Igor Lavreshin is an innovative baker and artisan, who values real bread made with love. This dialogue with Igor continues the series of interviews for Creative Chefs Summit.
– You are an artisan baker, an expert on healthy nutrition and a breadmaking consultant. What made you want to bake bread?
– It’s been a long way. If we take it seriously, my learning of bread started in childhood with ordinary thin and fluffy pancakes, lavash and lamajo – a sort of Armenian pizza. I spent all my conscious childhood years in the Caucasus, and there is the special bread baking tradition that is taught from an early age. But only as an adult I realized that baking bread is my calling. To get to this, I had to receive three degrees.
My self-realization as a baker happened more than 20 years ago, since the day I bought myself a professional dough mixer and began to mix everything in it. Of course, the most popular ingredients were flour and water … The pinnacle of many years of searching was the creation of the “Pryanikoff” family bakery. So about 7 years ago I was fully focused on bread baking and now it’s my life’s work.
And now, in hindsight, I realize that our whole lives go according to some unknown scenario that helps us understand our life purposes.
– Where did you learn this? What foreign internships did you complete? And what do you recommend? What was the most memorable?
– In the world there is a huge number of decent schools. Each of them is peculiar and unique, but I opted for a few of them for a reason – they are spiritually close to me.
Akademie Deutsches Bäckerhandwerk Weinheim in Germany, INBP Institut National de la Boulangerie Pâtisserie in France, Richemont Craft School in Switzerland or Nazionale Italiana Pizzaioli & Panificazione in Italy. These are schools in which every baker or confectioner should undertake an internship. If you need fundamental knowledge on bread biochemistry, you are interested in the development and improvement of biotechnological processes and the range of rye and rye-wheat types of bread, then the Research Institute of the Baking Industry in Russia will suit you.
It all depends on what goal you set for yourself. If you are interested in traditional Italian expressive pastry and national bread, this is Italy, if sophisticated pastries, traditional bread and baguettes – France, and if you are a supporter of artisanal breadmaking, sourdough bread, rye-wheat and just bread made with love, this is, of course, Germany or Switzerland. In order to get fundamental knowledge, improve the level of your qualification – a Research Institute. But sooner or later you will encounter a language barrier. If you are eager to learn how to bake good bread, you need to learn foreign languages! What for? Today we are integrated into the international community, and in order to maintain communication we need to know them! No, not only to overcome the virtual barrier and boost your self-esteem, but to be able to adapt received knowledge to the national market, with local flour and products. Bread is a very challenging product – it’s cunning, but it will reveal you all the secrets if you are persistent and have got an immense desire to know it.
– How many years have you been baking bread professionally?
– As a bread-making enthusiast – more than a decade, but professionally – about five or six years. What’s the reason? You may ask. I don’t really know, suddenly some switch clicked inside my mind and made me follow a different path. Maybe this is fate!
– Previously, the professionalism of a baker was determined by the rank assigned to him and qualification. How is it now?
– You know, a professional baker can determine many things by touch and at a glance, using their interpolated knowledge and experience. Such bakers are worth their weight in gold. Last I checked, there are standards. The baker’s level of knowledge and a set of responsibilities are still determined by the qualification and category assigned to him.
According to the current Handbook of characteristics of a profession for workers in the food industry, there are only 6 categories.
The table of ranks looks like this: qualification baker-master means the 4-6th, baker of a mechanized line – the 5th, baker – the 3-4th, confectioner – the 3 – 4th, dough moulder – the 3-4th, engineer of the bread production line – the 4th rank and so on.
But let’s be realistic! Today, an employer or investor is not interested in a specialist’s diploma, but in the knowledge and experience. And the baking world is no exception. But we shouldn’t forget such a term as “award for education”. In the whole world, the difference in salaries at the same position between the holders of a diploma, qualification or category and those who don’t have it is by around 1.5 times.
– As we know, nature calls, so we all remember and love those dishes that we used to eat in the childhood. Especially bread with a crisp crust … How to get that crust?
– Yes, you are right! Crisp crust is the detail that makes bread or any fried, baked dish just awesome. But it is not so easy to answer this simple question. To achieve the very crust one needs equipment, technology, recipe and … a little magic that is present in any craft.
– Are old bread baking technologies used today or do most chefs prefer modern methods and techniques? Are there more innovative bakers or chefs who prefer traditional ways of making bread?
– I consider myself an innovator, yet in my heart I am an artisan, the one who appreciates the soul of the properly baked bread. And the most interesting time to be a baker is not over. It is in present times.
Bread and baking technology have more than a thousand-year history of their development. From aegilops to modern wheat cultivar, from pita and focaccia to brioche and long fermentation breads.
Innovators today are concerned about the uniformity of “modern” bakeries. The constancy of what is called the “ideal primitivism” or the obstinacy against innovation among modern bakers. It was this spirit that made bakers idealize household ovens and discard radical discoveries, such as bread, which does not require continuous kneading. This leads to even more primitivism!
Let’s say the current generation prefers:
– sourdough instead of baker’s yeast,
– the use of wood for stoves instead of gas and electricity,
– “home-made” grind of flour.
And here’s my rhetorical question: “What’s next? Stone Age?”
My answer: the application of innovative solutions and technologies using green raw materials for baking bread and buns. Yeah! It is not cheap. But this is our health and the future of our children.
– Do you use organic grain for baking bread?
– 50 to 50. I try to use whole organic grain flour. But sometimes it is not easy to find a supplier that would satisfy the needs and requirements. I am a supporter of the healthy bread baking concept, of the bread that contains at least 80% whole-wheat flour.
– What kind of flour do you choose for baking bread? From foreign or domestic supplier?
– Good flour on the market is really a problem. But I don’t get stuck on imported flour. For me, the criterion of quality is not the price, but the baking properties of the flour. I fell in love with Farina Integrale flour by the trademark Il Molino from the METRO Cash & Carry retail chain – this is an unusual flour. And, of course, my favourite is the local stone-ground flour by the TM Zelenyi Mlin.
– What additional ingredients do you put in your bread (olives, berries, spices, etc.)?
– Ingredients that can emphasize the taste and aroma of bread, baker determines at their own peril. Sometimes a risky experiment will help create a brilliant recipe, sometimes you will suffer a complete fiasco. But it is always necessary to look for new tastes and ways to achieve the goal. If a baker makes no headway and only hones a familiar recipe – there’s no future.
But unchanged, in my understanding, should be the following highlights:
– the dough must be 80% whole-grain flour;
– the content of sodium (salt) should not exceed 400 mg per 100 grams of product;
– The maximum caloric value should not exceed 250 calories per 100 grams of product.
Then we get the perfect product for healthy and balanced nutrition. But I sometimes break this rule in order to pamper my family and connoisseurs of my bread with something tasty.
– How long does the baking process take? What are the stages?
– Bread shouldn’t be rushed. The process of mixing and kneading the dough and following baking can last from 50 minutes to 48 hours … The process of actual bread baking doesn’t have clear time limits, but there are temperature limitations – inside the finished product, as a rule, it ranges from 94-96 ° C. But this rule doesn’t work with rye breads, as it’s a completely different Universe, where many laws of the classic bread mixing on wheat flour simply don’t work.
What are the stages of baking bread? If you ask me as a technologist in which scientific knowledge and pure craft are struggling, I will say: the baking process is divided into three stages – moistening, formation of the product shape, baking – with the pickup of ideal thermal and humidity modes for each of them.
If you ask me, as an artisan who is used to working with his hands, I will answer:
- Preparation of ingredients
- Dividing the dough
- Pre-rounding of the blanks
- Dough formation
- Final proofing
– Are there modern technologies that help speed up the process?
– Of course, yes, there are both hardware technologies and biochemical. But if we try to bake the right, healthy bread, most of the ingredients of the modern bakery industry and technology that retailers (as recreational staff) use, are unacceptable for us. I want to focus attention on the innovative equipment. I call it “back to the future.” Bread freezing may not always be the best solution and self-cooling takes a lot of time. That’s why, innovative bakers returned to the old idea of the vacuum product cooling. With its help, bread can be baked in a shorter time, as the baking process continues during cooling. Simply put, if earlier baking and cooling took a total of more than an hour, now it can be done in less than 15 minutes, depending on the type of product. It can not only be cooled, but also, by applying the laws of physics, at the same time baked. Or, for example, advanced solutions from the company Welbilt – Merrychef Eikon turbo ovens with two magnetrons – ideal for restaurants that design their menu based on the concept of fast food, which is especially important in our crazy world.
– All bakers have their own secrets learned over the years. Can you share yours?
– I do not know what secrets can be in such a craft as baking bread. There are subtleties and tricks, but not secrets.
– What kind of bread do you recommend combining with different dishes to highlight their taste?
– I love Italy and its traditions of baking. And it is no secret that the best and most useful product that complements the taste and benefit of bread is extra virgin olive oil or good butter.
Indeed, bread gives products and cooked food a special structure. In combination with soups, sauces, oils, vegetables, etc., it improves the function of the digestive tract. The taste and smell of good fresh bread whets the appetite.
There is a simple rule – bread and meat (proteins) are incompatible, but vegetables, absolutely any, can be eaten both with rye and wheat bread.
– How to store bread?
– In this simple question lies a huge array of information. The different speed of staleness depends on the physicochemical properties of the grains, starch and proteins, present in the flour from which the bread is baked. Different types of bread require their own methods and techniques.
The speed of staleness is directly proportional to the storage temperature. At temperatures from 0 to 2 ° C, it reaches a maximum, with storage temperature increase it slows down. That’s why, I want to dispel the myth that bread must be stored in the fridge. Freezing bread in a shock freezing compartment at -30 ° C and storing at -18-20 ° C is the most effective way to delay and even prevent it from staling. The ideal temperature for bread defrosting is 50 ° C. When it has no side effects on the starch in the bread crumb, but never use microwave – you will kill your bread.
The most effective way to keep the freshness of the bread is to wrap it into a film (plastic), cellophane, and waxed paper. They have sufficient mechanical performance, low water vapor permeability. This protects against excessive drying, ensures preservation of volatile components, and preserves the freshness for a longer period.
– How many varieties of bread are recommended to be present in the menu of a good restaurant?
– In my experience as a restaurateur and bread-making enthusiast, I can answer: no more than three! Everyone can set any bar for themselves – 2, 5, 8 varieties, but it is necessary to retain the quality. It is always worth remembering that the bread basket is not a part of table setting in a restaurant, like a salt shaker or a napkin. A bread basket is a hallmark of the place, something that will make your guest come back again, as bread is the main part of a good menu.
– Do you have plans to open your own bakery?
– I am an artist, not an economist. I love to create and look for new ways to implement my ideas. Given that I am a restaurateur and hotelier, I try to pay attention to what I like – Bread. Taking up knowledge, I share it with my friends, with lovers of good bread or those who are interested in this craft.
– How is your work day going?
– It’s terribly exciting.
– What, in your opinion, is the secret of a successful chef?
– I think the secret of a successful chef lies in the self-esteem. If a chef considers himself successful, and not only successful, but also a person who has reached the self-set standard set for himself, and moves on, he continues to evolve. Sometimes many people are just lucky, others have a huge store of knowledge or a great experience. Sometimes the chosen path leads absolutely not there. But you must admit, this is also a success. I also walked this path, which means I can go on.
– What is your favourite dish? What do you cook in everyday life? What products do you like to work with?
– What a difficult question … I love to eat tasty food, I like bold experiments. But most of all, probably, pilaw and meat! Lamb! Bread doesn’t count, it is impossible to hate.
– What inspires you?
– My family, of course, but also the achievements of bakers and confectioners that I am interested in. I love to monitor new trends and directions in modern baking and breadmaking.
The recipe for traditional long fermentation baguettes from Igor Lavreshin
6 UNITS – EACH 325 G
Flour – 1088 g
Water – 794 ml
Salt – 20 g
Pressed yeast – 6 g
- Mixing. Mix all ingredients, about 90 seconds at 1st speed (72 turns). Using the scraper, collect the dough from the sides of the bowl. Close and leave for 20 minutes. The needed dough temperature at the end of the mixing is 20 ° C.
- Make 3 turns in a bowl, folding the dough inwards. This is No. 1 folding. Cover the dough and leave for 20 minutes.
- Make another 3 turns by folding the dough inwards. This is No. 2 folding. Cover the dough and leave for 20 minutes.
- Make 3 turns by folding the dough inwards. This is No. 3 folding and the end of the kneading.
Put the dough in a well-oiled container with a lid and put in the fridge for 36 hours.
The dough should occupy approximately 50% of the container.
- Divide the dough into pieces, do the pre-forming No. 1, put it on the table with the seam down and leave it for 15 minutes without covering.
- Pre-forming No. 2, then put it with the seam up like on the “sofa”, cover and leave to proof for 60 minutes.
- Final moulding. Put it with the seam down on the “sofa”, cover and leave to proof for 60 minutes.
- Bake with steam for the first 5 minutes, all together 23 minutes at 220 ° C (with convection) or 230 ° C (without convection) until it gets dark brown.