Editor’s Letter: Letter to the editor
By Naomi Szeben
By Naomi Szeben
On January 21, Bakers Journal received the following letter, highlighting complaints about the cost and flavour of gluten-free baked goods:
“During 2019 I became aware that I have an allergy to gluten. My doctors advised me to restrict myself to gluten-free food, and accordingly I sought out sources for it. It quickly became obvious that all the gluten-free bread available in Ottawa was of deplorable quality. I consulted friends with the same problem and they confirmed they had the same experience. The so-called gluten-free product is almost inedible.
So I concluded that making acceptable bread and other baked goods without using ingredients such as wheat, barley and rye is just not possible. But it turns out that I was wrong.
I am currently taking my winter vacation in Spain. The nearby supermarkets are well stocked with gluten-free bread and pastries, and these are not only of good quality but are priced at only a small premium. For their inferior gluten-free goods, Canadian retailers demand premiums of 200 per cent or more, compared with regular breads and pastries. This is taking advantage of sick people.
What Spain can do, so can Canadians. We are looking here at an $8 billions industry in this country. Surely, it can find the resources to find out how the bakers of Spain can produce an acceptable product and follow their example.” – Jim Garner, Ottawa
This letter raised some interesting questions, Mr. Garner. There is a price difference between gluten-free breads and traditional loaves due to their ingredients. Most grocery store chains provide frozen options that are made of a variety of starch to mimic the colour and shape of loaves, but you noted, the flavour leaves much to be desired.
As for your claim that Canada doesn’t have what Spain offers celiacs, there are more options in North America than ever before: Canadian ingenuity revealed some amazing bakers who made gluten-free goods, such as Art-Is-In Bakery in Ottawa, Sweets From The Earth in Toronto, and Petit Lapin in Quebec, to name just a few gluten-free bakeries in the country.
Gluten-free bread ingredients like almonds, legumes, coconut flour and some grains may cost more due to a combination of importation, transportation, cultivation and climate. Storage, processing and transport contribute to a costlier loaf than traditional loaves. However, we’re lucky in that we do have access to local, ancient grains like quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat, which make for tastier gluten-free bread options.
At this stage, food scientists are looking at ways to improve gluten-free or sugar-reduced bakery goods. In “Give Peas a Chance” readers will see how alternative ingredients can provide a tastier option for those with food allergies.
As of last year, the Canadian government has set funding aside to explore options in growing more oats, and finding more sustainable, affordable local ways to create gluten-free baked goods. In this issue, you’ll learn about gluten-free flours such as pea flours, grains and even hemp seeds.
This year’s Bakery Showcase will feature gluten-free and gluten-reduced options offered by Ardent Mills, IREKS and Puratos, just to name a few. Gluten free baking is a burgeoning field, but there’s hope, and definitely more options for celiac and gluten-intolerant lovers of baked goods than we had years ago. Good luck to you, Mr. Garner, I hope you’ll find loaf of gluten-free bread that appeals to you. Bon appetit!