Top trends in bakery

What's heating up the bakery sector this year

Ingredients, Bakery, Top trends

Bakery has become a specialist sector as increasingly knowledgeable consumers demand more. The bakers are more than happy to oblige as Jamie Knights discovers

1 Something special?

There has been a notable rise in the number of speciality stores in the region and bakery has not been overlooked in this respect.

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It comes as little surprise that the bakery sector has been part of a bigger rise in the pastry business over the last 10 years, according to Julien Patera, GM of Cakery & Epicerie (C&E) by Stéphane Glacier.

Stéphane Glacier’s popularity has been growing since he became Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2000, and the master baker’s first shop outside of France recently opened in Dubai on the Palm Jumeirah.
“Today, things are evolving, the pâtisseries are becoming trendy spots and the pastry chefs are real celebrities,” Patera asserts.

“Boulangeries do not benefit from this new trend, it is the pâtisseries and especially the single-product specialty stores such as choux pastry, macaron, snacking chic, and other similar concepts that are booming.”

Tablez Food Company (behind Bloomsbury’s UAE) general manager Sajan Alex says that consumers have become increasingly educated in terms of what they can get and “to some extent also made them into a more discerning clientele”.

“They are looking at their cakes and pastries from the decorative as well as quality angle,” he asserts.

And head chef at La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie in the Vida Downtown Dubai, Izu Ani, believes “people are understanding and appreciating quality more”.

“Dubai has seen a recent rise in these specialty stores and it is exciting for me as it means we can start to enjoy the same quality here as we have in Europe,” he adds.

2 Fusion features

The rise of the cronut is the most obvious example of the current focus on fusion, the combination of two elements to creating something special and unique.

With the constant need to bring out innovative and fresh products for ever-demanding consumers, it is not surprising that fusion is currently at the fore.

Alex says Bloomsbury’s “welcomes fusion products” as it keeps “creative juices flowing and encourages our team to be innovative”.

“At Bloomsbury’s we love the giant cupcakes that most people take to serve as cakes — that was a popular item for us last year,” he adds.

While fusion is certainly demanding its space in the market, the concept isn’t for everyone. Ani says La Serre focuses mainly on serving classic pastries and desserts and doesn’t “necessarily try to follow the latest fusion products”.

And Patera warns that fusion products “come and go”. “Often they go as fast as they came!” he adds.

“In the end, the market is left with the real products, the real pastries that everyone fancies having.”

3 At the heart of health matters

Health is such an important issue, especially in a region that has such problems with obesity and diabetes. It is little surprise therefore to see a rise in the amount of healthier products and ingredients on offer.

From chia, quinoa and amaranth, there is certainly a gain in market share for the healthier bakery, says Alex, adding that Bloomsbury’s has “incorporated these items in our sandwiches and salad menu because the demand is there”.

La Serre’s Ani agrees, but warns it is important to not “give up the element of taste”. “If we can incorporate healthy products with taste then this is utopia,” he explains.

Cakery & Epicerie by Stéphane Glacier supplies pastries to accommodate special requests on the menu. “The gluten-free house favourite for example uses milk chocolate, dark chocolate with a delicious orange marmalade,” Patera explains. “We also use organic products in our pastries and we even offer an organic green tea.”

Bobbie Lloyd, chief baking officer, Magnolia Bakery US, highlights that “many people have autoimmune health issues such as celiac and arthritis, or diabetes and heart disease”. “Diet fads come and go, but being in good health remains important to everyone,” she adds.

4 Simply does it

While there is always a time and place for the ornate and intricate, there has been a growing trend for the subtle and simple way of doing things, even in cooking.

This has led to more simple cake and pastry decoration, with a focus on flavour rather than over the top designs and style.

Ani explains that chefs are concentrating more on the taste element than the decorative design.

“We keep things very basic in order to achieve our main objective — the taste,” he asserts.

Lloyd says keeping it simple is simple — “because buttercream tastes as good as it looks”.

“At Magnolia Bakery, we use classic American buttercream on many of our cakes and cupcakes and we have a lot of fun developing different designs — all of which are finished with buttercream,” she explains.

“You’ll see from our cake styles that there’s a lot of versatility using buttercream.”

And for Patera, “simple works as long as the execution is impeccable”. “Compared to the American and British pastry styles, French pastries have always been more simple and using less artificial decoration,” he argues.

“In Cakery & Epicerie by Stéphane Glacier, chocolate and fruits are the main components of our pastries decoration.”

5 Puffing up

Puff pastry used to be a simple thing, an inoffensive pastry, there were no fireworks, but it did its job with little fuss. Its invention was credited to 17th century French painter and cook Claude Gelée, but its references can be found before that from Muslim Spain. Could now be the moment for this baked item to take centre stage?

Tablez Food Company’s Alex says it’s “about time”. “The flavours in puff pastries has remained consistent for far too long while the fillings have changed,” he explains.

“Now there are endless possibilities in making new products taste and look better.”

La Serre’s Ani says while “the puff pastry is a humble base, it can be made much more exciting”. 

An example of this evolution can be found at La Serre itself, which has just introduced a vanilla-caramel millefeuille.

6 Saluting savoury

When it comes to savoury, a little bit of sweet is nothing new, but bakers are becoming increasingly experimental in their combinations.

This is certainly something that Alex has witnessed in the industry, but for Ani it’s more of a definition of sweet and salty.

Ani explains: “We’ve seen a definite trend towards the mix of traditionally savoury flavours such as salt and chilli mixed with traditionally sweet ingredients like caramel and chocolate.”

Following this trend, Glacier has developed a full line of savoury products such as savoury tarts, smoked salmon éclair, foie gras and fig mille feuille, smoked salmon and orange mille feuille or a savoury choux choux, a delicious choux pastry filled with béchamel sauce and cream of avocado.

“The use of fruits in our savoury pastries is important,” says Patera.

“Boiron Frères premium products help us offer a fig and duck foie gras millefeuille all year around.”

7 Vegetable cakes

We all know about carrot cake, but there has been a rise in the use of other vegetables in sweet treats.

This certainly ties in with using vegetables’ unique flavours and the fact they can be used as a more natural sweetener to sugar, as Magnolia’s Lloyd explains. “Since many vegetables have so much moisture, they add texture and natural sweetness that make for a very moist cake.”

The trend for veg-based desserts encapsulates a number of factors, according to Alex. “We have in the past seen muffins with savoury favours so it was obvious to expand this to other items as health trends constantly call for the use of less or no sugar.”

Ani says he is thrilled that “the humble carrot is finally getting his own audience”.

But Patera says this is mainly a British and American phenomenon. “I do not see the use of vegetable in the French sweet pastry market becoming the new trend.”

8 What’s new in choux?

Choux is a delectable and golden-looking delight, but there wasn’t much new in the world of this classic pastry until recently.

But with “lots of new concepts focusing only on the éclairs and other choux”, Patera says choux pastries have been the trend for the past couple years.

“We have also followed the trend by offering many varieties of the popular éclair: the traditional chocolate, coffee and salted caramel as well as the more innovative date éclair, pistachio cream and berries or passion fruits and raspberry éclair,” he adds.

Alex certainly wants to see more colours as “so far it’s golden brown, but adding colours could change things in terms of the look and feel of pastries”.

For Ani, one product he believes will take off is the popelini, a small round choux pastry with different flavoured fillings. “We sell this and they are very popular. I believe this will take on the macaron in terms of popularity in the future.”

9 Sharing is caring — or despairing?

The concept of sharing platters is already well established in the Middle East. But the idea of sharing desserts is also gaining traction, a movement that sends shivers down the spines of those who want their sweets for themselves.

Alex says there is “a demand for both” with some cultures who eat communally preferring to share, as well as the health conscious consumers “who want a slice but do not want to indulge”.

And sharing is very much the way forward for Ani as he says the concept of the menu at La Serre is all designed to share.

“Certainly in Middle Eastern culture, meals are designed like this. When you enjoy a dish so much it enhances the experience to share it with others. Anything and everything is better shared!”

Lloyd argues that it depends on the circumstances. “When you’re celebrating a momentous occasion, you want something that can be shared among family and friends.

“When you’re looking to treat yourself, you don’t want to share, which is why we offer some desserts for sharing (like pies and cakes) and some for your personal indulgence (like cupcakes and brownies).”

10 Catchphrase conundrum

“Freshly made” is the latest catchphrase to join the multitude of others, but are these just marketing gimmicks or are consumers demanding more?

For Alex the movement is definitely far more than just words. “We personally see a change where the consumers demand this so this is no longer a marketing gimmick; we have to meet this need to get repeat customers,” he explains.

Everything is made from scratch daily at Cakery & Epicerie by Stéphane Glacier. “Our croissants are produced between 4-8am,” Patera explains. “Over the weekend, the demand is higher and we bake a second batch of choux and puff pastries for the afternoon customers.”

Ani agrees and says: “Consumers are not stupid, they can tell when something has been made then and there, or prepared yesterday.”

Agreeing with Ani is Lloyd, who says: “To us, these are not catch phrases, but a way of baking and an ethos that is important to our culture of baking. I can’t imagine baking any other way.”

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