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When we say we use only ancient and heritage grains what do we mean and why is it important?
The term "artisan" gets thrown around a lot. When we say it, what do we mean by it?
One of the most common questions we receive at the bakery is, "Do you have anything gluten free?". To that I usually answer, "Well...it depends." You see, more often than not the real question is "Do we offer bread with digestible gluten?".
The short answer is the real question about digestible gluten is "Yes!" We make all of our breads in a way that promotes diversity of flavor, increased nutritional value and optimum, natural gluten development. There are three main factors that contribute to the digestibility of gluten: type of wheat, type of yeast and fermentation time.
What is Gluten
Before diving into what makes gluten better or worse for you, it's important to know what we're actually talking about. What exactly is this thing that is apparently in bread that people are so sensitive to?
To take the definition from "The Bread Builders" by Daniel Wind and Alan Scott:
Gluten is a protein complex prominent in wheat doughs. It is formed by the association of two precursor proteins, glutenin and gliadin, and by its strength, elasticity, and extensibility determines the structure of the dough.
Basically, gluten is what holds bread together. When making dough, the purpose of kneading the dough, stretching and folding and even long fermenting is to create a gluten structure that is strong enough to hold the dough together. Gluten acts in the same way as struts holding together a bridge or scaffolding; it is what supports the structure.
As dough rises, small pockets of air are forming in the dough. Once it goes in the oven, the water content of the dough bubbles and turns to steam. As the steam escapes the bread, the gluten is what holds all of the air and steam pockets. A strong gluten structure will result in a loaf the holds its shape once taken from the oven; a weak gluten structure will collapse.
Why Can't I Digest Gluten?
There was a time, most of human history actually, when bread was a primary source of nutrients in the average diet. Never was there complaint that bread was bad for you or that it caused any sort of digestive issue. What happened? Why is it that this food, created with the first crop that man domesticated has suddenly become problematic for so many people? What changed?
As our food has become more and more industrialized, the raw materials that make it up have had to be engineered to suit factory use. Bread is no exception to this. Modern wheat has been engineered with the factory as the primary point of importance. What does that mean? Digestibility, nutrition and flavor are secondary to resilience,durability and stability. Modern wheat has an engineered gluten protein bond that is of a higher complexity and strength than can be digested effectively. It is made to withstand the rigors of the factory at the expense of digestibility.