Ingredient Focus: Pastry
The regional pastry industry's challenges and changing demands from consumers
Dubai Chamber of Commerce opens Rue 71 pâtisserie and tearoom
The Tejar Dubai entrepreneurship development programme, an initiative of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has launched Rue 71, a French-inspired pâtisserie and tearoom. Located within Dubai’s City Walk 2 development, the café, which is the first commercial project to be launched this year by Tejar Dubai, offers healthy interpretations of French desserts as well as gourmet teas, coffees and juices.
Khalifa Al Muhairi, owner of Rue 71, said the inspiration for the outlet came during his time as an undergraduate student at the American University of Dubai. He revealed his ambition to expand within the local food and beverage sector and eventually turn his company into a global restaurant chain.
Increasing affiliation to French among UAE pastry consumers
There has been a spike in demand for all things French where pastry is concerned in the UAE, according to the French dairy board. Laurent Damiens, director of communication of Centre National Interprofessionnel de l’Economie Laitière (CNIEL), said it is somewhat becoming “fashionable” to have a French pastry chef at the helm of any top hotel as such chefs utilise traditional skills that have been central to French baking techniques for hundreds of years.
But, a workman is only as good as his tools; manufacturers of French produce are enjoying growth also. French cream producers are exporting an increasing amount of cream to the destination — France exports 2,000 tonnes of cream to the UAE, with 75% used for food service and the remaining 25% destined for retail.
EMF Cara Nougatine
Cara Nougatine is EMF’s latest introduction to the UAE market. EMF promises Cara Nougatine will bring taste and texture to all creations thanks to a mix of 37% of real white chocolate with caramel, 18% of crunchy caramelised almond bits and salty notes — an excellent choice for ganache and pastry fillings.
NZMP pastry butter
Fonterra debuted the NZMP pastry butter with full cream flavour at Gulfood this year. The product is 100% natural dairy, standardised to a melting point of 37°C or 34°C for improved handling and performance and is designed specifically for pastry application and general bakery where improved finished product quality is important. It contains no added colouring, flavouring or preservatives.
Baqer Mohebi chiffon cake
Baqer Mohebi has launched the ‘chiffon cake’. The cake is light and aerated in texture — “springy like a sponge cake but with the richness of a butter cake”. While it originated in the US in 1927, South East Asian countries appear to have taken it under their wing and it is eaten by consumers daily. Baqer Mohebi says chiffon cake can be baked into sheet cakes and cupcakes and dressed with icings, candies and other decorations.
La Marquise Cereal Eat
With healthy eating on the rise, La Marquise has launched Cereal Eat — a blend of wheat, oats, spelt, barley, rye, buckwheat cereals and natural yeast. Cereal Eat allows for the easy preparation of Panettoni and Colombe with cereals as well as all leavened products such as croissants, kranz and brioches.
Clean Label: Consumers are no longer interested in products with a label bursting with ingredients they have never heard of. “Clean label” is the latest buzzword in the food sector and the pastry industry is no exception.
“Clean label products with less fat and fewer calories are considered the latest trend in the pastry world,” explains Mazen Marakebji of Baqer Mohebi. “Consumers want to have a nice cupcake with no sugar in it, zero trans-fats and saturated fats.”
In line with the clean label trend, La Marquise introduced pastry and bakery mixes from Palais du Chef a year and a half ago, that are free from gluten, lactose, egg, GMO, palm oil and artificial colour.
“One of the best things about Palais du Chef is that all their products are delicious. Consumers no longer need to sacrifice on taste while choosing healthier food options,” says Olga Cassidy, marketing manager for La Marquise.
Back to Basics: There appears to be greater trust for products that look “simpler” too, according to Madinat Jumeirah resort executive pastry chef Paul Hayward. He says consumers are seeking out back-to-basic classic dishes and desserts that look like real fruit such as lemon, cherries and peaches.
“More home-style desserts, less mousse, even less chocolate, lighter desserts and balanced with sugar content such as fresh fruit Pavlova, something that tastes amazing with super fresh ingredients over something that just looks great,” says Hayward. “People like more rustic things or comfort food items; tall cakes and fresh doughnuts in brown paper bags.”
Laurent Damiens, director of communication of Centre National Interprofessionnel de l’Economie Laitière (CNIEL), the French dairy board, agrees and adds “simplicity” is a worldwide trend. In Paris, he says, there is “a rising wave” of those seeking simple but perfect pastries made from scratch, despite the availability of sophisticated new creations.
“All the shops that are opening will sell a chocolate éclair and a mille-feuille, as that’s what people now want.”
Savoury over Sweet: The popularity of savoury sweet dishes continues to rise. While the traditional super sweet dishes — particularly in the Arab world with the likes of baklava and umm ali — remain firm favourites, tastes such as salted caramel are now being indulged in too.
“This year has been a springboard for the savoury, spicy and sweet flavour category. These mash-up flavour combinations are very popular,” asserts EMF Emirates general manager Pierre Feghali.
Manufacturers have quickly been responding to this trend. La Marquise launched Wondermuffin Savoury by Irca to aid in the production of savoury muffins. Some of the options it presented at Gulfood were muffins with shrimp, salmon, mushroom, zucchini and cheese.
“Savoury muffins will be ideal for breakfasts, snack-times, brunches, receptions and aperitifs together with other salty snacks,” says Cassidy.
Traceability: The emergence of the millennial consumer has meant outlets have been challenged to know exactly what ingredients have gone into their creations and where those ingredients have come from.
“Foodies are increasingly interested in the origins of ingredients and their organic credentials,” explains Damiens of the French dairy board. “We are seeing the ingredients and the suppliers being mentioned in menus and on social media, as a key indicator for quality.”
For Marakebji of Baqer Mohebi, it is essential the pastry industry responds to these demands from the “influential generation which is the millennial”. He adds: “If top contenders within the industry plan to stay on top, it’s essential that they begin to cater to millennials because they have the power to make or break entire establishments.”
However, it is not enough to simply state where the ingredients are sourced from. Today’s consumer is demanding a lot of what he/she eats is sustainably sourced, fair trade, and in some cases organic.
EMF Emirates has been working closely with Barry Callebaut on the chocolate producer’s sustainable chocolate incentive. “We believe in providing complete transparency to the client, regarding the source of our ingredients,” says Feghali. “The ingredients of Barry Callebaut chocolates are totally traceable, up to the cocoa beans’ farming source.”
Pastry outlets battle soaring ingredient costs
While the Middle East is a pastry haven for consumers, this does present something of a challenge for pastry chefs who constantly need to up their game in order to stay ahead of the curve and secure custom from the regional pastry connoisseur.
“Everybody wants to try the new place on the block and with new restaurants and hotels opening weekly, someone’s favourite place can last just a few weeks,” says Madinat Jumeirah resort executive pastry chef Paul Hayward.
With significant expat populations, there is a much greater awareness of the latest pastry trends among Middle East consumers, another factor that means chefs need to be one step ahead.
“Pastry trends evolve very quickly — there is a new sensation every six months,” asserts Laurent Damiens, director of communication of Centre National Interprofessionnel de l’Economie Laitière (CNIEL). “These new trends appear first in Paris before spreading all over France, to Europe and then the rest of the world”.
But competition doesn’t necessarily have to be viewed as a negative. Arnaud Souchet, executive pastry chef at Fairmont The Palm, says: “The trick is to serve what guests want and like. With that said, it is always good to stay ahead of the competition, predicting trends and ensuring that we deliver consistent quality.”
It is not easy to fend off competition without the right tools, and, being based in the Middle East, sourcing of some particular ingredients does have its challenges.
“Sourcing of ingredients can be quite difficult within Dubai. A lot of our ingredients have to be delivered from international locations due to the shortage of supply in Dubai, which can cause issues in terms or pricing or if there are fluctuations in availability,” explains Souchet.
Some chefs try to work round availability challenges through creativity. Damiens, while acknowledging creativity is important, says care must be taken when working around getting hold of original ingredients as the end result can sometimes be skewed.
“Over the past few years, a vegetable cream has emerged in Dubai as a competitor to French dairy cream. While it has some qualities, it is totally different. French cream is slightly more expensive, but the quality, taste and flavour is a lot better.”
It is not just French cream which Middle East chefs find pricey, the cost of pastry ingredients in general seems to be on the up.
“Fluctuation in ingredient prices has been a constant battle for us as a supplier,” asserts EMF’s Pierre Feghali. “We are determined to provide consistent quality product to our clients, which makes ingredient sourcing very challenging.
For chefs, the battle is convincing your consumer to choose you over another outlet offering the same product at a cheaper price.
But Olga Cassidy, marketing manager for La Marquise concedes in an environment where consumers are “spoiled for choice” and outlets under pressure due to the “bargaining power of the consumer,” the key to survival is offering “more than just a product”.
The same goes for suppliers, she adds. Winning the hearts — and no doubt contracts — of chefs comes down to offering a one-stop shop to all their pastry needs.