An exciting part of being in this industry is going to expos and conventions to see the latest in tools, methods and ingredients for bakery professionals. On Sunday, April 3rd, we drove to Atlantic City to attend the Atlantic Bakery expo to do just that, unfortunately, we were somewhat let down by what we encountered.
We pride ourselves on being a true from-scratch bakery, meaning we use basic unadulterated ingredients to create our products. Our cakes, cookies and bars use real butter, flour and sugar. The filling for our lemon bars relies on zesting and juicing actual lemons and our carrot cake requires shredding actual carrots. To our dismay we found that nearly every booth at the show had a variety of cake mixes, bases and even frozen, un-iced, ready to finish cakes and pastries!
When speaking with one vendor about our operation, he could not believe the way we were baking. Even though we said we were from-scratch, he still suggested we take a look at cake mixes. We understand that some operations rely on and require pre-made/mixed ingredients to be successful, but what is troubling is that some bakeries are advertising as from-scratch when the reality is they are not. Technically, a bakery would still have to measure and add some things such as oil, water or eggs, but does that make it similar to what we do? Is it home-made but not from-scratch? Freshly baked by not actually made in house?
There are ways to cut corners and produce high volumes of products. We learned to set a high standard for ourselves, we value flavor over cost and we strive to provide authentic food to our customers. Have you ever noticed how some cookies and cakes have a weird after-taste? Or how the frosting can leave you with an unpleasant mouthfeel and a sweetness that makes your teeth ache? These are tell-tale signs of ingredients like xanthin gum, dextrose, cellulose, as well as artificial flavoring agents and lots of sweeteners. For us, though, we really believe that from scratch should be from scratch.
The show was not all bad, however, there was a self-serve doughnut display that one us visited multiple times, not going to say who. The machinery available to modern bakers is really amazing, but it's all really geared towards larger operations than our little shop. It was also reassuring to us to know that we are staying true to our original mission. We are committed to using the best ingredients to create really delicious "real" food. Again, we're understand that there are very valid reasons why a bakery would choose to use these products. They're not all bad, and taste is, well, a matter of taste.