Keeping Cigi technical knowledge current key to supporting wheat customers

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Yvonne Supeene (left) and Yulia Borsuk with baguettes at baking school in Paris.

Yvonne Supeene (left) and Yulia Borsuk learn about the fine art of baking baguettes.

From millers in North Africa to bakers in Asia and pasta processors in Latin America, Cigi works directly with customers from around the world to ensure they receive optimal performance from the Canadian wheat they purchase. Changes to processing technologies and emerging trends require Cigi staff to keep current with industry to provide customers with the best technical support possible.

To that end, in 2016 several Cigi staff expanded their knowledge base in baking, milling and quality analysis.

Yvonne Supeene, Head, and Yulia Borsuk, Technical Specialist, in Cigi Baking Technology, attended an intensive five-day baking program in July at FERRANDI Paris, The French School of Culinary Arts, where they focused on the production of baguettes, Viennoiserie products including croissants, and specialty breads.

Earlier this year the Cigi baking area acquired a laminator, or reversible dough sheeter, increasing Cigi’s ability to work with a broader range of end products.  It rolls dough sheets into various thicknesses and can blend (laminate) fat efficiently for labour intensive products such as croissants and pastries.  “Having this piece of equipment really opens up our capabilities,” says Yvonne.

In her frequent dealings with international customers, Yvonne says she has heard a lot about “French” baguettes, a long thin bread loaf with a soft interior and crisp crust. “They are made around the world but people associate them with France and what better way to learn more about them than to go where they originated.”

FERRANDI Paris is considered to be the leading culinary school in Europe. Baking is one specialty area in a range of programs. The course was limited to nine students, all from different countries, who were required to have baking experience.

“The course was hands-on, not lots of theory, just the formula and making it,” says Yulia. “I knew about baguettes, but I didn’t know the difference between a regular baguette and traditional baguette which has a very soft dough. It was the most amazing thing for me.”

Yvonne points out that the quality of baguettes varies around the world and in France the traditional baguette is subject to laws where additives are prohibited. Some traditional baguettes they learned about are made with a pre-ferment, or poolish, involving a longer fermentation process that is added to the final dough to increase extensibility. Others were made with sourdough or fermented dough.

“We went there hoping to find out what, if anything, is so unique about the French baguette compared to what our understanding was of this end product,” she says. “And we also went there to learn about French wheat, the quality of their flour.”

The course focused on the art of baking rather than on the science as done at Cigi, Yvonne says. “They know how to make it well, shape it well, but are coming at it from a different angle. They do not focus on information about the flour, so we talked about things like protein quality and quantity, and the importance of ash content. We didn’t want to leave without information about French flour so we asked them if they wouldn’t mind contacting the mill that supplies their flour to ship a bag to us here at Cigi.”

Yvonne says the experience adds to Cigi’s knowledge base, especially important when dealing with customers in emerging markets like West Africa where baguettes are a fundamental product.

“While working alongside the bakers there we picked up many tips we can use back here,” she says. “We learned about the traditional baguette which we wanted to understand, about shaping products, and different ways of handling the dough. We deal with many markets so when required we will have this information at our fingertips. We have a lot of material that we can work with in future.”

Swiss program hones milling skills

Norbert Cabral, who began working as a Technologist in the Cigi milling area in 2013, says he wanted to take on the challenge of attending the Swiss School of Milling to further hone his milling skills in order to offer the best technical information and training to customers of Canadian grain. The Buhler-supported facility is one of the world’s most prestigious institutions for training millers in the grain industry.

His previous formal training included the International Grains Program at Kansas State University as well as a a six-month correspondence program in milling with nabim (National Association of British & Irish Millers) for which he was recognized with a bronze medal for achieving second place in top marks.

Norbert Cabral at work in Cigi's pilot mill.

Norbert Cabral at work in Cigi’s pilot mill.

“I talked to management here at Cigi about taking on the biggest challenge at the Swiss School of Milling as other Cigi milling staff have done in the past,” Norbert says. After getting the official go-ahead, he completed a six-month milling program at the school in St. Gallen, Switzerland last August. In preparation for the program he also finished a six-month correspondence course for which he wrote an exam soon after his arrival.

Norbert says the intense study load and schedule included milling technology, pneumatics, plant engineering, practical baking, cereal and nutrition science, basic electrical engineering and laboratory sessions.

For the milling training, Swiss wheat was used as well as CWRS because of its high quality, which made Norbert feel right at home. He also made connections with the other 22 students from 16 countries including one who had previously participated in a Cigi program.

Norbert says completing the Swiss milling program has proven to be invaluable, providing him with additional technical knowledge required to excel in his work in the Cigi mill and in engaging professionally with millers from customer countries.

Training on analytical equipment enhances work with customers

Natalie Middlestead, Technician, Analytical Services, took a two-day course in St. Joseph, Michigan last September on the operation, troubleshooting and maintenance of the LECO nitrogen analyzer, used to assess nitrogen levels and determine a protein value in wheat and pulses.

“Protein is important for wheat and other field crops primarily for determining end-use suitability so we use the LECO analyzer mainly to tell us what the levels are in wheat and other field crops,” she says. “I knew the basic running of it but not the full maintenance and troubleshooting. At LECO (headquarters) they have classrooms and a full manufacturing facility. The two-day course was very in-depth.”

Natalie says the course gave her the information she needs to demonstrate the details of its operation and respond to questions from groups that include customers and farmers. “Our Cigi programs start in Analytical Services with a talk about why protein is important and why we test for it.  This is information that is useful for both customers and farmers.”

Click here for a video clip of Natalie discussing the LECO analyzer.