Bringing in the dough

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Related tags: Bread

Alison Baker looks at ideas for improving your pub's bread offer The days when bread was considered just an extra to a meal are long gone. Pub chefs...

Alison Baker looks at ideas for improving your pub's bread offer

The days when bread was considered just an extra to a meal are long gone. Pub chefs and licensees are recognising the added value good quality bread can bring to their food offer and profit margins.

As Bakehouse national account controller Nicky Cracknell says: "Caterers can build revenue by offering good-quality, as well as more unusual types of bread."

Brakes desserts and bakery marketing manager Simon Cannell adds: "Gone are the days when bread was secondary to the main dish. Pubs need to think more about trading up to speciality breads and matching them with the dishes they are serving - for example, if you are serving a ploughman's or a home-made soup, the bread you put on the side says a lot. It's easy to inject variety with bread at little cost, while reaping excellent profits."

Chef/proprietor Sean Hope of the Olive Branch in Clipsham, Rutland believes that offering customers good quality bread is essential. He says: "As the first element of a meal, bread signifies what the customer can expect to receive from the kitchen." Increasing consumer demand for regional and organic produce has resulted in growing appreciation of the effort that contributes to production of a hand-crafted loaf.

Successful marketing of premium and speciality breads is helping to drive new interest in baking. Craft baker and licensee John Royce of the Kestor Inn in Manaton, Devon, believes that a back-to-basics approach with bread is here to stay - and customers are prepared to pay for it.

"We can't compete with supermarkets on price because traditional bread-making is so labour intensive, but there is a niche market prepared to pay more for a quality product," he explains.

John believes that as customers' palates become more sophisticated, demand for breads made by bakers will continue to rise.

Quality hand-made bread doesn't need to be baked by pub staff. Michael Bedford, chef/licensee of the Trouble House in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, believes many pubs have jumped on the bake-your-own bandwagon but argues that chefs should ask themselves whether they can produce bread that is of a higher standard than bread supplied by their local baker.

"For a business to succeed, it has to present its best products to customers. If a pub offers bread, its hosts must ask whether it's possible to consistently produce something better than products that can be bought in. If the answer is no, it isn't worth trying," Michael says.

Sean turned to a local craft baker when he found that the Olive Branch was unable to keep pace with the daily demand for good, freshly-baked bread. Seeking a rustic, wholegrain, bespoke bread, Sean devised a special recipe for the bakery's daily supplies to the pub. Sean says: "The bread has a slight natural sweetness as it is made with honey, malt extract, toasted pumpkin seeds and locally-ground wholemeal flour. We serve it whole and warm on a board for customers to slice themselves. What's great is that it is unique to us."

Breads becoming increasingly popular in pubs are flatbreads, which can be served with sharing platters and mezze, while others still driving the bread market are ciabatta and focaccia. As Antony Bennett, development chef for supplier RHM Foodservice, says: "The classic Italian antipasti offering of speciality breads accompanied by dipping oils is the perfect sharing starter for a pub environment. To suit more health-conscious customers, try serving pitta bread sandwiches as an alternative to traditional bread as it is very light and low in fat."

Pub caterers are also looking for sandwich carriers with a difference. Bakehouse offers mezzaluna, a flat pizza-dough bread that is ideal for serving with hot or cold fillings in pubs. Whether choosing to bake or buy, what is clear is that the way forward lies in paying close attention to quality and diversity.

Tips on getting your bread offer right

l Trade up to speciality breads and match them to the dishes on your menu for excellent profit.

l Complimentary bread keeps customers happy but make sure you don't overdo it: if customers fill up on bread, they will order less from the menu.

l Use bread to inject variety into a menu at very little cost.

l Add extra ingredients to a bread-mix to make a bread offering more interesting.

l Use bake-off to ensure maximum freshness all day round. Companies such as Bakehouse are now able to offer authentic speciality breads, all frozen for bake-off.

l Unusual bread and fillings allow caterers to offer sandwiches as a main meal and achieve a healthy profit margin.

l Adding rustic bread makes a bowl of home-made soup into a meal in itself, enhancing profitability.

Bramley apple bread

Phillip Burgess, chef/owner of the Dartmoor Inn, Lydford, Devon, shares his recipe for Bramley apple bread

500g/1lb 2oz Bramley apples

100g/3½oz butter

450g/1lb strong brown bread flour

450g/1lb strong white bread flour

3 tsp salt

1 sachet easy-blend yeast

50g/1¾oz caster sugar

175ml/6fl oz tepid water

1 egg yolk for glazing

Peel and core the apples, then cut into 2cm/1-inch dice. Put in a frying pan with 25g/¾oz of the butter and fry over a high heat for two to three minutes or until the apples are golden brown.

Place the brown and white flour and salt in a large bowl. In a pan, melt the remaining butter, then set aside to cool. Add the yeast, caster sugar and melted butter to the flour mixture. Add the water, a little at a time, and, using your hands, bring the flour mixture together to make a kneadable dough. Add the apple cubes.

If the dough seems too dry and will not hold together, add a small amount of extra water. If it seems too wet, add a little more flour.

On a lightly-floured work surface, knead the dough for 10 to 15 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Put it back into the bowl, cover with lightly oiled cling film and place in warm area until it has doubled in size - about 45 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the apple dough again for about a minute. Divide into four pieces, shape into round loaves and place on a lightly oiled baking tray. Allow to prove for about 30 minutes; then, using a pastry brush, glaze the loaves with lightly whisked egg yolk. Bake in the oven at 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 35 minutes. Remove the loaves and tap on the bottom to make sure they sound hollow. If not, bake for a few more minutes.

Transfer the apple loaves to a wire rack and leave to cool. Serve the apple bread with a cheeseboard, or slice and lightly toast it to accompany a home-made pork or duck terrine.

New Products

Rare mixes

What: Prepared speciality bread mixes

Who: Kluman & Balter

What Kluman & Balter says: "The range of loaves include those rarely seen outside specialist bakeries. Bread mixes include potato; marathon bread; soya; Sonfit white, active flora and omega; pumpkin, sunflower and sesame-seeded; maize, spelt and honey." All are available in 10kg bags except Sonfit, which is supplied in 16kg bags.

More info: www.klumanandbalter.com or 01992 704000

Braking bread

What: Premiere Artisan Bread Range

Who: Brakes Foodservice Solutions

What Brakes says: "The range is made using the finest, natural ingredients and reflects some of the styles and methods of bread- making which have been in existence for centuries and are now making a re-appearance. Part-baked, the range offers all the benefits of freshly- baked bread without any of the hassle or skill involved in making it from scratch."

More info: www.brake.co.uk or

0845 606 9090

Rustic taste

What: Artisan Kentish bread - authentic white and brown Kentish Huffkins (a traditional rich bap) and an appetising and rustic wholemeal quartered loaf.

Who: kff

What kff says: "The range, with a strong story of provenance, exudes menu appeal.

The bread is hand-made usin

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