How Understanding the Role of Ingredients Helped a Baker Improve Her Bagels (and Significantly Lower Production Costs)

It’s more than likely that you’ve developed a product on the back of another one, copying some of the ingredients and process steps into your new product. But, are all those ingredients and steps truly necessary for your new product? Chances are, you don’t truly know why all ingredients are there in the first place.

That’s what a bakery owner I helped ran into. She had developed a delicious bagel recipe on the back of another one. One disadvantage: the bagel was extremely expensive to make. She had no clue how and if she could reduce costs, without reducing quality.

Once she knew why each ingredient was there in the first place, she could quickly eliminate an expensive ingredient, without negatively impacting quality. All of a sudden her bagels could make her money again, instead of just costing her.

Bagels contained (a lot) of diastatic malt powder

The baker, we’ll call her Charlotte, had learned to bake from websites and magazines. She was fully self-taught, had never taken a professional course. Over time, she had become great at making and developing bakery products. But, she didn’t always truly understand why she took certain steps.

So, when she came to me with this bagel recipe, that’s what we looked at first.

In her bagels she used diastatic malt powder in both the bagel dough and the boiling water. This was by far her most expensive ingredient in the recipe. She especially added a lot of it to the water in which the bagels were boiled and there was no way to easily re-use this powder over different batches.

Diastatic malt powder contains active enzymes

Diastatic malt powder contains active enzymes that can cut up starches into smaller pieces. This helps to give bagels a nice brown color because. However, enzymes are heat sensitive. They can do their job in a nice warm bagel dough, but throw enzymes in boiling water and they’re inactivated in a matter of seconds.

Leading to a simple change

Knowing this helped Charlotte make a simple, but major change. She quickly did a test in which she left the diastatic malt powder out of the boiling water, just keeping it in the bagel dough. Her bagels still turned out perfectly fine. There wasn’t any noticeable difference in color and flavor. But, the bagel recipe did become a lot more profitable to make!

Led to big cost savings

And it worked perfectly indeed! She could eliminate over 75% of the diastatic malt powder from her recipe. This cut costs considerably, without negatively impacting the quality of her product at all.

Cost savings don’t always have to be detrimental for quality. On the contrary, smart decisions may allow you to save costs and maintain or even improve quality.

boiling bagels
Some bagel trials (by myself, not Jen) on the effect of different ingredients added to the boiling water bath. Read the full report here.

Ingredient understanding paved the way

After this diastatic malt powder question, we tackled several more. Most weren’t as ‘easy’ as this one. But overall, by understanding the role of her ingredients and process steps, she could strategically improve her recipes.

There are many bakers and food producers like Charlotte out there. Those who know how to make their products, but don’t really know why they’re doing what they’re doing. You might feel uncomfortable testing something new, not knowing what might happen. This holds you back from innovating an further growth.

If you understand the role of your ingredients and process steps, improving and changing your products becomes so much easier.

Think you could do with some additional understanding of your products and ingredients? Reach out to discuss the possibilities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *