Christmas: tips for pastry professionals
Christmas is often considered one of the most beautiful times of the year, rich in traditions and magic, it is able to bring us all back to the essence of simple things, such as the pleasure of being together and enjoying a good meal with our loved ones. But for bakers it is also an important business opportunity.
The scent of spices and dried fruit wafts through the air, the streets are lined with lights and children's faces are feverish - it's Christmas time!
"For me, Christmas is above all a celebration of tradition, both for the pastries and for the lights and decorations that make the atmosphere unique." Leonardo Di Carlo too cannot resist the charm of the Christmas atmosphere and, like many of us, it only takes one ingredient to evoke in him the memory and flavour of this magical time of year: "The first ingredient that reminds me of Christmas is the scent of spices, the one you smell in the Christmas markets. They are great for scenting biscuits, such as gingerbread, and to include in all the recipes for Christmas sweets: nougats, Zelten, large leavened items, combining them with dried fruit."
But Christmas is not only tradition, the real challenge for a bakers at this time of year is to be able to bring a personal and innovative touch to his offer, something able to amaze his customers without disregarding their desires and expectations " I personally believe that the innovative ingredient of Christmas is the imagination and creativity to present a cake or a traditional dish in an innovative way" says Maestro Leonardo Di Carlo, while Andrea Bonati, an Italian baker who works with Debic products, has a more daring opinion: "an innovative ingredient that I have been thinking about recently and that is not used much in pastry is the truffle. It is a very complicated ingredient to include in pastry making, and a special technique must be developed, but, if balanced, it is one of those ingredients that could slowly make its way into Christmas proposals. An important product just like Christmas''.
This year, more than ever, Christmas is a special occasion to spend time with our families and beloved. The desire to embrace our loved ones and get together around the table is as strong as ever. Traditional desserts in particular have always been the symbol of Christmas and a greedy occasion to spend tender moments of sharing, but not only the flavours make this time of year unique, as Bonati reminds us: "If we start from colours, for Christmas I suggest using gold, red and green". So when thinking about and planning our Christmas offer, let's keep in mind all those details that serve to make our proposals unique and centred on the period.
As well as being a wonderful opportunity to get together, Christmas is also an excellent business opportunity. Bakers are well aware of this and during this period they enrich their shop windows with traditional sweets. In Italy, for example, the great leavened products are the absolute protagonists. We are talking above all about Panettone, Pandoro and Veneziana, sweets that are typically prepared following traditional recipes even if, especially in recent years, many pastry professionals have begun to experiment by proposing interesting variations. "The perfect proposal is, beyond any doubt, his majesty the Panettone, 100% made in Italy". In fact, Leonardo Di Carlo tells us "it is a product that is becoming increasingly well known throughout the world and, above all, I am sure that in the future it will be eaten not only at Christmas, but throughout the year, perhaps in the form of small cakes, playing with seasonal ingredients in the form of candied fruit. For Christmas I recommend the classic Panettone with rasins, citron and orange, or a gourmand Panettone with caramel and milk chocolate." The secret, therefore, lies in offering customers the classics of tradition without forgetting to add a few little twists that can surprise and innovate.
Christmas and sustainability
Very often Christmas is associated with consumerism, forgetting the true value of this holiday.
Never before have we realised the importance of adopting more sustainable behaviour and habits for ourselves and the environment, which is why we asked Andrea Bonati and Maestro Leonardo Di Carlo for their advice on a more sustainable Christmas.
Andrea Bonati summed up his thoughts on the subject as follows: ''What I feel like saying about sustainability goes on two fronts. Although it is important to have a short product chain, often is it right to look for raw materials in another place because, perhaps, those products are not produced in our area. I am thinking, for example, of pistachios from Bronte or hazelnuts from the Langhe. On the other hand, in order to limit waste, nowadays it is increasingly important to focus on perfect work organisation: the only thing that can really limit waste in a workshop is organisation in perspective. For example, during the Christmas period, working as much as possible with pre-orders allows us to have better organisation and better productivity, which limits waste. Also because sustainability is also work sustainability''.
Maestro Leonardo Di Carlo, on the other hand, is more pragmatic in his reflections on the subject of sustainability, pointing out that a pastry chef must manage "to make the most of the "cold" in his production; the cold chain can solve many production and organisational problems, reducing waste". In addition, according to the well-known Alchemist of pastry making, "the use of modern equipment with low energy consumption is also very important". Particular attention must therefore be paid to sustainability, an element that has become necessary even in the most famous occasions of consumption, such as Christmas.