Gluten Free

Baking Business looks at increasingly popular gluten free options as Coeliac Awareness Week approaches in March.


Gluten Freedom

Brisbane pastry chef, Francis Pichelin has transformed gluten free pastry from a business opportunity into a passion.

Experimenting with gluten free pastry tastes and textures in his kitchen one day, Bonjour Patisserie owner, Francis Pichelin unlocked a secret.

“Normally, gluten free pastry crumbles. By accident I discovered a way to be able to roll it out for metres,” Mr Pichelin told Baking Business from his 25 years working with the difficult product.

“It’s better then the real thing,” he said.

The 51-year-old said discovering a quality gluten free pastry had been his greatest success, which he now uses extensively in his gluten free focused business in the trendy New Farm suburb of Brisbane.

There are no limits to what can be gluten free at Bonjour Patisserie, where most customers drop by in the morning to buy product for breakfast, tea and work functions. The store offers gluten free quiches, petit fours, strawberry-cheesecake with fresh cream and more.

“We do a lot of cakes without flour, but customers don’t believe us,” he said.

He makes his own jam with chunky bits of fruit and squeezes pure organic lemon juice. Even the cappuccino powder and tomato sauce are gluten free.

According to Mr Pichelin, it’s the little things that make a big difference when it comes to gluten free.

“There is so much to think about,” he admits.

“I would like to become totally gluten free but shortage of flour is worrying.”

Mr Pichelin created his own starter culture, which he said works better than fresh yeast. He uses maize cornflour and stays clear of pesan (chick pea) or soya flour as they can “give a bitter taste”. He is still trying to perfect his own gluten free crossiant, which he said is difficult to get to rise properly.

The Paris-born business owner “grew up in a pastry shop” before moving to Australia at the age of 10. He said that Brisbane customers can be “stubborn”, preferring traditional Australian classics, such as the chocolate mud cake, which offer little opportunity for subtlety.

When not experimenting with gluten free, Mr Pichelin consider himself a croquembouche expert, which he has spent years perfecting.

International taste

Gluten free products were once known for their bland taste, a deficiency that perplexed Swiss pastry chef, Josef Zehnder.

Asked to produce a gluten free cake and biscuit range to supply a local establishment, the Queensland-based business owner realised there was an opportunity for quality gluten free bread. Seven years later, the Zehnder Bakery owner has maintained a growing business and is less than a month away from launching his European distribution.

“We just didn’t understand, Josef being a chef, why there had to be that difference and that’s been our main objective. I guess it’s really one of our statements… that it’s gluten free as it should be,” Zehnder Bakery co-owner and Josef’s wife, Naomi Dezentje told Baking Business

“There shouldn’t be any difference between the taste of gluten free products and normal non-gluten free products.”

After trials and nine months in market sales Naomi and Josef established a 350 sq m factory in their home town of Maleny in 2007. The facility is solely dedicated to the production of gluten free food.

“Josef is a chef by trade and I think I just realised that there was such a deficient product for good gluten free anything and just decided that that would be an area. When he decides to get something in his head he decides to become very passionate about it and he just does whatever he can to achieve that. I think he’s well on his way to doing that,” Mrs Dezentje said.

Customers are often taken back when they discover the product is gluten free.

“We get that feedback from the consumers, some people have said ‘You know I haven’t had bread for 20 years, thank you so much for giving us a bread that I can eat.’ It tastes like normal bread. Because I think that’s one of the hardest products to make, is just normal bread,“ Mrs Dezentje said.

“There is a huge demand for gluten free products everywhere and it’s growing all the time.”

The company owners look forward to Anuga in Cologone, the world’s largest food fair, where the product received a lot of attention.

“That’s the thing, we’ve actually tested how we compare with the rest of the market and actually went to Anuga. We’re going again this year and everyone just got so excited and we just got inundated with people wanting our product,” Mrs Dezentje said.

Their expected March launch in Switzerland has already generated interest.

“We have quite a few suppliers that have already put orders in so we’re ready to go,” she said.

Besides conquering Europe, Zehnder Bakery also has plans to sell their product in the US.

“Our aim is to provide the best gluten free product available and become the name is synonymous with ‘the best gluten free product’ around the globe, something many consumers believe we have already achieved,” she said.

Organic philosophy

Brisbane-based bakery Sol Breads has developed a gluten free range of breads to complement its organic offerings.

Their gluten free range includes hamburger rolls, ‘Megaggrain’, Rice & Polenta and Rice & Pumpkin. The sourdough bakery produces and distributes baked product through company-owned retail outlets and market stalls, direct to consumers, wholesale distributors and retailers. They use a traditional natural fermentation process to raise the dough instead of commercial yeast.

The Sol Breads website provides information on health issues relating to gluten in bread.

“Removing gluten from the diet is not easy. Grains are used in the preparation of many foods. It is often hard to tell by an ingredient’s name what may be in it, so it is easy to eat gluten without even knowing it. However, staying on a strict gluten-free diet can dramatically improve the patient’s condition. Since it is necessary to remain on the gluten free diet throughout life, it will be helpful to review it with a registered dietitian,” the website states.

“In general, gluten is a safe and natural component of many foods and should not be removed from the diet. If you feel that you have a problem with gluten, it is best to contact your doctor or a dietitian who will guide you through investigations of your concern.”

Must have flavour

Baking Business talks to leading gluten free promoter, Dr Sue Sheperd about gluten free taste.

A primary goal for gluten free author and industry promoter, Dr Sue Sheperd is promoting gluten free products with a great taste.

“Because people have a dietary infliction it’s a matter of encouraging manufacturers to still provide great-tasting food to a growing market and also for the sufferers to know that there is plenty of great-tasting food that they can enjoy,” Dr Sheperd told Baking Business.

Dr Sheperd has written five gluten free cookbooks, is in the process of writing another three, and has been heavily involved with events such as the Irresistible Gluten Free Show.

Gluten free product traditionally had a “bland or quite bitter after-taste” according to Dr Sheperd, depending on raising agents, or sometimes coming out with a “bizarre” flavour.

“The people working in industry have devoted quite a lot of time to it. Afterall, (for) these chefs these dishes are their signature, they’re probably proud of them and the great respect they have for all the individual manufacturers and food professionals who have taken the time just getting it right,” she said.

“Bakery is not easy. (Gluten) is the magic wonder-naturally-occurring ingredient in the flour, so alternative methods and combinations of ingredients are very definitely required so that it’s acceptable.

“There’s so much on the market now, it’s just amazing to see the growth that has occurred,” she said.

Diagnosed with coeliac disease 17 years gao, Dr Sheperd has been a dietician for 15 years.

“I always wanted to be a dietician, however the diagnosis changed my career focus. So I guess with my work as a dietician I not only see patients who have dietary conditions, I consult with food companies and assist them with product development. I also consult with the media to get messages out there,” she said.

Dr Sheperd said she has met many patients who perceive gluten free as meaning healthy, although this is not the case.

“You can get gluten free donuts, you can get gluten free pastries, a beautiful choux pastry croquembouche filled with cream can be gluten free but it’s not good for you, no,” she said.

Starting as a self-publisher for her cookbooks, she has now been taken on by larger publishing companies as gluten free awareness has been steadily growing.

“I love to hear about the companies that are going the distance to have (both) gluten free and taste great. And in addition to that have other nutritional properties, as fresh as possible, as organic as possible and those sorts of things,” she said.

Sweet option

Macarons can be made gluten free, a quality that Cacao Fine Chocolate & Patisseries’ Tim Clark likes to promote.

“Chocolate in its simple form with no other additives appeals to just about everyone and is suitable for those that are wheat/gluten intolerant. Many of the range of filled chocolate pralines available also do not contain any derivatives of wheat,” Mr Clark told Baking Business.

Mr Clark encourages customers to think of macarons as a tasty gluten free option. Cacao Fine Chocolate & Patisserie serve a wide selection of freshly baked pastries, savouries, baguettes and decadent cakes. Not to mention their wide range of hand-crafted chocolates.

According to Cacao, the macaron is a light almond meringue “sensation”, each with their own delicate filling. Macarons adorn the counters at Cacao and excite the senses with their colour.

“Cacao also offer such taste sensations as their signature hot chocolate, made from the finest Belgium chocolates. Chocolate is a central theme throughout the store, and its flavor and texture are explored in over 80 per cent of Cacao’s creations. Many of our creations are made on-site by our team of talented chefs,” Mr Clark said.

“Guests may spend a lazy afternoon lounging in our cafe or simply pop in to purchase their favourite items.”

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