KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, US – If you haven’t eaten rice, you haven’t eaten.” This saying reveals the central role rice plays to this day in the Indonesian cuisine. But with increasing urbanization and stronger orientation toward a Western lifestyle, many Indonesians are discovering their liking for bakery products, in particular sandwich bread.

Although it is still usual in rural areas to prepare an elaborate breakfast with rice, vegetables and chicken meat, busy city dwellers are more likely to prefer filled sweet buns or slices of toasted sandwich bread. Common bread toppings are coconut or pineapple jam. But the real favorite is bread strewn with “hagelslag.” These chocolate sprinkles are a legacy of the Dutch colonial period and an essential part of Indonesia’s culinary tradition.

Bread also is becoming more popular as a street food. This is due largely to the many “roti bakar” vendors who have specialized in preparing filled and grilled bread. The starting product for roti bakar is a whole loaf of sandwich bread cut twice lengthwise and filled with ingredients like grated cheese, peanut butter, bananas or chocolate sprinkles. But there is currently a great demand for “fancy-style” variants with Nutella, Ovaltine or Toblerone pieces. As a further refinement, the street vendors trickle thick condensed milk over the filling to intensify the succulence and sweet taste of the snack. The bread slices are then put together again to make up the original loaf shape and toasted to a golden-brown color on a contact grill.

Although the combination of chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, fruit and cheese may seem strange, it is exactly in line with the culinary preferences of the Indonesians. Sweet, substantial, with a slightly spicy note: that is how the over 270 million inhabitants of the world’s biggest island state like it best.

The consistency of the bread plays an important role as well. Crispness is not desirable; the bread must always be soft and fluffy. Even the crust is too hard for some bread fans. So it’s not uncommon to cut a thin layer off the outside and use it for something else. As a special service, some bakeries also offer crustless sandwich loaves baked in a pan with corrugated sides and a lid.

Sandwich loaves are produced industrially. Whereas the countless artisan bakeries on the small islands mainly produce rolls and pastry goods for immediate local consumption, the industrial bakeries in the big population centers focus on wrapped goods with a longer shelf life.

The starting material used is mainly wheat from Canada and the United States. Cost plays an important role in purchasing. Millers test the mixing ratios of high-performance and cheaper lots very carefully to reconcile economy with quality. As a rule, the aim is to achieve a protein content of 11.5% to 12.5%. Through fine tuning of the flours with enzymes like amylases (Alphamalt A 7060), hemicellulases (Alphamalt H 24012), lipases (Alphamalt EFX Tera) and glucose oxidases (Alphamalt Gloxy 31841), the mills can improve the baking performance further and adjust it to the specific requirements of sandwich bread production.

The following is a typical recipe for sandwich bread:

Flour   100%

Sugar  15% to 20%

Fat       5% to 10%

Water  60% to 65%

Bread improver  0.5% to 1.5%

Instant yeast       1.5% to 2.5%

Salt      0.6% to 0.8%

The high sugar and fat content are characteristic of Indonesian sandwich bread. These ingredients are not only flavor carriers; they also have a positive effect on the texture of the baked products. But in the entry-level price range they may be replaced with milk and butter flavorings.

For the production of sandwich loaves, big manufacturers prefer the “sponge and dough” method; this is said to contribute to aroma formation and water binding through the use of a pre-dough fermented for several hours. In the Sulawesi region, industrial bakeries use so-called “dough breakers” for making the dough. In this method, the doughs are worked intensively on a special roller system, which results in a highly stable gluten network and extremely even distribution of the carbon dioxide bubbles, thus increasing the volume of the loaves and enhancing the grain. A fine, even texture is essential for sandwich loaves to ensure that the crumb does not become soggy even with juicy dressings and fillings.

The appearance of the loaves is another parameter relevant to quality. Concave sides are an absolute no-go; sandwich and toast loaves must have a regular, rectangular shape without sidewall collapse.

Although some Indonesian bakery products are thoroughly colored bright green with the juice of pandan leaves, the crumb of a loaf must usually be a clear white. The standard flours have an ash content between 0.5% and 0.55%. To brighten the flour by natural means, enzyme-active lentil flour such as LENTInovo can be added to the wheat flour.

Shelf life: the cardinal question

At present, the biggest talking point in the Indonesian baking industry is the shelf life of the bread. Consumers expect pan loaves to have a shelf life of at least a week. But in a country with over 7,000 inhabited islands, distribution of the wrapped industrial loaves presents an enormous challenge. Depending on the region and the logistics chain, it can take several days for the loaves to reach the market shelves for sale.

To meet consumer demand for soft, fresh bread, two aspects have to be taken into account. The microbiological shelf life can be extended by using preservatives such as calcium propionate. Moreover, the microbial spoilage of food can be delayed by reducing the aw (Activity of Water) with additives that have hygroscopic properties, such as glucose, saccharose or sorbitol. The decision on use of these additives and ingredients is made at the bakeries.

However, the sensory impression of freshness is equally important. This is where the mills can make an effective contribution to keeping the baked foods soft and succulent for a longer period. With innovative freshness enzymes like Alphamalt Fresh 30303, it is no problem to prolong the soft, fluffy chewing feel of sandwich and toast bread by one to two weeks.

Indonesia is expected to experience a veritable boom in bakery products in the next few years. In 2020, yeast-raised white bread showed the highest growth rates in the entire bakery segment. The baking industry has excellent market potential if it responds to the consumer’s wish for products with standardized, high quality. In practice, the problems encountered mainly have to do with crumb structure and the shape of the loaves. To trace the source of error in a particular case, it is necessary to make a specific analysis of all the process parameters on the spot. Nevertheless, there are some basic recommendations that can help to avoid faults in the products. The following is an overview of the most common weaknesses in sandwich bread production and possible solutions.

Problem: Large, irregular pores.

Possible cause: Sub-optimal processing.

Solution: Increase mixing time to improve the characteristics of the bread. Add emulsifiers (Mulgaprime SSL, mono- and diglycerides Mulgaprime 90), enzymes (hemicellulases such as Alphamalt H 24012, lipases such as Alphamalt EFX Tera) or enzyme-active lentil flour (LENTInovo).

Problem: Collapse of the side walls of the loaves.

Solution: Change the mixing/kneading time; reduce the proof time; reduce amylases; increase the ascorbic acid content (e.g ELCO P 100 K); improve the structure of the dough with EMCEgluten Enhancer. Shape the dough by the four pieces or twist method.

Problem: Rapid staling, inadequate shelf life.

Solution: Optimize pasting of the starch; improve water binding in the dough. Prolong the softness and elasticity of the crumb (e.g. Alphamalt Fresh 30303).

Problem: Sticky dough.

Solution: Adjust water absorption, add EMCEbest WA.