We use unique formulations in our bread and pizza products that do not rely on traditional rice flour or gluten free grain-based mixtures. Commercial grain-based products require the use of gums and/or industrial ingredients like enzyme formulations or chemical leaveners to bind, moisten, and lighten the bread.
It isn't better—it is just different. It allows us to make bread with all natural ingredients and eliminates the need to use gums and other industrialized ingredients. Grains like rice, millet, sorghum, teff, and amaranth are typically dead weight in gluten free dough. They require gums to keep the dough together and leaveners to make them rise.
We don't use grains at all; hence, the name "Against The Grain." We create our bread and pizza using only tapioca starch and buckwheat, combining these with other all natural ingredients. Buckwheat is neither a form of wheat, nor is it a grain. It is an herb cultivated for its triangular seeds that are ground and used like wheat.
Fresh, whole eggs.
Protein is critical to creating crumb-like bread structure. Protein can come either from animal or plant sources. Because we are using all natural ingredients and not using grains, we need to add the protein back in. The proteins are responsible for creating the great texture of our bread, the crustiness of our baguettes, and for making it light and airy.
Fats are critical to gluten free bread products if they are to taste better than cardboard.
Their role is multi-faceted:
Not really. Our breads contain no trans fats. The fats in our breads are "good" fats that come from farm-fresh eggs and rgBH and antibiotic-free dairy sources, as well as expeller-pressed non-GMO canola oil. The dairy sources also include considerable protein.
No, the most recent scientific data indicate that dietary fat and dietary cholesterol are not related to weight gain and cholesterol levels. There are good calories and bad calories, and the worst are refined carbohydrates, which increase insulin resistance and lead to the build up of fat. Our breads actually contain significantly less grams of carbohydrates than competing products. For additional information, read either of Gary Taubes books:
Good Calories, Bad Calorie: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health (2008) or Why People Get Fat (2010).
No, we use only tomato paste (vine-ripened fresh tomatoes and naturally-derived citric acid from tomatoes.)
We use ground sunflower seeds instead of nuts.
We use fresh milk, fresh whole eggs, fresh cheese, fresh rosemary, fresh basil, and fresh garlic. We do not use any prepared ingredients or industrial ingredient formulations that are engineered to appear as "natural" in an ingredient label. Other manufacturers use stabilized ingredients such as powdered milk, powdered or boxed eggs because they lend themselves to industrial production methods. It is very challenging to work with fresh ingredients since they change every day, but we believe that you can taste the difference.
Some of our eggs are cage free--we use fresh whole eggs from Maple Meadow Farms in Salisbury, VT. They raise both cage-free and caged hens. We do not buy from huge egg factories with sub-standard conditions. The Humane Society standard for caged hens is 76 cubic inches per hen. Maple Meadow provides each hen with 84 cubic inches of space. Maple Meadow's hens also produce significantly more eggs per hen than the standard because their hens are healthy—they are given plenty of rest and are not stressed.
Tapioca is a starch extracted from the roots of the cassava or manioc plant, which is the third largest source of carbohydrates worldwide. Tapioca starch does not have a lot of nutritional value, but it does contain significant amounts of iron and calcium as well as a small amount of omega3/omeg6 fatty acids. We buy our tapioca in large lots from a single production run and a single production facility in Thailand. We receive with each shipment a Certificate of Analysis that reports on any impurities and microbiological counts. The facility we buy from has an independent lab test each batch.
Our milk comes from McNamara Dairy in Plainfield, NH. It is a third generation family farm with 140-herd of milking cows. They pasteurize, homogenize, and bottle at their own milk. All milk products are grade A and contain no hormones or preservatives. Before bottling, the milk is tested for antibiotics by law. If a cow is sick, a veterinarian is called and, if necessary, the cow is treated with antibiotics. Its milk is held until it tests negative for antibiotics.
There is a great deal of misinformation and unfounded assertions concerning canola oil that can be found on the Internet.
To clarify, canola is a naturally edible oil and is not the same as rapeseed. Rather, it was selectively bred botanically from the rapeseed plant to have a low erucic acid content. The name "canola" is short for "canadian oil low acid." It has a unique and different fatty acid profile: rapeseed is a polyunsaturate, and canola oil is a monounsaturate (as is olive oil.) Canola is considered one of the most heart-healthy oils, and there is ample nutritional research to back that assertion. Unlike other vegetable oils, canola oil does not elevate your omega 6 dietary levels, so it helps you maintain a healthy omega3/omega6 ratio.
Although 80% of the canola oil crops in North America are genetically modified to tolerate herbicides, at Against The Grain, we use expeller-pressed, non-GMO canola oil. It is a significantly more costly ingredient, but it is the healthiest possible alternative. Expeller pressed means it is extracted from the seed by a mechanical press rather than using a chemical extraction process so it is minimally-processed and contains no chemical residues. It is kept at temperatures under 120 degrees F during the extraction.
Here is some very accessible information from the Mayo Clinic, a website with content that has been reviewed by some of the most respected physicians in the world, who have no reason to have any agenda. www.mayoclinic.org:
"Health concerns about canola oil are unfounded. Canola oil, which is extracted from the seeds of the canola plant, is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.
Misinformation about canola oil may stem from the fact that the canola plant was developed through crossbreeding with the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed oil contains very high levels of erucic acid, a compound that in large amounts can be toxic to humans. Canola oil, however, contains very low levels of erucic acid.
Canola oil is also low in saturated fat and has a high proportion of monounsaturated fat, which makes it a healthy and safe choice when it comes to cooking oils."
Note that the Mayo Clinic folks specifically say the canola plant has been developed by crossbreeding, a botanical technique used by farmers for thousands of years. This not genetic engineering.
We use high quality low fat mozzarella cheese and Parmesan made from the milk of dairy cows that are routinely veterinarian inspected for the presence of rBGH. No animal rennet is used in the cheese-making process for any of our cheeses. Our cheeses have no added growth hormones, no anti-caking agents, and are free of natamycin (an anti-molding agent). Our cheddar cheese is produced in Vermont by Cabot Cheese, a cooperative of small, Vermont family farms.
We use organic coconut milk as a base in our dairy free products, which is an interesting and healthful ingredient. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines coconut as a nut for allergy purposes, it is not a nut. It is a seed. Organic coconut milk is best for two reasons: it is grown using sustainable farming methods without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and it does not contain preservatives. Coconut milk contains a fair amount of saturated fat, but it is a good saturated fat, easily metabolized by the body. The main, medium-chain fatty acid in coconut milk is lauric acid, which is known for its antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.
Our products are free of soy, corn, rice, xanthan gum, enzymes, rBGH, antibiotics, preservatives, trans fats, tree nuts, peanuts, and industrialized ingredients.
Our facility is peanut and tree-nut free. We manufacture no products using these ingredients, and no foods containing these substances are allowed in our facility. Inbound seed ingredients are inspected for any possible contamination.
Our products contain no corn, soy, or rice. Although we produce no products containing these ingredients, we do not prohibit employees from bringing foods containing these ingredients into our facility for their personal consumption in the employee lounge.
The majority of our products contain eggs. However, our pita bread is made without eggs.
Our Cinnamon Raisin Bagels and Vermont Country Rolls are the only products that do not contain dairy. Those products that are dairy-free are clearly labeled as such on the product packaging with red banners. We take great care in the production of our dairy-free products to prevent contamination.
Although all our products are produced in our own, dedicated gluten-free facility, we routinely have our finished products tested by an independent, third party laboratory for the presence of gluten and casein (for the dairy free products). We use Bia Diagnostics Laboratory in Burlington, VT, which also does the testing for the Gluten Intolerance Group certification and the Gluten Free Certification Organization certification. We test for the presence of gluten using the R5 ELISA Sandwich Assay, which has been validated by the Prolamin Working Group of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. This assay is the most sensitive available and tests for the presence of gluten to 5ppm.
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. These organisms go through genetic engineering and have had their genetic makeup (DNA) altered in ways that do not occur in nature or through traditional cross-breeding methods. For example, genetic engineers have transferred genes from a bacterium known as Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, into the DNA of corn. Bt genes express a protein that kills insects, and transferring the genes allows the corn to produce its own pesticide. So, foods that contain GMOs are supposed to make bigger and better food with less work.
We are not scientists here at Against The Grain Gourmet, but when we look at this we can't help to think that this is another way to further industrialize and consolidate our food and agriculture system. At Against The Grain Gourmet, we believe ingredients are best the way nature intended – organically grown and straight from the farm as much as possible.
We have concerns that increasing GMO crops come at the expense of smaller farms. Our mission is to support local family farms, and we will continue to support local family farms. Instead of mandatory standards that are prohibitively expensive for our local farmers, we are simply developing our own standards to avoid the use of GMO ingredients.
When we refer to a "GMO" (or "genetically modified organism") we are using this term as most popularly used and widely understood in the US: an organism that has been created with techniques that allow DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
"Non-GMO by Origin" refers to seed sources that have not undergone genetic modification. Either the crop is not commercially available as a GMO crop or, if the option is available, refers to the non-GMO version. Traceability to the original non-GMO seed source is key. This is the standard that Against The Grain Gourmet adheres to when sourcing our ingredients.
Where an ingredient in any of our products is not specifically certified as non-GMO or organic, it is considered a low risk ingredient for genetic modification.
All of our suppliers provide us a statement saying their product is either non-GMO or organic. All of our major ingredients are non-GMO as defined by the Non-GMO Project, with the exception of our milk, eggs, cheese, and pepperoni. We cannot warrant that the animal sources of these proteins have not been fed GMO grains, although our milk source is 95% organic-fed. We know the suppliers of these ingredients well, and ensure that the animals are humanely treated and antibiotic free.
In the US, it is common practice for animal feed to contain GMO ingredients such as corn. Our position on the use of GMOs in animal feed is in line with current regulations in most countries with mandatory GMO labeling requirements, including the European Union, which do not require milk and dairy to be labeled as GMO when derived from animals fed GMO feed. This is also consistent with Vermont law on GMO labeling. Specifically, products from animals fed GMO feed do not need to be labeled as containing GMO ingredients.
We source our milk and eggs from local family farmers. Our milk comes from McNamara Dairy, a small family owned dairy farm on the Connecticut River in New Hampshire, which produces and processes their own milk. Their cows are well treated, and their milk contains no BHT, rBGH, or preservatives. Our eggs come from Maple Meadow Farm, a family owned farm. They take great pride in providing a quality shell egg and have 65,000 hens laying eggs in their barns. By Vermont standards this is very large, but by national standards they are tiny. Being small allows them to remain family operated, focused on their products and the clients to whom they sell.
Our cheese is sourced from a company whose products are free of BHT, rBGH, and do not contain any preservatives or anti-caking agents. Our pepperoni is sourced from a company that only works with humane and antibiotic-free suppliers.
The consumer movement for transparency and the right to know what is in our food supply is growing, and we are proud to stand along side and help with this. We believe it is a fundamental right to know what is in the products you buy and the foods you eat. While most of our ingredients are already sourced non-GMO, we feel it is important to communicate clearly what we use for our products and the various attributes of each. Please see our Ingredient Page for a listing of all our products and the ingredient attributes in each product, such as Non-GMO, Local, Organic, and so on. You'll see why we're proud of all the ingredients in our products.