Bakers Journal

Going Organic

December 4, 2007
By Brian Hinton

On a list of trends that can benefit the small baker, surely organics should make the list.

32On a list of trends that can benefit the small baker, surely organics should make the list. By its very nature, organics is about small, independent producers, and locally grown or made products that were manufactured with minimal impact on the environment. What does organics mean to consumers? It really depends on who you ask. Here are some of the things we hear in our bakery.

”Organically grown food is more nutritious.” It may taste better but there is no evidence to support this claim. Many people simply have a hunch that it’s healthier for you. Well, at least you have control over what goes into your body.

”Organic food is too expensive, I cannot afford it all the time.” I tell customers to keep leftovers or extras in the freezer if they need to, to help prolong the product’s shelf life.

When we first started making organic products a decade ago, the only ingredients available were flour, oil and sugar. My how things have changed. Just about any farmed ingredient is now available in an organic version. The challenge is keeping the retail price acceptable when using 100 per cent organic ingredients. Although organic ingredients analytically are the same, the lack of processing changes the baked product and the handling methods. In terms of bread flour, nothing has been added to it to speed up the fermentation cycle, and to strengthen the gluten. There are alternatives out there, however. We use an approved dough conditioner that lists ascorbic acid and amalyase as the natural conditioners.

We use seven main types of flours for our production. Our white and whole wheat flour is milled locally. Visually it doesn’t look any different. It has good protein values and mixes up similar to regular flour when using a natural dough conditioner.

Stoneground flour is the most challenging to work with of all the flours. Good fermentation, reduced mix times and smaller volume expectations all make up for the difficulty of working with it, turning out acceptable breads. Spelt flour (both wholegrain and all-purpose) not all spelt flours are created equal. Different milling techniques produce very coarse or fine flours. We have found finer flour makes better-selling breads with higher loaf volume and finer crumb structure. The all-purpose with lower bran content makes for good pastries and cakes. One of the main functional differences when using spelt is the lower gluten make-up and content. This means mix times and mechanical recovery times are significantly reduced. The marketing of spelt products is helped considerable by the naturopathic community, which sees the grain as an alternative to conventional wheat flour. Naturopaths frequently treat patients with NCGI (non-celiac gluten intolerance) and usually see wheat as the demon. Products made with spelt have a distinct nutty flavour and taste. Kamut – as spelt is to wheat so kamut is to durum. Technically known as Polish wheat, kamut is yellow in colour without the bran fleck’s. The name kamut (pronounced cam-moot) is a trademarked seed variety owned by a group of American farmers. We purchase from a local Canadian miller. Most of the recipes we had to construct ourselves, given the nature of our market. Consumer demand for kamut products is strongest in breads and buns. Cookies and pastries do not sell as well. Golden flax flour is a fairly new ingredient for us. We see this as maintaining a good market niche with an Omega 3,6,9’s claim. As flax breads are well established in the supermarkets, we will offer pastries, cookies and cakes. There are many other organic flours, seeds and wholegrain blends available at a relatively low cost, such as rye, barley, and oats. In terms of higher cost flours that are gluten-free, other options include rice, amaranth, quinoa, tapioca, bean and pea.

Baking with oils is standard practice in the organic world, so elimination of trans fats isn’t an issue. However making pastries and cakes is a considerable challenge when needing a solid ingredient. In the past we used an oil/butter combination but this is very expensive. Now we are seeing tropical oils such as coconut and palm fruit oil being processed differently to reduce the saturated fat percentage. Keep in mind that some oils, such as organic canola, bring a very strong flavour and odour that can dominate the baked goods.

Because of the organic protocols, organic sugar tends to be coarse and light amber in colour. The one we use doesn’t dissolve as easily as regular sugar and can effect cookies and cakes adversely. Specialized sugars are available and, although expensive, offer other advantages. Turbinado sugars are finer and offer higher nutritional profiles.

Flour, sugar and oil are the building blocks for baked goods. They are relatively accessible, economically priced and of good quality. Other ingredients can be sourced as demand increases. Then there are ingredients that cannot be organically sourced: baking powder, water, and salt to name the most commonly used ones.

We, as a bakery, do not have organic certification. Until such time as Canada has its own regulations and approved certifiers, we will abide by our own good manufacturing practices. These include:
•    Documentation from all our suppliers
•    Separate storage areas for ingredients
•    Procedures for preventing cross-contamination
•    Tracking system for manufacturing – preference given to run organic products first
•    Standard operating procedures defining use of sanitizing and pest control products

As for labelling and listing all organic ingredients, we try to achieve a 100 per cent list. Remember that 95 per cent is the standard in the U.S., not counting water or salt.

The CFIA has the following statement on its website.

“Food products which are labelled or otherwise identified as “organic” are expected, as a minimum, to comply with the production, processing, packaging, labelling, storing and distribution provisions of the National Standard for Organic Agriculture. Even so, the Canadian organic community wants a mandatory regulatory system that will ease the way to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada securing equivalency agreements with other countries. To that end, an ad hoc Organic Regulatory Committee has formed to work with government to develop and implement an affordable system that is recognized by consumers, traders and regulators everywhere. The system will include accredited certifiers, procedures for inspection and certification, a Canada Organic seal, surveillance and enforcement, and maintenance of the Canadian Organic Standard and Permitted Substance List.”

It is my view that in the grand scheme of things, going organic creates less demand on our planet and its resources, leaving more behind for our children and their children.

Brian Hinton is the owner of Lakeview Bakery in Calgary. Contact him at:

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