Leading craft bakers and professional educators from the bread industry convened March 5-7 in Las Vegas for the first International Artisan Bakery Expo to spread the word about the power of bread, as well as pizza.

For those who may be intimidated by complicated techniques, Pierre Zimmermann, Master Baker and owner of La Fournette in Chicago, demonstrated a convenient and simple method of producing artisan breads that your customers can watch you bake and enjoy inside your cafe with ease.

“We make fougasse every day in Chicago,” he said during a demo at the Lesaffre Corp. booth. “It’s a bread that bakes very quickly and doesn’t require years of shaping experience like a baguette.”

Fougasse is the French version of focaccia and is distinguished by diagonal cuts in the middle, which resemble a wheat stalk. This bread can be flavored with sundried tomatoes and thyme, or any other spices your customers might enjoy.

During the baking process, Zimmermann recommends, you want a good amount of steam to maximize oven spring.

Using innovative ingredients like Sensation sensory enhancer (with the taste of semolina crackers) from Lesaffre, you can bring a natural nutty flavor to breads such as a twisted baguette, another bread that Zimmermann demonstrated.

“It is easy to shape. You can twist it and bake it right away,” he said. “It is helpful to be in front of your customers when you make these breads because it gives them an interesting show.”

Expanding the horizons of craft baking

Held in conjunction with the annual International Pizza Expo, founded in 1985, the IABE featured dozens of bakery exhibitors, including King Arthur Flour and Central Milling, that showcased the enticing combination of premium bread and pizza flours for a wide range of applications.

Exhibitors such as AB Mauri (Burgen premium bread mixes), Abel & Schafer (new Massa Madre Ferment), ADM (new organic flour), Ardent Mills (whole grains and multigrain breads), Bay State Milling (BeneGrain sprouted grains and flours), Corbion (clean label solutions) and General Mills Convenience & Foodservice (artisan bread flours) presented innovative products for bakers of all types.

IABE featured dozens of bakery exhibitors.

Ancient grains like quinoa, sorghum and teff are in big demand, and bakers are seeking professional techniques to take full advantage of this trend. In working with ancient grains, presenter Ciril Hitz, owner of Breadhitz Inc., recommends the importance of cold fermentation to gain more strength in your doughs.

“It depends on where you live, but if you live in a super hot environment, freezing grains can be great,” he suggests. “Chill your grains so they are super cold.”

Sprouted grain power bars are another creative solution, presented during the IABE by Richard Miscovich, associate professor at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. Start with grains like spelt or Kamut and cover with an inch or two of water for 24 to 36 hours. To rinse, you can use a colander or thin mesh sieve.

“Temperature will affect the rate of sprouting, as well as how often you rinse,” Miscovich says. The enzymatic activity converts starch to sugar and unlocks a lot of vitamins. It’s important to recognize that the process of sprouting grains also deactivates phytic acid, which will bind up with valuable minerals like zinc inside the digestive system, making the minerals no longer bio-available. “I find that intriguing.”

To make sprouted grain power bars, simply add binding agents and flavorful ingredients like dried fruit and bake. Depending on how crisp you prefer to bake them, the power bars can last for weeks or even months.

Classic kouign amann

Featuring a 50% butter/dough ratio, the classic French kouign amann is becoming one of the most popular viennoiserie baked goods in the United States. Peter Yuen, an international baking and pastry consultant, demonstrated how to make kouign amann during the IABE, mentioning the importance of salted butter and sugar as key ingredients.

“The caramelization of the product gives you distinctive flavors,” he explains. “You have to think about how to create the best flavor possible.”

The choice of sugar, for instance, must be considered because of the desired flavor you are seeking, and the fact that different sugars have different melting points. Yuen mentioned pure cane sugar, light brown sugar or coconut sugar as good options. You also can add orange zest to the sugar to bring out a refreshing citrus flavor. For other variations, Yuen suggests using 10% raspberry powder to premix with your salted butter to create a flavor profile that will stand out, as well as helping make a colorful, eye-appealing product.