The UAE bakery market is valued at $683 million and is set to grow by 4.2% annually as demand for all-natural baked goods continues to rise, according to recent research from Euromonitor.
The findings were explored during a roundtable forum held in Dubai by Sopexa on behalf on the French Ministry of Agriculture, and conducted in partnership with BNC Publishing.
The event brought together top pastry chefs, dessert specialists and leading foodies from France, Japan and the Middle East to provide a glimpse into the factors influencing the taste of pastry across the Arab world.
Edwina Salvatori, account director, Sopexa Middle East, said: “French pastry is more popular than ever, as proven by the number of new outlets opening across the country.
“We have seen an increased demand in the UAE for French pastry chefs possessing the traditional skills that have been central to French baking techniques for hundreds of years. Drawing on this inspiration, some well-known chefs have codified their art in innovative and creative baking methods and classic recipes.”
Nicolas Bacheyre, executive pastry chef, Un Dimanche à Paris, who flew in from Paris to attend the event, commented: “Pastry trends evolve quickly – there are changes every six months. For me, every new trend appears first in Paris before spreading all over France, then Europe, then the world.”
As a global culinary hub that is home to a diverse range of nationalities, the Middle East has inspired chefs to put their creative skills to the test by making the most of local ingredients.
In line with the trends, the UAE has also experienced an increase in the number of French bakeries, with the opening of La Patisserie des Rêves, Aubaine, Pierre Hermé, Dalloyau and with pastry chef school Richemont Masterbaker set to open next month in Dubai.
“French pastries are adapted here. Everyone uses classic recipes and then gives them their own twist,” said Elizabeth Stevenson, chef director, Lady Battenberg.
“There’s so much going on in Paris that it undoubtedly influences people internationally. There are a number of successful projects that have taken elements of these influences and successfully applied them to another culture.”
Salvatori added: “The people of the UAE have diverse backgrounds and a number of different cultural influences. We have seen this contribute to a growing demand for well-known desserts to be adapted with an Arabic twist, and vice versa.
“Our roundtable event with BNC Publishing placed emerging Middle East trends under the spotlight, and demonstrated that chefs here are building on an already rich heritage of pastry inspired desserts such as baklava, Kanafah and Umm Ali.”
Regional pastry trends discussed at the roundtable included:
- The anatomy of a pastry: As demand for quality ingredients continues to grow, foodies are increasingly interested in the origins of ingredients and their organic credentials. “We are actually seeing the ingredients and the suppliers being mentioned in menus and on social media, as a key indicator for quality,” said Samantha Wood, food PR consultant and blogger. “For example, it isn’t uncommon for consumers to ask about the type of chocolate and where it has been sourced from”
- Going back to basics: Amid a market full of sophisticated new creations, there is a rising wave of those seeking very simple yet perfect pastries made from scratch. “In Paris, all the shops that are opening will sell a chocolate éclair and a mille feuille, for instance, as that’s what people now want,” said chef Nicolas.
- Re-invented classics: We now see more chefs taking desserts from the past and re-creating them in fun new ways. “In the GCC, an increasing number of restaurants are starting to incorporate a local or ethnic touch into their original pastry products,” said Elizabeth.
- Savoury influences: It’s time to say “goodbye” to sugar, as savoury pastry desserts such as hazelnut and mint pesto and lime and cottage cheese sorbet, continue to enjoy a rise in popularity, according to chef Nicolas. “I like to play with savoury flavours such as spices, herbs, vinegar, salt flour, pepper and tea,” he said. “I always tell my team not to stick to what they know, but to walk into the kitchen, open the drawers and use what they find, just to try it.”
- Craving some #Instafood: “In the GCC people are crazy about social media, so they go to the restaurants where they can take photos that will amaze other people,” said Ayat Abdulla, pastry chef and trainer. The group even discussed how social media could end up replacing traditional menus in restaurants, but how striving for style shouldn’t compromise on taste.
- Healthier alternatives: The preference for gluten-free and vegan foods continues to grow and is a worldwide trend that even pastry can’t escape. “Brands and chefs are consistently trying to remove sugar and to replace the gelatin with other ingredients and techniques,” said Zeyneb Larabi, area manager IMEA, Valrhona. “You see less buttercream in desserts, replaced instead with white chocolate or different techniques such as the “à la minute” style of cooking. Pastry chefs and professional chefs can elevate the culinary industry by proposing healthier desserts that are less sweet and more technically oriented for a better taste and texture.”