Irish bakers with a half-century of history behind them are promising to bring some serious (gluten-free) flour power to the United States.
Earlier this year, Promise Gluten Free started selling its celiac-safe loaves in select stores in Washington state and Boston, Massachusetts, with plans to add more regions and retailers in 2020.
The move follows the Ireland-based business’s successful expansion into other countries like Australia and, most recently, Canada. Founded 51 years ago, the business started selling gluten-free bread in 2012.
“We started playing around with recipes for gluten-free bread, in particular,” Promise Gluten Free co-founder Tom Doyle told Gluten-Free Living. “Our motivation being trying to produce a gluten-free bread that tasted as good as regular, wheat-based bread, but — nutritionally — was even better than regular bread.”
At the time, the competition was lacking, says Doyle.
“Gluten-free breads fell into two categories. Either they tasted awful, were dry, dense and would fall apart if you tried to butter them or…some of the newer breads were maybe a bit better tasting and less prone to falling apart.”
However, the better-tasting bread wasn’t necessarily better for you.
“Manufacturers were achieving that taste by loading the breads with fat and sugar, which improved the moisture of the bread, but nutritionally that turned the bread into junk food,” says Doyle.
Crafting tasty bread that also didn’t have the nutritional profile of a candy bar was important to the business, notes Doyle, because celiac disease disproportionality affects Ireland. According to The Coeliac Society of Ireland, approximately one in 100 Irish people has celiac disease, with more likely undiagnosed.
“We have much higher instances of celiac in Ireland than in most parts of the world,” says Doyle. “All of us here have got friends with celiac or family with celiac. This means that there was a little more emotion for us attached to finding a good quality product.”
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where those with the condition are unable to consume gluten, a protein found in some grains, without experiencing symptoms such as stomach pain and bloating. Left untreated, celiac disease can permanently damage the intestinal lining. Currently, the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet.
All of Promise Gluten Free’s bread is made in a facility designed to meet a stricter set of standards for gluten-free products. Instead of meeting the industry standard of less than 20 parts per million of gluten, which is deemed a safe level for those with celiac, the business works to meet a gluten level of less than 5 parts per million.
“We’re not critical of the less than 20 parts per million,” says Doyle. “We operate at a much stricter standard.”
So, how does the business bake a loaf of bread sans gluten that’s tasty, but also better for you? Doyle says the key difference is time.
The bread undergoes a fermentation process that lasts roughly 20 hours. In bread baking, fermentation occurs when yeast takes sugar and converts it into carbon dioxide and alcohol. This process is what causes the dough to rise. When it comes to bread baking, a lengthy fermentation process leads to better taste, better texture and better quality.
“That does a few things,” says Doyle. “You get a sourdough-type eating experience without the strong sourdough flavor. It also means we don’t need to add fat and sugar as binders. That’s a lot of time to bind together and it’s what the gives the bread a really great taste.”
Doyle says the business is currently speaking with a number of retailers in different areas of the U.S. and hopes to have Promise Gluten Free in many more stores later this year. Right now, Promise Gluten Free is available in select Shaw’s and Star Markets on the East Coast and Albertsons and Safeway on the West Coast.
For more information on Promise Gluten Free, click here.