Northern Cyprus is not the best country in the world for a gourmet to live. Imported foodstuffs are rare and expensive, locally produced fruit and vegetables are good but limited in variety and very seasonal.Meat tends to be tasteless and tough – due, perhaps, to very limited grazing, less than considerate husbandry and hardly any maturation after slaughter; more than three days has to be requested. However there are some gems and some surprises, and the bread here is some of the best I’ve tasted. How these standards are achieved, I do not know. Quality assurance is only thought about and technical knowledge is, to be kind, limited. There is not a huge variety available, but the most popular versions – from wrapped and sliced to those made from stone-ground wheat and with natural fermentation – can be found. And the local olive bread, made with both baking powder and yeast, and featuring whole black olives, is addictive but has a very short shelf life. Tempo, a local supermarket, asked me to help them reduce the “crust” of wrapped and sliced box bread used for sandwiches, which was being baked for 30 minutes at 240ºC. Then the heat was turned off and the bread left in the oven for a further 30 minutes.The Tempo LoafBread flour – 30kgImprover – 150gYeast – 150gSugar – 400gSalt – 1kgUnsalted margarine – 500gMilk – 1kgWater – 15kgWe successfully reduced the bake time to 28 minutes and the weight of the dough piece by 100g. It appears to have done the trick.However, the real loss leader – the wrapped and sliced of Cyprus – is not wrapped and sliced at all. It is a most delightful bloomer-style loaf, featuring a thin crispy crust, a light tender crumb, which is amazingly white, with perfect cell structure and a wonderful real bread taste. The loaf is scaled at 350g and keeps well for 24 hours. It then makes great toast. The loaves sell at a loss, for about 20p, but the local Cypriots buy them by the dozen, Covered with seeds, it can be sold at 50p. Here is the recipe (or as close as I can get to it). The 20p LoafBread flour (circa 14% protein) – 120kgSalt- 1kg 600gSoya based improver – 1kg 600gYeast – 5kgSugar – 800gWater – (circa) 60 kgThe “on sack” declaration reads: Wheat flour, Saccharose, Emulsifier (E472) Soya flour, Oxidising agent (E 300), Enzymes (Fungal alfa amylases).The nearest I could get to a flour specification is that it is 72% extraction and bakers use a blend of three, from different mills, as the variation is very great. The soft dough is mixed on a spiral machine for 15 minutes, divided into 350g pieces, moulded, and then given 40 minutes’ intermediate proof. It is then shaped. If the bread is to be seeded, it is done at this stage – all over with a delicious mix of white and black sesame and a little aniseed. Finally, the loaf is proved and baked.There are about another five varieties, none of which have great sales but are all good to eat:German, a light rye; diet, with bran and wholemeal; wheat meal; corn bread, an American recipe; and olive bread, frequently made at home, some containing fresh herbs.Most of the bread in northern Cyprus is made by small- to medium-sized bakeries or in-store by the supermarket groups. But there is a specialist baker making what is known as “village bread” (main picture). This comes in two varieties: a round and a baton shape, both 1.2kg in weight. The baton is covered with black and white sesame seeds and a little aniseed, while the dough itself is flavoured with ground cloves and allspice. Fermentation is done using the natural yeasts in the atmosphere. The flour used is stone-milled from wheat imported from the Ukraine. Water is from a nearby spring and the loaf is baked in old stone-floored ovens.The “bakery” where it is made is, in fact, the kitchen of a once-popular hotel and restaurant in a remote beautiful valley near a village called Pinarbasi, some 10 miles from Kyrenia. The building is situated at the bottom of the valley alongside a fast-flowing mountain stream of sparkling clarity and cleanliness of taste. This is the water used for the bread.The bakery has a small spiral mixer, a moulding machine and three stone-floored clay-built ovens. It is operated by three or four people, who turn out 1,000 loaves a day, seven days a week. There is a lot of mystique to the process, but nothing would persuade the workers nor the owner of the business to change one iota of recipe, ingredients or process.The bread is made in three stages. The mixing machine is washed seven times, stone-ground flour is mixed with spring water to form a soft dough and this is divided into 2.5kg pieces, which are put into ceramic bowls. These are then placed in and out of the oven seven times (30 seconds each time) and are left in the bakery atmosphere for three days, open to natural yeasts in the air. Each of these can then be used to make 130kg of dough or they are frozen for use later.The wheat itself is not easy to obtain: imports are strictly controlled by Turkey. But when the grain arrives, it is taken to a modern mill with a stone-milling facility, close to Famagusta. The bread is pretty solid but, freshly made, it is very tasty. After 12 hours it firms up and loses some of its appeal, but for the next five to six days, it changes little and, with good butter, it’s nutty, spicy, slightly sour in taste, and makes delicious and compulsive eating.A bread ring called Simit is the last of the great products I discovered:The Simit Bread RingBread flour – 1kgSugar – 100gSalt – 50gCinnamon – 20gYeast – 50gOil – 30gWater – 400gBlack and white sesame seeds (enough to heavily coat the rings)This is made into no-time dough, divided into 50g pieces, shaped into a twisted rope, heavily coated in seeds and formed into neat rings, proved and baked in a hot oven.
– Colin the caterpillar and other party cakes are among six products being recalled by Marks & Spencer over fears that they could cause choking. The retailer is asking customers to return the cakes after coloured plastic strands from a sieve, used for processing, were found in some lines.- CAR company Peugeot has signed a £500,000 deal to supply a fleet of 400 of its 307 and 407 cars to Allied Bakeries’ managers.
The dried vine fruit market in the UK, the largest market in the world for this category, yielded a 5% rise in imports for the first eight months of 2005 compared with 2004, says California Raisins (London).The rise is partly due to raisins’ healthy associations, says the company.Research from Texas A&M University has revealed that Golden Raisins are a high source of phenolic acids, several of which function as antioxidants.Other research indicates the potential role of phenolic compounds in reducing the risk of both heart disese and cancer. US government testing ranks California Golden Raisins among the top antioxidant foods.
Health and indulgence are two buzzwords that have peppered many a bakery marketing director’s PowerPoint presentation over the past year. But while the indulgent cakes sector continues to show great gains, healthy cake sales are somewhat stagnant.Despite this slowdown, Anthony Alan Foods has chalked up over half of all low-fat cakes sales in the UK under its Weight Watchers cakes licence – worth nearly £18m in value. The cake range has increased market share in the low fat sector to nearly 56% (TNS Data w/e 21 May 2006), compared to 53% in May 2005.”We’re not surprised by the slight decline in the sector,” says Mark Rooza, UK sales director of Anthony Alan Foods. “Between 2004 and 2005, low-fat cakes outperformed the total cakes market significantly. Over the last few months there has been a natural pendulum as the market readjusts. However, initial figures indicate the next two quarters will reverse this trend and see a swing back to low-fat cakes.”Sales will come from re-invented teatime favourites, such as malt loaf, almond cake slices and cherry Bakewells, marketed as healthy options with fewer calories, he says. Untapped markets in Europe, particularly Germany, present another opportunity. “Retailers and consumers are very different in Europe so we’re trying to understand them better,” he says.But branded sales in the UK will depend on “maintaining the optimum brand versus own-label mix,” says Rooza. “With the domination of retail own-label in this country, it would be difficult to grow market share to more than 60%, but we want to grow cash value. In the next three years, we believe we can grow to around £20-£25m in the UK.”Meanwhile, with feet firmly placed in the ’indulgent’ camp, Gü Chocolate Puds has grown 100% year-on-year to become the number one chocolate puddings firm. Consumers want good quality puddings to “complement today’s discriminating, yet convenience-led lifestyle”, says Becs Hurwitz, marketing manager at Gü. “Our puds have widespread appeal and they stand out well on the shelves.”Quirky innovations include two board games – ’finger tangle’, a take on twister, and ’flick a penny’, which is similar to tiddlywinks – in the pack of its newly-launched Gü 70% Hot Chocolate Soufflé Party Puds, presented in an eight-pack. But the indulgence of the product, such as 70% cocoa chocolate, is driving sales, states Hurwitz. “We aim to lead the quality revolution in the indulgent sectors of ’everyday treat’ and ’occasions’,” she says.Also new are Gü’s Boozy Choc’N Roll Party Puds, made with 53% cocoa chocolate ganache and a dash of liqueur, Gü Hot Chocolate Lava Tarts, made with all butter pastry and filled with a rich chocolate fondant, and Posh Chocs in mint or caramel.
To wrap bakery products automatically, you no longer need to use expensive plastic trays or cardboard supports, and biodegradable wrapping materials can be used on the machine, according to FDA Packaging Machinery (Norwich, Norfolk).The Flexwrap machine, on which the products to be wrapped are placed directly onto the material, is already being widely operated by bakeries and other food industries alike, says the firm.
This week, I would particularly like to draw your attention to the Friday Essay by Rob Devlin (pg 13) entitled: Make Bakery Attractive! You cannot move an inch in this industry without someone saying: “What are we going to do about the lack of next generation bakers?”Everyone, craft bakers, wholesale bakers, supermarket bakers, recruitment agencies are all talking about the problem. Most tellingly, a recent survey by Improve, the government’s skill sector council, showed that awareness of bakery as a career in schools and colleges is virtually nil.So exactly what should we, as an industry, do about it? Rob Devlin is quite clear on the matter, and quite right, when he suggests that bakery bodies need to work together, lobby government more effectively, start a schools and media campaign and embark on several other initiatives. After all, he is at the coalface of bakery recruitment every single day.So far, Improve has failed to make the case for bakery as a career, as have the craft bakery organisations, student organisation and the bursary-awarding organisation Baking Excellence, which has difficulty finding the students to actually give them a bursary! BCA members are positively inspirational, but if you don’t lobby, you are not listened to.A concerted industry effort is needed to bring the merits – the sheer enjoyment of bakery and confectionery as a career – to the attention of students and government, starting now!Elsewhere this week, our News Analysis on organic (pg 14) shows why organic flour prices are going through the roof and the issues faced by the whole chain, from farmer to high street retailer. Demand for organic bread is rising. It is a destination product, a lifestyle choice, and punters will pay an extra 10p or more for it. I hope retailers of organic breads and cakes are charging accordingly.On the news front, I cannot close without mention of the turbulent times at Northern Foods and Bonne Bouche Frozen (pg 4) and, last week, Oakdale. Several mainly own-label producers are having their worst times since the 1980s. Who would have thought that even highly successful Inter Link Foods would wobble (pg 6)? It’s all about efficiency, cost-cutting and, above all, price pressures – a clear sign of the times.
Never have I been able to understand or formulate a good bonus scheme.The more I have looked at the problem, the more convinced I become that they are simply not an efficient means of rewarding an employee or encouraging them to greater effort.supporting a hypothesisWhenever I talk to people operating a bonus scheme, it does not fill me with confidence that they are satisfied with their system. It’s as if they are trying to support a hypothesis, rather than find evidence against it.Bonus schemes, as used by big business and government agencies, are virtually always an out-and-out swindle – just a hidden way to give the recipients a sly pay increase, which they do not deserve.In our real world, let us at least be honest with each other; often we lose sales without any real errors on our part and due, perhaps, to reasons beyond our control – such as non-stop rain, the moving of a bus stop or useless double lines that stop our custo-mers parking and popping into our shops for a quick snack.Whenever this happens to us, we start looking for our own failings, as indeed we should, but often it is out of our control. So the potential recipient of the bonus loses out and becomes disgruntled.EPHEMERAL INCREASETwo years ago, I wrote that our retail stores were increasing between 10% and 30%, for no reason we were aware of. I said it would not last and it did not, as we ended up with about a 10-12% increase by the end of the year.Now, if we had had a bonus system in place, we would have paid out for nothing, and that’s my problem: how do we decide whether the extra profit is due to an individual’s performance or, as is more common, a team effort – plus at times for no reason or credit to ourselves. It just happens.Perhaps I could paraphrase John Kennedy and say to our staff: “Think not what your company can do for you, but what you can do for your company.”BASIS FOR THE BONUSIf you award bonuses based on increased turnover or profitability – say inflation is 10% and sales increase by 10% – who deserves the reward? And of course, it’s easy to inflate sales at the expense of profits.So the answer must be profit? No, go easy, the company may have negotiated a reduction on electricity, the telephone, gas or just plain property tax charges, without any intervention of the bonus recipient. Or the company might have lashed out a great deal of money on new fuel efficiency equipment. In my case, that would be my money and decision, not a manager’s decision.So after all this chat, we appear to be where we started, with no clear answer.Maybe the problem is insoluble – a bit like trying to convince my wife, Barbara, that, when I give her a new cheque book, it is not like a good book, which she cannot put down until she has finished it. n
Bakery businesses are being urged to sign an online petition against the new family business tax.The e-petition is now among the top 50 most-signed petitions on the Number 10 website, with over 6,000 signatures, claims Professional Contractors Group (PCG), which represents the UK’s freelancers.In 2007, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced his intention to prevent “income shifting”. He said it was the practice of splitting income between two people to make use of the tax allowance of the lower-earning partner.The new tax will target all jointly-owned businesses, and family businesses in particular. “It penalises people who have jointly set up businesses in exactly the way recommended for years by the government,” according to PCG, “and makes it impossible for small businesses to self-assess their tax liabilities, adding another crushing administrative burden.”Businesses will have to keep extensive records, according to PCG. They will then have to justify the distribution of profits to family members or other joint owners if the taxman investigates them.”Even if you are not clobbered by a tax investigation, you will still have to jump through all the hoops and keep all the records,” commented John Brazier, MD of the PCG.For more information, visit the website [http://www.familybusinesstax.co.uk].
Foodservice supplier, Brakes Group, has been awarded the title of Green Wholesaler of the Year at the Grocer Gold Awards, on 11 June, in London.Brakes- which supply caterers and food-to-go outlets in the UK and France with products including pastries and tarts, and artisan bread – impressed the judges with its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. Achievements included using bio diesel in its fleet, electricity generated from renewable sources and implementing initiatives to reduce packaging.The award recognised Brakes’ ongoing commitment to reduce the effects of its operations on the environment, coupled with meeting the commercial needs of customers.“Winning Green Wholesaler of the Year is a fantastic achievement, underlining our commitment to deliver excellence to our customers in a sustainable and responsible way,” commented Frank McKay, group chief executive.
Whether you’re thinking of entering the food-to-go market for the first time or are one of the country’s 18,000 café and sandwich shop owners looking to beef up your offer, Café+ is an important date for your diary.A new part of the established Convenience Retailing Show, Café+ provides an opportunity to learn from experts and successful retailers and meet suppliers – which should all help drive customers to your shop. Companies such as Brakes, Coffee Nation and Subway will be on hand to give best practice advice via seminars, panel discussions and live demonstrations, all put together by Max Jenvey, mana-ging director of Oxxygen Marketing Partnership. They will be discussing those all-important factors such as layout, product selection and space versus profitability.Café+Live seminars include: Coffee from Convenience to Café; Sandwiches – everything you’ve always wanted to know but haven’t asked; and Bakery from Convenience to Café, where bakery experts will detail the best options for your store or café.Jill Willis, who with husband Richard owns Taste (UK) and was named Essex Best New Company 2008, will talk about her experiences running a successful café, while in another seminar, retail giant Subway will share the key industry requirements for developing a freshly prepared sandwich offer, using itself as a case study. There are also debates you can join in, on the coffee and sandwich markets, when development director Martin Kibler of Greggs will reveal what makes the British Baker Top 50 winner such a success.”Everyone says there is money to be made from coffee and foodservice, but there is only money there if you get it right,” says event director Matthew Butler, of organiser William Reed Business Media. “Our aim, with Café+Live, is to arm operators with the practical advice and information they need to turn what they have into a more effective and profitable offer.”’Take More, Make More’ is another live event where you can share ideas and knowledge with other retailers and suppliers on how to increase footfall in your store and other relevant issues to help make more profit. Sessions will be run by Convenience Store magazine, the Association of Convenience Stores and many other top industry specialists.There will also be plenty of bakery firms exhibiting at the show, including Warburtons, Brambles Foods and Cakes for the Connoisseur. Many of them have new products to show off, such as The Handmade Cake Company, which will launch two new varieties: black cherry & almond slice and a banana cake slice. Meanwhile, Country Choice is introducing its Boston’s coffee and American-style doughnut concept – a selection of yeast-raised, thaw-and-serve doughnuts. The concept comes with branded packaging, POS, a takeaway box and a coffee machine.? www.cafeplusshow.co.uk—-=== Café+ ===WHERE: Birmingham NEC, halls 6 and 7WHEN: 1-3 MarchOPENING TIMES:Sunday 1 March – 10am to 5pmMonday 2 March – 10am to 5pmTuesday 3 March – 10am to 4pm