Bakers in for slice of show action

BREAD is on the rise at the North Coast National, according to Stewart Latter, head judge of the NSW baking industry.

Yesterday judges sniffed, squeezed and sliced bread from more than 30 exhibitors vying for Champion Loaf at Lismore's North Coast National Bread Awards.

Bread from local bakers rose to the occasion, with Brumby's Ballina taking out the Overall Regional Champion Award for the third successive year. But it was a young apprentice from Brumby's Lismore, whose name was not released, who beat the 'crusty' experienced bakers for the North Coast National Champion Loaf award.

Baking Industry Association judge Brett Noy said this year an increasing number of local bakers broke away from their white bread recipes to compete in the 'artisan bread categories', featuring Turkish bread, ciabatta and sourdough loaves.

Mr Noy, a Brisbane-based baker, said 'it was great to see local bakers giving it a go'.

“Bakers are always students and exhibiting at shows is a great way for them to know where they sit in the industry. For consumers, the title is an indication of a great bakery,” Mr Noy said.

“The consumers here and around Byron are well-travelled and demand quality, chemical free bread. A good sourdough loaf needs good quality flour and a good technical and practical understanding of baking - there are no chemicals to fall back on.”

Mr Noy, who will be competing in the World Baking Championship in Italy this year, identified with Brumby's young winning apprentice.

“At 15 and 16 I was winning regional shows. Sometimes the old guys got a bit cranky. But it's a good rivalry,” he said.

While still in its fledgling stage, Mr Noy said the artisan bread category was the one to watch. Baker's Delight Lismore won the award for the best rye sourdough, with Lismore's Organic Goanna Bakery placing well.

Mr Latter hoped the awards would encourage more people to start a baking apprenticeship.

“It's a statewide problem,” Mr Latter said.

“We have to get more people into apprenticeships and keep those trainees in the industry.”

Yesterday, judges from the Baking Industry Association looked for a good-shaped crust, a nice overall appearance, good cell structure inside and, for some loaves, their 'toastability'.

“We were happy with the number of exhibitors this year, but we encourage more people to enter,” Mr Latter said.

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