Supermarket Perimeter - July 2020 - 10

Karl De Smedt's official title at Belgium-based Puratos is
communication and training manager, sourdough and grains.
But De Smedt is more widely known by a title that has become a
huge hit on social media: The Sourdough Librarian. His popularity
is due not only to the catchy name, but also to the fact that he is
the only full-time sourdough librarian in the world.
There's nothing gimmicky about De Smedt or his handle. At the
Puratos Center for Bread Flavour, De Smedt oversees a collection
of living sourdough starters that plays a vital role in preserving the
bread's past and present and ensuring its future.
Puratos first hatched the idea for a library in 1989. When De
Smedt joined the company, in 1994, it was the first time he had
ever tried sourdough.
"It was an epiphany," he said. "I thought, 'My God, what is
happening here?' I didn't understand what it was."
Puratos's experiment ramped up significantly in 1997, when the
company started collaborating with Marco Gobbetti, one of the
leading authorities on sourdough fermentation in the world. The
partnership began with a study of Italian sourdoughs - 18 breads
from 18 different patisseries. At the time, no one thought the
enterprise would turn into the library De Smedt oversees today.
Then a colleague got wind of what was happening.
"He heard we were collecting sourdoughs, and he started telling
us about starters in Greece that were made with basil leaves,
starters in Hungary that were made with grapes."
They also learned about a baker who used chickpeas as the
fermentation for ka'ak bread. His kids didn't like the smell, so when
they took over the bakery, they stopped making it. The baker
came to Puratos with a plea: make a record of my recipe before it
disappears.
Those stories continued to multiply, and before they knew it,
Puratos had 43 sourdoughs in its collection.
"We thought, if these bakeries are disappearing, we should do
something to save their sourdoughs," De Smedt said.
The library - walls of refrigerators kept at 4 degrees centigrade
- currently contains 128 living sourdoughs. The library was not
created for commercial purposes, but it does help bakeries that,
for instance, want to analyze why the sourdoughs created in their
different facilities have inconsistencies. Or maybe a company takes
a sourdough out of production but doesn't want to lose it forever.
10 - JULY 2020

The education curve
It's difficult to become good at bread-making by watching YouTube videos, Eng said.
"It is one of those things you just have to do, make
mistakes and learn from those mistakes," he said. "As
people begin returning to work and have less free
time, they will look to bakeries to provide that delicious
sourdough bread they got used to eating at home."
Sourdough sales were surging before COVID-19.
Puratos US estimated as many as one in five breads sold
in the United States contained sourdough ingredients.
"We've seen this trend play out across channels,
customers and eating occasions," said Michael Gleason,
product manager bakery flavors and sourdough for
Puratos. "With the rise of fermented foods such as kimchi
and kombucha, it was only natural that sourdough
would capture the attention of the American consumer.
Likewise, the overall health halo and the perception of
improved gut health and strengthened immunity derived
from fermented foods like sourdough will fuel more
sourdough bread consumption in the face of this global
pandemic."
Bakeries making sourdough bread face obstacles
in educated labor, space, consistency and time, said
Rob Nordin, in southeastern sales for Brolite Products,
Bartlett, Ill.
"A true sourdough needs a long fermentation period
and space to proof properly," he said. "It takes trained
personnel to care for a mother sponge properly. A
solution would be find a supplier to work closely with to
find the perfect flavor profile.
"Brolite started over 90 years ago crafting naturally
fermented sourdough cultures that are consistent in
pH, taste, texture and appearance. By using a prepared
sourdough base, a baker will be confident the product
will be perfect every batch."
Eng said the long fermentation would present
a challenge, but still be possible, for many large
commercial bakeries.

PURATOS, HEALTHY FOOD INGREDIENTS

The
Sourdough
Librarian

Chicory, a New York-based tech firm, found people
searching the internet for instructions on making a
sourdough starter hit 140,542 views in the week ended
April 4, which compared to 10,349 views in a week that
ended in early March.
The home bakers may be finding out how much time
and care sourdough requires.
"For several years I taught public baking classes, and the
best thing I could hear at the end of the class was, `Wow,
this is a lot of work. I think I will just buy it,'" said Jonathan
Eng, technical sales representative for BreadPartners,
Cinnaminson, NJ. "I liked hearing this not because it gave
me job security, but it showed peoples' appreciation for
how much work goes in to bread baking."



Supermarket Perimeter - July 2020

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