Anna Sortun led a class on Turkish and Lebanese flatbreads at WheatStalk 2018.

James Beard award winner Anna Sortun of Sofra Bakery & Cafe in Cambridge, Massachusetts, took the stage at WheatStalk 2018 to demonstrate how bakers and chefs can capitalize on the unique flavors of Turkish and Lebanese flatbreads, including a demonstration on how to make Turkish yufka dough.

Using red pepper paste, for example, adds a “vegetable quality” to flatbreads, Sortun explains, which translates into more appeal for America’s growing numbers of vegetarians.

“Middle Eastern flatbread is used like a sponge to absorb juices of chopped vegetables and roasted meats,” she says. “Non-yeasted doughs — yufka — are similar to a stretchy tortilla. Yufka is the dough we prepare at Sofra for all of our flatbreads. We stuff the dough with vegetable or meat fillings and carefully fold, roll, layer and assemble, so you get the perfect rotation of flavored bread.”

Carefully rolling the dough to capture the stuffing inside each delicious flatbread ensures that customers can enjoy an explosion of flavor in each bite.

Yufka dough is made with ease, using all-purpose flour, kosher salt, warm water and two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. This non-leavened dough is thinner than a tortilla, heartier than phyllo dough, has substantial bite, but is very flaky, Sortun explains. It is used to make flatbreads, pastries and börek (a baked or fried pie in Turkey). Sofra Bakery offers a savory börek with fresh cheese and nigella seed at its bakery cafe.

In her 2016 book “Soframiz: Vibrant Middle Eastern Recipes from Sofra Bakery and Café,” Sortun shares 100 recipes that showcase Middle Eastern spices and flavors in a wide array of bakery products and meals.

Sofra Bakery & Cafe specializes in Middle Eastern flavors.
According to a report by the Vegetarian Resource Group, 37 percent of the US population always or sometimes eats vegetarian meals when eating out. About 3 percent of the population is vegetarian (including vegans) all the time, and about 5 percent always eat vegetarian or vegan meals when eating out.

Sofra Bakery is the second location created by the Oleana Restaurant Group. The bakery cafe was established in 2008 by executive chef Ana Sortun, together with business partner and executive pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick. While traveling in Turkey, still deciding on the name for the bakery, Ana and Maura would ask locals what the word “sofra” meant to them. They were amazed at how the word instantly brought a smile to people’s faces. In modern Turkish language, sofra means a table prepared or set for eating a meal.

In its “Top Six Food Trends for 2018,” Campbell’s Culinary & Baking Institute predicts culinary heritage to be one of the most popular trends. With nearly one of three Americans now consuming foods that contain multicultural flavors at least once a week, food production companies have an opportunity to capitalize on “the personal stories that define our food” by bringing culinary traditions to life.

Prince Castle used consumer data from foodservice research firm Technomic to determine the best way to satisfy people’s desires for craveable flavors. Among the many consumer preferences regarding flavors, according to the report, there are two key factors to consider: spotlighting new flavors is essential at restaurants, and customization is now an expectation.

  • 65% of consumers like trying new flavors from time to time.
  • 66% of consumers are willing to spend more on a meal that features new flavors

Focusing on creative flavors helps bring in customers who are increasingly seeking out globally inspired menu items.