What is food technology, anyway?

by Wendy Sarkissian PhD

It’s easy to imagine what bakers do.

They haul bags of flour and spices and leavening agents. Knead dough. And they make huge batches of predictable products: cupcakes, bread, muffins….

Many bakers do that and have done that for decades.

But not those bakers who are at the leading edge of science and technology. We’d be wise not to underestimate bakers or bakeries. Baking has been called “the Cinderella trade”. But it’s an in-house joke. Few believe it. Sure, baking requires long hours of drudgery.

But is welding more exotic?

Or bricklaying?

A dietary revolution

In many people’s view, baking is at the forefront of a Canadian — and international — dietary revolution. Baked goods are coming out of the closet in terms of our dietary choices.

When I was a child, the most awesome cake I could imagine was the Angel Food Cake. It tasted of heaven! I was short of a mother in my childhood,  so I majored in home economics in high school. I shyly thought that was a way to ensure that I’d be marriageable. (Don’t even go there!)

And my favourite cookies were Toll House or chocolate chip cookies. I loved the magical transformation what occurred in the oven.

It never occurred to me that a revolution in dietary choices would occur sixty or more years later after I had hung up the hideous white apron with miles of ties that the home ec teacher made us sew in sewing class. (How cruel to pre-teen girls who wanted to make French-styled chemises or strapless party dresses with bouffant skirts and crinolines!)

Now I have learned the error of my ways with regard to baking.

Food technology is an essential part of modern life.

It gave us decaffeinated coffee, for Pete’s sake! (I’d never have graduated from college without that magical beverage.)

And now we can celebrate the commitment of food science and technology professionals to advancing the science of food, ensuring a safe and abundant food supply, and contributing to everyone’s health.

I just read the above paragraph online, and I thought about my friend, Brian Hinton, still trying, at 78, to develop a whole new line of fresh baked goods that are keto-friendly and incredibly low in carbohydrates.

Brian in the Lakeview Gluten-Free Bakery weighing Lucia bread dough

He fits this food technologist description, to be sure:

Just as society has evolved over time, our food system has also evolved over centuries into a global system of immense size and complexity. The commitment of food science and technology professionals to advancing the science of food, ensuring a safe and abundant food supply, and contributing to healthier people everywhere is integral to that evolution. Food scientists and technologists are versatile, interdisciplinary, and collaborative practitioners in a profession at the crossroads of scientific and technological developments.

(https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2010.00127.x)

A one-woman campaign to liberate baking from its Cinderella origins

So I am on a one-woman campaign to take the glass slipper out of the humble art of baking. And to celebrate both the technology and artistry of baking.

Did you see Brian’s  hummingbird cake?

Did you see the hummingbird cake that Brian iced (in about one minute or less from start to finish)?

Did you see how scrumptious it looked inside?

Food technology and food science are giving us the ketogenic diet.

It’s real, and the science works. It does not rely on anthropology or blurry visions of our ancestor’s eating habits.

It’s based firmly in modern food science.

And in a suburban Calgary bakery, an elderly man is making one last try at changing the baking world, one muffin at a time.

Let’s celebrate Brian Hinton, master baker and food technologist.

That’s why he’s a Fellow of the Institute of British Bakers.

Bravo, Brian!

We’re waiting for you to perfect that spicy, savoury Joy of Keto scone when you return from your holiday.

And then there’s the Joy of Keto salted caramel cupcake I mentioned (a few times) lately.

For Canada Day, perhaps?

The oven

Oh, and did I mention the oven? We need a new oven at the Lakeview Gluten-Free Bakery.