The bread factory

With over 40 different varieties of bread available, the staff at Al Qasr bakery run a mammoth operation, producing a range of items from blue cheese and cherry breads, to dark and seedy German rolls

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By  Laura Barnes Published  August 1, 2006

|~|roland2.jpg|~||~|Running a 24-hour bakery operation is no easy feat for chef Roland Eitzinger, pastry chef for Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah. However, with a 30-strong pastry and bakery team, chef Roland keeps a tight operation, making sure that 20 outlets across Al Qasr and Madinat Jumeirah are fully stocked with enough breads and pastries every day. “I have ten staff in bakery and 20 in pastry, as well as one master baker. At the moment we currently work across three shifts, producing over 40 different types of breads, and that doesn’t take into account the pastry side, so it is a lot of work,” comments chef Roland. Producing so many breads, chef Roland has to ensure that a certain level of consistency and standardisation is met. As such, before any bread makes the list, a series of food tastings and trials are done. Whether an outlet has a new menu, a special promotion, or even a themed event, the bread has to be tailored around this. First, chef Roland and the outlet chef discuss what the menu will be and what ingredients would complement it; food tastings are then made before presenting the breads to the outlet manager and food and beverage managers. Once the bread has been approved, a picture is taken and the recipe becomes standardised and added to the bakery menu. “The process is quite rigid so we can maintain a high level of consistency and quality. What we are trying to do is promote the fact that it is homemade bread; it isn’t supermarket bread,” says chef Roland. However, baking bread for 20 different outlets means that the produce cannot be the same throughout. Ranging from Spanish, Arabic, Italian and seafood restaurants, the chefs from each outlet naturally have different ideas on what type of breads they require. “When it comes to Italian, they prefer crispy breads, but it also depends on the olive oil they use. In the Spanish restaurant the tapenade may vary, and in the coffee shop, it depends on the type of butter being used,” says chef Roland. “So although each cuisine has a different style of bread, the types of breads vary according to the ingredients used in each outlet on any given week,” he adds. For example, some of the more popular breads include carrot and mint ciabatta, black olive tapenade rolls and black ink puff sticks with sesame for Pisces restaurant. Al Hambra also has its signature bread, which is a five-flavoured foccacia roll, including garlic, spices, olive, cheese and herbs, and the Arboretum restaurant has a carrot and sea salt foccacia, and ciabatta sticks with spring onions as its signature loaves. However, one of the more popular varieties at the moment is a blue cheese and cherry Italian bread, as well as dark German and Norwegian rolls. But despite producing different breads, chef Roland says that each member of the team has to be dedicated to the bakery, and have a firm knowledge and understanding of the basics. “Not all of the staff were experienced in bakery when they first joined, so they undertook over 100 hours cross training alongside me. Once they had done this, I chose which ones were suited to the bakery and willing to give 100%. Bakery is not the same as it was when I first joined, and it is difficult to find people who understand how it works,” says chef Roland. “The job has become very industrialised. There is now equipment that does the job that a baker would once have done, and you even get some people who do not know what yeast does, or why a bread will rise while others won’t. This is basic information that they have to know,” he adds.||**|||~||~||~|Using the right type of oven is the one machine that is vital to a smooth running operation. As such, Al Qasr bakery uses German-based Miwe ovens, which quickly reach the optimum 300°C needed to bake bread. But chef Roland adds that although having the right oven is vital, in some cases, restaurants will also purchase bread mixes, so chefs only need to add water, not even salt or yeast. However, at Al Qasr bakery, everything is made from scratch. With over 20 different varieties of flour and grain mix, most of the flour used at Al Qasr comes from Austria and Germany, with a small percentage also imported from Australia. “A 25kg bag of flour from Austria costs around AED550 (US $150), whereas a 50kg bag of local flour would cost AED30 ($8), so it is quite expensive, but you are paying for a quality product,” says chef Roland. “The final product proves that paying extra counts, it is about the look of the bread, whether it can be cut well, and if after two hours on the buffet table it still has that crispiness and freshness,” adds chef Roland. When it comes to the yeast, Al Qasr bakery uses a mixture of fresh, as well as dry yeast. While the fresh yeast has to be used within a few days, the dry variety comes vacuum-packed, but although it can be stored, in the Middle East the climate can affect the yeast. Using around 50kg of grain mix, and 480kg of flour each day, the bakery also produces breads for people with dietary requirements, including gluten-free, wheat-free and diabetic bread. “There has been a real change in terms of catering for people with allergies. Two years ago a gluten-free bread just couldn’t be eaten because it was so starchy. Now however, gluten-free bread looks like bread, feels like bread, and tastes like bread,” comments chef Roland. Baking products with dietary requirements also has to be done separately from the other breads, as such, they are made either before or after the rest of the batches, and using a separate mixer, so there is no chance of cross contamination. However, chef Roland’s team does not just bake breads; pastries are also made in the bakery, and on a much larger operation. Produced for breakfast, afternoon tea, lunches and the a la carte menu, the pastries range from Danishes and croissants to tiramisu and strawberry flans. “We make too many pastries to count, but despite trends that may come or go, people will always look for a tiramisu or a cheesecake. Diners also like French pastries because they have that reputation and standing. However, in Al Qasr, Arabic desserts are also popular, mainly due to the large percentage of Arabic guests,” says chef Roland. But chef Roland is keen to create pastries with a local touch, and as such, he uses camel milk in some dishes. Although he doesn’t recommend it as a drink, he says its neutral taste and scent, means it can easily be used without tainting a recipe. Another food item that is gaining in popularity is beetroot, and with Jumeirah Beach Hotel starting to use this ingredient more and more, chef Roland has decided to incorporate it into some of his items, including a beetroot and chocolate cake. “I am still working on this cake but it should be quite interesting, as the two ingredients produce a really dark and rich colour,” says chef Roland. “However, there will always be bakery products that remain classics, like pesto or saffron flavoured breads, dark and seedy German breads and a really good chocolate cake!”||**||

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