Bread lovers worldwide would have loved to have had a pen and notebook in hand when baker Eric Kayser, in his shiny shoes and starched apron announced, "Now I will tell you all the secrets."
Kayser, 41, the partner of chef Alain Ducasse in a chain of bakeries and specialty food shops, is the fourth generation scion of a family of Parisian bakers. In 1996, he opened his first bakery, Maison Kayser, in Paris. Today he owns 22 bakeries that bear his name.
Kayser came to Israel to give a short workshop in bread baking at the Arcaffe plant in the Poleg industrial compound. Arcaffe signed a knowledge-sharing agreement with Kayser in 1988, "when he was still just starting out," said Ehud Doron, the chain's general manager yesterday, while leading a tour of the sparkling plant.
The knowledge-sharing agreement allowed Arcaffe to open two branches in Paris: The first has already opened, in Galeries Lafayette's main branch, and the second is due to open in August in the department store's Provence St. branch. Kayser, for his part, is opening bakeries throughout the world and lectures to the locals about how dough rises.
Yesterday's workshop began at the end of the tour, as Kayser showed journalists loaves of risen dough, scored them with a skilled hand before a further rising and sent them to the oven to be baked. When the workshop was over, he promised, that "most basic bread" would be ready.
To Kayser's credit, it must be said that he really did reveal everything - as if anyone would actually take the trouble to prepare yeast dough at home, let it rise and rise again, mix old dough with new, create a new mixture every four hours and then bake it. Most people would probably prefer to go to the store and buy a loaf. Kayser also explained about the different types of flour: rye, white, Durham, which, when mixed with cubes of yeast and kneaded, produces a dough that smells like yogurt.
The dough is left to rise in straw baskets lined with muslin cloth, "just like a baby," he explains, so that the air can penetrate it equally and make the dough rise. Here's another surprise: just like Roquefort cheese, the cloth grows a thin layer of mold that does not affect the final product because it is baked in the oven.
"This is the only layer of mold that the European Union allows on food," says Kayser, tossing the bread into the oven.
In the next stage, Kayser reveals the Machine, with a capital M, that he developed. It is a kind of medium-sized mixer that blends one part of the old dough mixture with two parts of a new mixture, warms it for rising and produces a nice quantity of dough every four hours.
"We have simply revealed old knowledge," explains Kayser, although despite his modesty he has protected his new-old invention with a registered patent, and uses the machine in his bakeries all over the world.
After the quick workshop for preparing baguettes and the demonstration of the wonderful machine - which produces small, precisely measured lumps of dough that a group of skilled bakers then swiftly kneads and shapes - we arrive at the best-loved product at Arcaffe and Kayser's bakeries worldwide: the almond croissant.
This is actually a recycled product. Mounds of yesterday's croissants have been put to good use. Kayser cuts them down the center, spreads them with a mixture of butter, sugar, crushed almonds, eggs and flour, sprinkles them with almond slivers and sends them back to the oven for a brief time. The result is the bakery's big hit and also an efficient method for using surplus production.