Let them eat cake
There are certain challenges with running a gluten free bakery.
There have been times when we’ve been tempted by the idea of becoming a Whoopie pie company. Whoopies are (relatively speaking) easy for us to produce in large quantities. Nothing much affects their quality, they don’t take long to make and people love them.
Bread on the other hand frequently has us waking up in the night in a cold sweat. Bread is REALLY HARD to make! I’m not even talking about developing the recipes, although we have spent many many hours testing, trying things out, throwing loaves in the bin (okay, mostly toasting them and feeding them to my teenage sons). So many things can affect the quality; the temperature, the humidity, whether the sourdough starter has been fed enough/too much/at the right time of day, how much water this batch of rice flour absorbs even though it is the same brand as the last batch. And if any of these factors are not perfect you can end up with a sorry looking loaf.
And bread also takes a LONG time to make. Here’s a brief breakdown of the process used to make our sprouted buckwheat sourdough:
- Soak whole buckwheat for 6 hours
- Drain buckwheat and leave to sprout for 24 hours
- Grind buckwheat, weigh into batches.
- Feed sourdough starter with Millet and water daily
- Weigh and blend 14 ingredients to make the flour blend.
- Mix buckwheat with flour and water and sourdough starter to make a poolish (pre-ferment) and leave for 6 hours
- Mix in remaining flour and bulk proof for 2 hours
- Weigh and shape loaves and leave to proof overnight
- Bring loaves back to room temperature and final proof for 1 hour
- Bake loaves for 75 minutes
And even after all this, something can go wrong and the whole lot will be wasted.
The challenge for us as a bakery is that in this society cake and bread are not valued equally. Cake is a premium product, people are willing to part with a good amount of money for the showy, glamorous sweet treat. Bread on the other hand is seen as a staple, a fundamental, something that just keeps us fed. Most of us are reluctant to pay what it is worth when we have been raised on cheap, mass produced, highly processed, sliced ‘bread’. And yet the irony is that this stuff is likely responsible for the tidal wave of gluten intolerance that brings people to Wildcraft bakery.
And that is why sometimes we wonder if it is worth it, the stress, worry, constantly justifying our prices and still little profit. Should we just become a cake company? But when push comes to shove, we feel an overwhelming responsibility to our customers. As a customer originally myself, I remember how it felt to discover ‘real’ bread for the first time in years. I almost cried. Many others actually do. Mina and I know that we owe it to our customers to provide bread. It may not be as glamorous as decorating a wedding cake, but we’re unbelievably proud of the products we have developed. Just a small handful of them are pictured above, and the range is constantly expanding. We didn’t need awards to tell us that we make the best bread (although that was nice!), we won’t ever give up, we keep developing, keep improving, we refuse to settle for ‘good enough’ we want everyone to be able to eat our bread and enjoy it, whether they are gluten free or not. So don’t worry, our bread isn’t going anywhere, we will always be proud to call ourselves a Bakery.