Baking up Gluten-Free Flavour
Taste Innovations at Origin Bakery
At Origin Bakery, the only dedicated gluten-free bakery in Victoria BC, Marion Scott and Tara Black are transforming the way we taste alternative grains. They’re also doing what comes naturally to pastry chefs, but is so rare in the world of gluten-free: baking up delicious from-scratch breads, cakes and pastries that recreate the taste and texture of traditional baked goods.
Origin Bakery is not like the majority of gluten-free bread and cake bakers. “Almost all of them are using a very set style of ingredients,” said Tara Black, Origin co-founder and pastry chef. “What we do is very different. Every single product here is made with its own specific recipe.”
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Video: Gluten-Free from Scratch at the Origin Bakery
Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity (Why Gluten Free?)
The search for tasty gluten-free food comes in the wake of the growing number of people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. In Canada, 350,000 people (1% of the population) have celiac disease and an additional 2.1 million Canadians (6%) are gluten-sensitive. Across North America, an estimated 1 in every 133 people is a celiac.Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder in which gluten causes damage to the small intestine. Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. The treatment for celiac disease is to eat a completely gluten-free diet. This means, most notably, avoiding wheat, a basic ingredient in traditional breads and baking.
Alternatives for gluten-free diets include grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and certain root starches. Sorghum, millet, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, rice, teff, corn, flax, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, chickpeas, fava beans, tapioca starch and potato starch are common gluten-free ingredients.
Starting Origin Bakery
During a business class to explore ideas for their business venture, Tara noticed something interesting. Out of 20 students in the class, eight were gluten intolerant, eating wheat-free diets. Seeing the motivation of these celiacs to seek out and share information about gluten-free foods, Tara knew she was seeing something important. Could she and Marion create a gluten-free bakery with products as good as the best traditional bakeries?
The Challenge of Gluten-Free Baking
With this idea, they began their search to create delicious gluten-free recipes that could match the flavour and texture of traditional baked goods. This posed a significant challenge because gluten-free flours have different flavours, weights, absorption rates and nutrient profiles than flours that contain gluten.
In traditional bread baking, gluten gives dough its elasticity; it also helps the bread to rise and imparts a chewy texture to the final baked product. Alternative baked goods often require a combination of several kinds of flour, along with ingredients to compensate for the lack of gluten.
As non-celiacs grounded in the methods of traditional baking, Marion and Tara researched gluten-free ingredients and learned about the qualities of alternatives. With little to guide them, they gleaned information from food blogs, hundreds of hours of kitchen testing, and travels throughout the U.S. and Canadian west coast to sample gluten-free baked goods.
Developing Flavour Profiles
As a traditionally trained pastry chef, Tara had a good understanding of how ingredients corresponded to one another. To create good gluten-free flavour profiles, she had to develop knowledge of the chemical side of alternatives and how they interacted in different proportions. What were the protein levels of these alternative flours? How would that react with water, fat or eggs? What combination would create a chewy bread, or a soft bread? A crust? Which ingredients would make a cake light or dense?
Most of the gluten-free baked goods on the market today are the result of a master blend—a mixture, often made from rice flour and starches, that is used as the base for an entire line of products.Marion and Tara researched and developed a unique ingredient profile for each product they sell. “We wanted to draw from a bigger pool of ingredients so we could have a wider range,” said Marion. “Different tastes for different breads. Not just the same mix and adding flax to one or cranberries to another.”
“What people don’t understand about the traditional baking market and us, is that in traditional baking you don’t have just one type of flour,” said Tara. “There’s a huge range. Just as many types of traditional flour as there are alternative grains that we use in our bakery. And the reason why is you don’t use the same flour to make pasta as to make focaccia bread, or a cupcake, or a pie, or a bagel. They’re all really different flours. They have different protein counts, different strengths….
“That’s what makes us really different. Our cupcake does not taste like our cookie, nor does it have the same texture. Nor does our bread. They all have very different textures and very different flavours. It’s because were using so many different ingredients and so many different profiles in order to create that distinction between the products.”
Gluten-Free Breads, Cakes and Pastries
During their start-up year, Origin Bakery developed an nine gluten-free recipes, and product-tested them at a local street market. Today, with two locations in Victoria, Origin produces more than 50 artisan gluten-free products, including 11 very distinct breads, and a wide range of cakes, cookies, muffins, scones, sandwiches, pizza, pies, tarts and galettes.
“We still get new people in all the time who are just so excited that we do things that taste good,” said Marion. “And everything’s gluten-free.”