One trend, three trailblazers

Three ways with: artisan bread

Consumer desire for gluten-free products and better gut health are leading chefs to experiment more with flours and grains.

20 December 2018
Chilean pumpkin bread, aka sopaipillas

The trend 

  • Wrapped bread returned to growth for the first time in five years in December 2017, according to Kantar Worldpanel. Increasing interest in artisan-style bread is thought to have been behind the rise.
  • Driven by perceptions that gluten-free products are healthier, Euromonitor predicts the global retail market for gluten-free products to rise from $1.7bn in 2011 to $4.7bn in 2020, while Kantar found that 8% of Brits last year followed a gluten-free diet. This consumer behaviour is leading to innovation around gluten-free flours made from ingredients like cassava and amaranth, as well as scientific experimentation around low-gluten products and the wheat genome.
  • A number of restaurants are not only making bread in-house, but also milling the flour in-house. Silo in Brighton mills ancient varieties of wheat to make bread daily while Jolene in London sources original wheat varieties from farms in Sussex and Norfolk.

For several years, popular wheat-based carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta, were demonised, with diets like Atkins and paleo recommending people omit them to help lose weight.

A greater awareness of coeliac disease and growing numbers of people suspecting an intolerance to gluten also affected the fortunes of the humble loaf.

However, statistics released this time last year revealed a change of destiny for dough, with wrapped bread sales returning to growth for the first time.

The catalyst was a revival of craft baking, with Brits buying into artisan-style formats made using unusual flours, heritage and ancient grains, sprouted grains and even vegetables.

Cauliflower multi-seed bread

As Rose Lloyd Owen, founder of London-based bespoke catering company Peardrop, says, chefs love a challenge, so she got creative by combining vegetables with flour, or finding flours that were lower in gluten, or gluten-free, to help bring bread back into fashion.

“You’ll never be able to beat a hot, fresh, crusty loaf of gluten-full bread, but with coeliac disease on the rise and a lot of us trying to get more nutrients into our diet, experimentation is inevitable,” she says.

Lloyd Owen's own experimentation has led to the creation of a bread made with leftover cauliflower stalks, while other chefs, like Scott Smith at Fhior in Edinburgh, opted for an ancient grain. He now makes bread for his restaurant with bere, a variety of barley grown in Scotland.

Flours ground from unorthodox ingredients are also being used to make bread. Examples include cassava flour flat bread at Cottons Restaurant and Rum Shack, and Gradz bakery's dark loaf combining amaranth, wheat and rye flours.


The trailblazers

Rose Lloyd Owen, founder of London-based bespoke catering company Peardrop, makes bread combining gluten-free wholemeal flour and cauliflower stalks: “This recipe was born out of frustration after seeing kilos of cauliflower leaves and stalks in our food waste bin, which are a byproduct of the cauliflower rice that goes in one of our retail wraps. At that time, I was also trying to develop a gluten-free loaf for a new sandwich range so it seemed like a lightbulb moment. Unfortunately, it wasn’t actually a genius lightbulb moment as the bread is dense and doesn’t lend itself to a sandwich, so it's used to make an open sandwich. It's especially good toasted. It’s quite savoury so I love it with cream cheese and salmon for breakfast or with kimchi and cheddar for lunch. I make it using Doves Farm gluten-free brown bread flour, oat milk, yeast, salt, brown sugar, blended cauliflower stems, seeds, psyllium husks, aquafaba and oil. The dough is left to rise for an hour in a 1kg cake tin before being baked for two hours. Getting the texture right when experimenting with gluten-free baking is an uphill struggle. The cauliflower is raw so it releases water when cooked, meaning I had to lower the liquid. So in fact the cauliflower made it harder to get the texture closer to bread!”


Juan Jose Castillo Castro, owner of 83 Hanover Street in Edinburgh, makes Chilean pumpkin bread, also known as sopaipillas: “We combine 300ml of water and 1.5kg of plain flour with 600ml pumpkin that has been boiled until soft and squeezed to remove the excess water, then add 10g yeast, 75g of melted butter and 1 tablespoon of salt to make a dough. You then roll out the dough and cut it into round shapes before frying. It makes up to 40 little flatbreads, which puff up a little bit when you cook them. The pumpkin gives it a bit of flavour and colour (it's traditional to use pumpkin in Chile, but you can also use butternut squash as well). We do it snack size in the restaurant, but in Chile they will serve larger ones. They eat it anywhere and it's considered a comfort food. We serve them with some pebre – a Chilean salsa of onion, coriander, vinegar, garlic and chilli – as a starter when they are still warm. You'll always have pebre and mashed avocado on the table and they go well with the sopaipillas. It's just so simple and you could do the same using other vegetables, like carrot, if you wanted to.”


image credit: Gill Copeland

Isaac Bartlett-Copeland, chef owner of Isaac At in Brighton, makes a treacle and stout loaf using heritage grains: “To make the loaf, we combine 600g strong flour with 300g heritage grains, 19g salt and 37.5g yeast, then add 90g treacle, 412.5g Milk Stout (we use one from Gun Brewery) and 150g water. The ingredients are mixed to form a dough, which is then kneaded for 10 minutes. The dough is then separated into six equal portions, rolled into balls and put into proving baskets. We cover them with a wet cloth and leave until they have doubled in size. They are then turned out and left to rise for a further five minutes before being baked at 200 degrees Celsius for 24 minutes. We use heritage grains from Trenchmore Farm in Cowfold, just up the road from our restaurant in Sussex. They add an incredible maltiness to the flavour of the bread so it's almost a more 'meaty' and denser loaf. We’re not really supposed to eat one specific strand of wheat, which is what you find in a lot of bread in the shops, so using heritage grains with the strong bread flour means there is more of a combination. It's healthier on your gut too. A lot of wheat intolerances come from not exploring more combinations, so the Trenchmore grains are perfect for us. Our Gun Brewery milk stout adds a lot of depth of flavour to the bread and again, more maltiness.”

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