Whole-grain breads are among the oldest foods, dating back 10,000 years or more. Today, as people become more interested in eating more healthfully, operators say “old world” breads are supplanting processed white bread in popularity.
“Generally, the kids are getting away from the traditional, sliced white bread,” says Nathan Mileski, corporate executive chef at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. “They’re going for ciabattas, swirl breads and whole-grain breads with whole seeds. We’ve been using panini bread and thinner yeast breads that are a little thicker than wraps, like Indian naan.”
Part of NMU’s renewed love affair with bread stems from the fact that, after a four-year hiatus, the campus bakery at NMU has been reinstated and is fully operational.
“We do a lot of baking now—and not proof and bake but from scratch and bases,” says Mileski. “We [even] make our own wild rice bread [to go] with a Michigan cherry and chicken salad.”
Controlling the process: One reason operators bake their own bread is because they can control the process to ensure the integrity of the ingredients, says Leo Lesh, executive director of the foodservice program for Denver Public Schools.
“We bake most of our bread ourselves: hamburger buns, dinner rolls, regular sliced bread for sandwiches, hoagie-type buns and thick bread for Texas toast,” Lesh says. “We make them all from scratch with multigrain flour and supplements to meet the whole-grain standard. When we make the bread, we get the cleaner label.”
Other institutions, such as Michigan State University in East Lansing, rely on outside expertise for specialty and artisan breads.
“We are using some local bakers for some new specialty sandwich breads,” says Bruce Haskell, associate director of residential dining. “These are featured at Veg Out, our new vegetarian venue, where we make vegetarian sandwiches to order every day.”
New ideas: For some operators, bread is an opportunity to get creative.
“We make our own pizza dough, and I made a couple of interesting brunch pizzas,” says Nancy Miller, executive chef at Villanova University in suburban Philadelphia. “The first was with scallion cream cheese and was topped with lox after it came out of the oven. The second was a cinnamon bun pizza. I made a topping out of butter, cream cheese, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. I spread that on the pizza crust and topped it with sliced banana. I sprinkled cinnamon sugar and baked it. After it came out of the oven, I piped cream cheese icing on each slice.”
Miller also has made breads for decoration.
“Some are shaped like sunflowers, and I did some braided and formed to represent the Villanova V,” she says.
Miller also has experimented with African and Moroccan bread making. “They use a lot of different spices like fennel, cinnamon, cardamom and fenugreek,” she says.
Some operators are trying different breads for new twists on traditional applications.
“We’ve added a couple of bread items, including a pretzel bread for Reuben sandwiches,” says Janet Baker, director of Nutrition Services at Mt. Carmel-St. Ann’s Hospital in Westerville, Ohio. “We’ve also used it for catered functions for roast beef sandwiches, for a different, more upscale appearance. We’re using ciabatta bread for different paninis, like turkey and spiced pepper cheese,” Baker adds. “We’ve also added a flatbread item with half the calories of a burger bun.”
Julio Armenta, head chef and bake shop manager at San Diego State University, says he can make nearly every type of bread on premise—and he does, everything except regular sandwich bread and bagels.
“We make 24-inch French baguettes, jalapeño and cheese, sourdough, multigrain, all from scratch at high temperature,” Armenta says. “We make sheet focaccia, sometimes with jalapeño. We cut it into 24 sandwich squares. And, from a scratch recipe, we make more than 100 pizzas each day.”
Doughy vessels: “We have an option for the teachers where they can get soup bread bowls,” says Tina Farmer, child nutrition director for Cabarrus County Schools in North Carolina. “We make the bread bowls ourselves and they were very popular at first, but not so much in the warmer months. We expect that’ll pick up more in the winter.”
At the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Executive Chef Janna Traver searches the globe for interesting bread recipes. One popular item is bierock, an Eastern European meat-filled pastry made with bread dough and stuffed with ground beef, minced onions and cabbage.
“We make our own sweet dough for bierock, and they are great for entreés or as mini-bite appetizers,” says Traver. “I veer from the traditional recipe and add demi-glace to the pan when I’m cooking the mix.”
“We [also] make Slovak dumplings with a yeast dough that we steam instead of bake. It comes out like a loaf, which we slice and serve with Hungarian goulash.”