cooled to room temperature before wrapping. Failure to cool fully will result in the product's interior temperature producing condensation inside the packaging, resulting in inferior product quality. Wrap to hold. Wrap sufficiently cooled products in packages appropriate to their types.

For instance, white breads generally require an airtight packaging, but this would not be appropriate for French breads or hard rolls which are often sold unwrapped or in partial or paper wrappings. Do not refrigerate bread. Do not refrigerate bakeshop products unless you must do so to preserve the product safety and wholesomeness of a product filling. To do so sets the staling process in motion at an accelerated pace. Submitted By SHERREE JOHANSSON On 10-20-94

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