Monday, January 09, 2006
There are a lot of interesting food trends starting down the pike this coming year. Some of them are particularly relevant to bakers. And, we have a few predictions of our own, things that haven't received a lot of notice.
Fusion as chefs once practiced it has waned (and can I raise a mighty cheer?). Some of those concoctions were absolutely dreadful - no balance of flavors, no harmony in colors or looks - all faddish and popular because it was different. Fusion is still here, and still a good American tradition. In the baking field, fusion is very subtle. It's an application of techniques from one culture to the ingredients of another, and that means some fabulous new breads and bakery treats are emerging. This is not on the Trend Radar of other cooks, so take note of it. This is a Cracked Cauldron prediction. Now that the Atkins Diet craze has receded and bread is resumng its rightful place as one of the staffs of life, watch how it will evolve. I think American bakers will be at the forefront of this trend. It's certainly one we'd pioneer at the Cracked Cauldron. There are yeast-raising techniques from Italy that will make American Indian corn breads pop. Our first loaf of sourdough cornbread made with our Tri-Pliny starter, and creamed corn as well as ground cornmeal, flecked with buffalo shreds and served with a tart sumac-flavored buffalo butter was so good, we ate the whole loave at one sitting. It raises cornbread to a whole new level. Look for more such innovative breads in the coming year.
Slow breads will also become trendy - breads raised cool and slow to allow the flavors to fully develop. Not just sourdoughs will be treated this way, but any yeast-raised, salt-raised bread. Again, this isn't one of the trends listed in any trend-tracker for food service industries, but it is in keeping with the trend towards smoked foods (a slow-cooked food), slow-poaching of duck and fish, and cooking foods via bain marie vacuum-sealed in bags to let the flavor penetrate deeply without dilution. In the bread world, that means slow-raised breads.
Ethnic herbs will find their way into breads, as well - the black mint (huacatay) of Peru, for example. Look for ethnic cheeses and butters to form a new trend, but probably not until later in the year. Those will be slower to catch on - Americans are rather fond of the milder cheeses. And don't forget the more exotic mushrooms finding their way into bread, as well. Forget plain old porcini and portabella and oyster mushrooms, and look for the wilder Wine Cup (Stropharia rugoso-annulata), Shrimp Russala (Russula xerampelina), Gypsy Mushroom (Rozites caperata), Fairy Ring Mushroom (Marasimius oreades), Shaggy Parasol (Lepiota rachodes), Candy Caps (Lactarius fragilis - which is really good in sweeter pastries, too), Pig's Ear (Gomphus clavatus), Hedgehog Mushrooms (Dentinum repandum), and Satyr's Beards .
Wheat flour will still remain supreme as the bread flour of choice, but expect non-wheat flours to start finding a niche - like manioc flour and amaranth flour - among pastries and breads. Low carbohydrate breads will still be much-sought-after, and more people with wheat allergies will want bread, so be prepared to bake some truly unusual breads. For the health-conscious who want to scale back on their carbohydrate consumption but don't have wheat allergies, look for the thin individual breads, like tandoori breads, pitas, parathas, naan, and tortillas, to be popular.
Expect the smaller portion to remain with us, and when larger portions are provided, they will sell better if marketed as "shareable". In pastries, smaller is better, and people will be inclined to order "sample plates" of pastries, 5-7 bite-sized portions of pretty , flavor-popping pastries.
These pastries may be topped by the trendy new "fruit caviars" - fruit purees or juices emulsified into "pearls". These fruit caviars will top pastries, cookies, puddings, and even meat anad fish entrees. They truly come into their own when combined with sweet pastry, so the meat and fish trend may pass, but the pastry trend will grow.
Exotic and obscure spice blends will be sought out, especially ones from South America, Africa, and the Middle East.
Think hot, too. The heated spices of the entree are going to find their way into bread, too. Think dipping sauces with Banyuls vinegar, balsamic vinegars, yuzu juice, and pomegranate molasses. Think chilies in the bread dough and Moroccan spice blends lavashed on the crusts of the bread. Think bruschetta gone wild!
And the trend continues towards local and sustainable and fair trade, so look for more bakeries to start sporting signs and ads that proclaim their commitment to the local and global economy. Expect bakers to also be able to recite the provenance of their ingredients, too: "The flour in that cake came from William's Mill, out on Route 14, the eggs are from Hilda's farm at the lake, and the cherries were picked off Albert's new cherry orchard down in Jonesville."
So, let's see how this pans out in the coming year, shall we?