Sunday, July 1, 2012


New Italian bread. Legacy-worthy?

So here it is July 1 and no bread business yet. I’m getting closer, but nothing is showing. At least not in the facility I’ve rented - which sits waiting in the summer sun for the township building department to cough up a permit for my three-part sink. Once they do, things should move. And show. And if you like photos of plumbers at work, I’ll have some.
In the meantime you’ll hopefully content yourself with a look at my updated website: HERE. As you can see I'm trying to keep things simple - bread mixes and nothing but, and just two, at least for the time being. 
There’s one thing troubling me. It should be the same thing troubling anyone starting a gluten-free business:  What if the whole gluten-free diet craze collapses before my business gets off the ground.
A morning's work.
It’s a reasonable fear. That the GF diet has “craze” or “fad” elements is, I think, beyond dispute. Recently I saw a study that indicated only 10% of shoppers buying GF goods had celiac disease or gluten insensitivity. When 90% of buyers are purchasing foods that have no proven benefit, it’s a fad. 
To misquote Andy Warhol, fads have a life span of only 15 minutes. With consumers spending about $6 billion in gluten-free goods in fiscal 2011, my guess is that we’re well past minute 7.5. Which means, the fad is on its way out.
You can see this already in the fringes. The hair shirt crowd has decided that giving up gluten isn’t enough, and are demanding their followers give up all grains. (They call this the Paleo diet. Mastodon for dinner, anyone?) And sugar - “usual suspect” #1 whenever a pleasure-giving substance needs beaten up - is re-appearing in TV shows and web blasts as Evil Incarnate, shoving gluten aside. 
So why, given this trajectory, go into a gluten-free business at all? My answer: legacy. 
The ultimate contribution we in GF foods will make is not health but the introduction of new and wonderful flavors to the world’s palate. 
micro-pies with rice-flour-almond crust
I know this is hard to believe. GF has the (well-earned) reputation for producing foods that only a desperate soul would consume. Anyone who received a celiac disease diagnosis 5 or more years ago is familiar with the genre. Crackers that punished the teeth. Door-stop bread. Cakes that dissolved into powder. 
These products linger, but they’re now the minority. We who must eat gluten-free have as many tasty, healthy and easy-to-find dining options as those with normal digestive systems. Some baking and cooking professionals have even risen to that old art-school slogan, “Good Enough Never Is” and decided that “As good-tasting as wheat” is not what’s needed; gluten-free must be more.
Beyond the tired old ways of making things with wheat flour, gluten-free is inspiring new options, new tastes. Consider: before the GF craze, who outside of Ethiopia had ever heard of teff, let alone tasted it? Has any wheat-flour baker tweaked spicy flavors from pie crust, without adding spices? We who are gluten-free can smilingly say, “We have!” 
Wheat-based bakers primarily rely on three grains. Gluten-free bakers use at least eight (millet, sorghum, corn, buckwheat, rice, teff, amaranth, quinoa), and that’s not counting the varieties within each family (ie: dark teff, ivory teff, red teff). Plus we augment our flours with many starches. In both categories we’ve introduced flavors previously unknown in our cultures. 
Not wheat but sourdough nonetheless. Whole grain and good!
Our legacy is with breads that are astonishingly good and taste nothing like wheat breads, in cakes and cookies and pies that delight the tastebuds with lush and interesting new flavors, in crackers with luscious chew and flatbreads that combine crunch and moist in unexpected yet wonderful ways.
Which is why I’m opening my gluten-free business. I think my breads will fill the bill. Egotistic? Perhaps. But I won’t claim to be the only one inventing legacy foods. Next time you’re the supermarket, pick up a bag of Bob’s Red Mill quinoa flour and try the chocolate cupcake recipe on the back. If those aren’t gluten-free cakes worth legacy status, I don’t know what is.
And for those of you with a love of experiment and a family willing to lap up your trial recipes, here’s two ideas I’m sure can be molded into legacies. I’ve put them aside in favor of breads, but I know that someone - maybe YOU, gentle reader - can do wonders with them.

Fresh red raspberries and buckwheat kernels, ready for the kitchen.
1) Buckwheat and raspberries
2) Ivory teff and seafood.
And there, I’m out of ideas for another round of writing. When next I sit at this keyboard I hope to have business progress to report. In my world the installation of a three-part sink is the most yearned-for of events. 


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Luce: I'm wondering about
getting tested. How were you
diagnosed? I've heard of a blood
test to check for biomarkers of
celiac disease, and some kind of a
skin test for a wheat allergy.
Also heard of an endoscopy to look
for digestive tract damage that
indicates celiac disease. I've also
heard doctors can give a patient
drinks with and without gluten –
without revealing which is which –
and then ask the patient how he or
she feels. Did you have any or all
of these?

Thanks in advance for your response.

Charles Luce said...

Thank you for your very good question! I was diagnosed (in 2002) by the presence of antibodies in my blood. That is, through a blood test. Before I got to that point I'd pretty much convinced my doctor that CD was the source of my many GI symptoms. He and I both wanted to be certain it was not something worse, so I had a complete, non-invasive GI workup. I did not have an endoscopy, although it was (and is) recommended.
Since 2002 a much better blood test has been invented: celiac panels.
Note: a wheat allergy is unrelated to celiac disease. It is a much rarer condition and must be diagnosed by a qualified medical allergist.
I've never heard of the drink differential diagnosis but I suspect this is untrue. For many people the reaction takes hours to develop, plus it would require the patient to eliminate all other sources of gluten from her diet, which few who are new to gluten awareness would be able to reliably do.
Some opinions: 1) ONLY physicians can accurately diagnose celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
2) If celiac panels indicate CD, the endoscopy is a good idea. It can detect the extent of damage, which has a bearing on other digestive processes. Many of these injuries (such as an inability to digest dairy) can be cured.
3) If the patient is negative for CD and negative for gluten intolerance there is no good reason to avoid gluten.
Thank you again for asking!