Brazilian French Bread

by Luciano Pereira, Irair Ferreira and Martina Mollenhauer
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Pão Francês, or “French bread,” is the most popular bread in Brazil. But no Brazilian consumer would expect his baker to sell him a large loaf or a traditional French baguette if he asks for Pão Francês. Instead, he will find himself with light-colored wheat rolls that only have a French-sounding name for historical reasons.

The misleading name “French Bread” is thought to have originated in the early 19th century, when Brazil gained its independence and the upper classes took pleasure in visiting far-off destinations in Europe, especially France. Upon their return, the travelers gave their bakers rapturous descriptions of the delicious bread they had enjoyed in Paris. The loaves, common in France at that time, were short and cylindrical, with a firm crumb and a golden-brown crust – forerunners of the baguette that did not acquire its elongated shape until the 20th century.

So following these descriptions, Brazilian bakers tried to imitate this European specialty – an experiment that was not entirely successful. “Brazilian French Bread” is quite different from the European original that inspired it. The dough sometimes even contains fat and sugar.

Name varies by region

The Brazilian bakers showed their ingenuity in respect to the name as well as the recipe – other terms for Pão Francês include “Pãozinho” (roll) and “Pão de Sal” (salt bread). It is known as “Pão Careca” (bare bread) in the state of Para, “Pão Jacó” (Jacob’s bread) in the state of Sergipe, “Cacetinho” (stick bread) in the Rio Grande do Sul, and in the town of Ribeirão Preto it is called a “Filãozinho,” meaning a queue – an allusion to the fact that the rolls stick together in rows resembling a queue.

Wheat competes with maize and cassava

Generally speaking, wheat products do not have the same significance in Brazil as in many other countries. That mainly has to do with local eating habits. In Brazil it is common to eat a substantial, hot meal at midday and again in the evening, mostly with meat, beans and vegetables. Light snacks such as sandwiches, toast slices or savory, filled rolls tend to be an exception. Products made from maize and cassava flour are popular, too.

Market dominated by artisan production

The annual per capita consumption of “French Bread” is about 35 kg, most of which comes from artisan bakeries. According to the market intelligence service, “Euromonitor International,” 84% of all baked goods were produced by artisan bakeries in 2014.

Although there is a growing trend toward packaged, industrially-produced foods, Brazilians still stick to their traditions when it comes to bread and similar products.

Standard Instead of premium products

At present, most Brazilian consumers are satisfied with inexpensive, standard bakery products; premium goods and specialties are still a niche market. Nevertheless, “Euromonitor International” is expecting a change in buying behavior as a growing middle class and higher incomes will lead to a considerable increase in quality awareness in the bakery segment as elsewhere.

Because of this, the baking industry will have to adjust to greater challenges in respect of the use of raw materials, production equipment and the qualifications of its employees. In the case of Pão Francês, attention should be given to excellent, high-class quality – for this product is the most important advertisement for any bakery.

The following is a list of the most common mistakes made in production, and how to avoid them:

           Problem: Low bread volume

           Possible causes:

Fermentation time too short
Too little yeast
Unsuitable flour with too little enzymatic activity
Solutions:

Prolong the fermentation time of the dough
Use more yeast
Use suitable flour
Increase or adjust flour treatment (Alphamalt FBP)
Problem: inadequate shred

Possible causes:

Too little hemicellulase
Fermentation time too long
Dough too warm
Flour too weak
Solutions:

Add more hemicellulase to the flour
Shorten the fermentation time
Use cold water
Use more oxidizing agent
Use more steam in the oven
Increase humidity in the fermentation chamber
Problem: Pale crust (white)

Possible causes:

Too little enzymatic activity
Fermentation chamber too dry
Fermentation time too long
Oven temperature too low
Baking time too short
Solutions:

Add more alpha-amylase to the flour (Alphamalt VC 5000)
Increase humidity in the fermentation chamber
Reduce the fermentation time
Set the oven to a higher temperature
Prolong the baking time
Problem: Dark crust, soft crumb

Possible causes:

Enzymatic activity too high
Oven too hot
Short baking time
Solutions:

Use wheat flour with lower enzymatic activity; add less alpha-amylase (Alphamalt VC 5000) to the flour
Set the oven to a lower temperature
Prolong the baking time
Problem: Holes in the crumb

Possible causes:

Flour too weak
Doughs too warm
Fermentation chamber too warm
Too much yeast
Mixing and resting times too long
Too much oil or fat in the doughs
Solutions:

Use stronger flour; adjust flour treatment (use suitable Alphamalt FBP to go with Mulgaprime
16/Mulgaprime SSL/Alphamalt Gloxy/ Alphamalt EFX Swift)
Use cold water
Set a lower temperature in the fermentation chamber
Use less yeast
Shorten processing times
Remove any oils/fats from the table and the cutter, or reduce the quantity
Problem: Too little crispness

Possible causes:

Dough too firm
Flour too weak
Baking temperature too low
Doughs too dry and bucky
Too little enzymatic activity
Solutions:

Increase the flour treatment (Alphamalt FBP, Mulgaprime 16, Mulgaprime SSL)
Use stronger flour
Set the oven to a higher temperature
Increase the amount of liquid in the recipe
Adjust the enzymatic activity (Alphamalt FBP)
Problem: Blistered crust

Possible causes:

Flour too weak
Incorrect machine setting
Fermentation time too long
Doughs too soft
Fermentation chamber too warm
Solutions:

Use stronger flour; use suitable Alphamalt FBP
Increase the pressure of the dough molding machine
Shorten the fermentation time
Reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe
Reduce the temperature in the fermentation chamber
Martina Mollenhauer is product manager at Mühlenchemie. She can be contacted at mmollenhauer@muehlenchemie.de.

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