Bread is often the defining factor of a sandwich; it can make it or break it. Bread needs to match and fit in with the fillings, whilst never overwhelming them; bread can be the star that flies under the radar. Gone are the days where the ‘white, wholemeal or multigrain’ option trifecta was enough. Consumers now expect a much more varied bread selection, with sourdough, rye, ciabatta, wraps, baguette, panini … and the list just goes on.
So with the endless varieties of bread, how do you possibly choose which one is right for which sandwich? How do you keep up with bread trends, innovate and change your menu, maintain strong operational flow and minimise waste? It sounds overwhelming and tricky, but it’s not … with some planning and thought out processes, it’s more than achievable. Mal Gill, owner of Lady Marmalade and Shady Palms in Brisbane and 2013’s Great Australian Sandwichship Champion has some great tips to get you started and keep you going!
Welcome Mal. Tell me, how do you stay up to date on bread trends and what bread your customers are after?
Customers are always your best gauge in terms of bread trends. It’s easy for us to see the popularity of a bread style, as I usually have to eat the leftover sandwiches for dinner! People will usually ask for a sandwich on their favourite bread, so when you see something is resonating with customers, you can see it through your sales. The big trend of the last few years has seen a huge rise in the number of people asking for gluten free bread. This has really been fuelled by health trends and better quality gluten free breads being produced.
How important is pairing the right bread with the fillings in the sandwich?
From a chef’s perspective, I think it’s really important to pair the right bread and fillings in a sandwich. Some sandwiches are better when you can taste the bread, and sometimes you just want the bread to be a “vessel”. Are you serving it toasted, freshly made, pre-packaged or straight from the fridge? Open, closed, wrapped, stacked or triple decked? All these things come into play when choosing which bread to use for which sandwich.
Is there a certain process you follow when creating new menu items? For example, do you trial the filling with different types of bread, or do you start with the bread in mind?
If I’m creating a new menu item, I always try and match the bread to my filling. Often this will come down to what region my filling originates from. If I’m doing a middle eastern filling, then a wrap or Turkish bread will be my starting point, and it goes from there.
What do you find is the best way of storing bread to maintain freshness?
When it comes to storing bread, I’ve found that air is the enemy and it will quickly dry out your sliced bread. On busy days we’ll often have 15 – 16 sourdough loaves sliced and ready for a busy breakfast service. To keep the bread fresh, we slice and then cling wrap it as quickly as possible. If it’s stored in a large container, we’ll cover the bread with a damp (not wet) cloth and then cling wrap the whole container.
Do you have any tips for minimising waste?
I don’t like to freeze bread, so when it comes to minimising waste I guess my response is that we find other ways to use our leftovers. For the first few days dry sourdough makes amazing French toast (or bread and butter pudding). After that old bread can be dried out and blended into breadcrumbs, or cubes can be fried for salad croutons.
There’s a great old recipe for “poor man’s parmesan” which we often make and use in the cafés. Sourdough breadcrumbs are dried out and roasted in olive oil with finely chopped parsley, salt and pepper. It’s simple and delicious on pasta or salad, and it keeps for up to two weeks.
What are your top tips when it comes to choosing bread?
When it comes to choosing bread, my top tip would be … buy what you love to eat.
For me, it ruins a sandwich if there is too much bread and it becomes overwhelming. Are there any big no nos or pet hates you have?
My pet sandwich hate is soggy bread! There is an art to layering sandwiches properly, and I’d never really thought about it until I read the Pret-A-Manger restaurants cookbook. They have a whole team dedicated to trialling and testing every which way their sandwiches can be assembled, until they find the perfect way. I always teach my cooks to protect the bread. I can’t tell them enough times to drain the pickles properly!
With health trends taking full flight, have you seen customers move away from bread in an attempt to avoid wheat or gluten?
It seems nowadays everyone has a special dietary requirement of some sort, and it can be hard to cater to everyone all the time. As I mentioned earlier, gluten free breads have really come a long way and there are also great corn tortillas and rice breads on the market.
Wraps are popular at the moment, and they please both those with and without dietary issues.
What do you think are the upcoming bread trends for 2014?
In terms of coming trends, I really think that we’ll see a return to those simple breads a lot of us grew up with. The last decade has seen Turkish bread, wraps and sourdough dominate. Over the last couple of years brioche has popped up everywhere from gourmet burger bars to fine diners and franchises. I think we’ll see more soft white breads with southern and Latin American fillings. Think slow cooked briskets and pulled porks with crunchy slaws and creamy mayos … but maybe that’s just because that’s just what we’re doing at Shady Palms!
By Mel Sharpe, Australasian Sandwich Association
ABOUT Mel Sharpe
Mel Sharpe is the Operations Manager of the Australasian Sandwich Association and is also Director of Passageway. Passageway specialises in creating bespoke food industry insight tours throughout Australia and the world.
Australia’s Best Wrap
1 kg slow cooked beef shredded
Berbere Spice Mix
Beetroot hummus (see recipe below)
Sweet potato & preserved lemon smash (see recipe below)
Shady Palms Secret Pickled Okra
Spread a thick smear of sweet potato smash onto base of wrap, add warmed berbere beef, place 4 pickled okra quarters. Top with beetroot hummus and roll; alternatively, serve hummus on the side for added colour to the plate.
500g chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked in a light vegetable stock until tender
8 cloves confit garlic
3 tbsp Tahini
2 tbsp lemon juice
40 g ice
3 tbsp EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
Salt and pepper to taste
420 g roasted beetroot
Place into a blender: warm chickpeas, garlic, tahini and ice; puree until a thick paste has formed and chickpeas are crushed. Add lemon juice and EVOO. Continue blending until hummus is a thick buttery texture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Scrape into a mixing bowl.
Drain the beetroot, place into blender, puree. Fold 1/2 pureed beetroot into hummus. Check for seasoning and consistency. If hummus is still thick, add remaining beetroot. Colour should be vibrant and taste equally of beetroot and hummus flavours.
Sweet potato & preserved lemon smash
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into even chunks
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp brown sugar
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to season
¼ preserved lemon, diced
In a bowl mix honey, olive oil, brown sugar and grated nutmeg. Brush the sweet potato with the mix then season with salt and pepper. Roast at 180 degrees until cooked, then set aside to cool. Mash cooled sweet potato and then add the preserved lemon.