What makes Against the Grain’s products different from other gluten free breads and pizza?
We use a unique formulation in our bread and pizza products that does not rely on traditional rice flour or gluten free grain-based mixtures. Grain-based products require either the use of gums (guar gum or xanthan gum) and/or industrial ingredients like enzyme formulations or chemical leaveners to bind, moisten, and lighten the bread.
What grains does Against The Grain use instead?
We don’t use grains at all; hence the name “Against The Grain.” We use only tapioca starch with all natural ingredients to create our breads.
So what makes your bread rise?
Fresh, whole eggs.
Why is tapioca better than rice and grain-based formulations?
I wouldn’t say it is better—it is just different. It does, however, allow 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 doughs. They require gums to keep the dough together and leaveners to make them rise.
Starches are how plants store glucose—starches are simply sugars hooked together. They can be stored either as:
- Long straight chains (amylose) like rice, which crystallize when cooled and lose water when thawed.
- Small, branched shapes (amylopectin) like tapioca that freeze and thaw easily without losing water.
Why do you add milk, eggs, and cheese?
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.
What about fats? Why is there fat in your bread—actually in all gluten free breads?
Fats are critical to gluten free bread products if they are to taste better than cardboard. Their role is multi-faceted:
- Fats produce a moister crumb
- Fats increase shelf-life
- Fats leaven–increase the gas-holding ability of doughs
- Fats act as spacers, holding starch granules apart
- Fats carry flavors and hold flavors in the mouth
Should I be concerned about the amount of fat in your bread?
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.
But, doesn’t the fat make you fat and elevate your cholesterol?
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).
Do you use sugar in your pizza sauce?
No, we use only tomato paste (vine-ripened fresh tomatoes and naturally-derived citric acid.)
How do you make pesto without nuts?
We use ground sunflower seeds instead of nuts.
What do you mean by the statement that you use fresh ingredients?
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, and the like because they lend themselves to industrial production methods. We have to admit that it is very challenging to work with fresh ingredients since they change every day, but we believe that you can taste the difference.
You use canola oil. I’ve heard that is bad.
A lot of unfounded assertions concerning canola oil 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.) It 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 contains no chemical residues. It is kept at temperatures under 120 degrees F during the extraction.
Do you use cage-free eggs?
No, we use fresh whole eggs from a small family egg farm that we know and trust. We do not buy from huge egg factories with sub-standard conditions. Our eggs come from Maple Meadow Farms in Salisbury, VT www.maplemeadowfarms.com. Maple Meadows is a second generation family farm with 65,000 laying hens and eleven employees. They raise both caged and cage free hens. The Humane Society standard for caged hens is 76 cubic inches per hen. Maple Meadow follows and exceeds their guidelines, providing each hen with 84 cubic inches of space. Their 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.
What about bovine growth hormone and antibiotics in your milk?
Our milk comes from McNamara Dairy in Plainfield, NH www.mcnamaradairy.com. McNamara Dairy is a third generation farm with 140 herd of milking cows. They pasteurize, homogenize, and bottle at their own farm, and we receive it within 24 hours of production. All milk products produced 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 in and, if necessary, the cow is treated with antibiotics. The milk of that cow is then held until it tests negative for the presence of antibiotics.
What exactly is tapioca, and where does it come from?
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 buy only from that facility, and receive with each shipment a Certificate of Analysis that reports on any impurities and microbiological counts. The facility has an independent lab, OMIC Bangkok Laboratory http://www.omicfoodsafety.com/html_eng/bankoku.html test each batch.
Are your cheeses rgBH-free and do they use animal rennet?
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 rgBH. 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 natamycin (anti-molding agent) free. Our cheddar cheese is produced in Vermont by Cabot Cheese www.cabotcheese.coop, a cooperative of small Vermont family farms.
What do you use in your dairy-free products instead of milk and cheese?
We use organic coconut milk as a base in our dairy free products. What 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.
Do you have allergen handling policies?
Yes, we have policies for handling gluten, dairy, coconut, tree nuts, and peanuts. No tree nuts, peanuts, or wheat in any form is allowed in our facility. We bake all of our products in our 100% dedicated gluten free facility, and we do not purchase any, in the words of Michael Pollan, “edible food-like substances.” Our facility was built solely for the purpose of gluten free food manufacturing, and we purchased all of our production equipment new—we do not have any refurbished or used equipment that may have previously been used with gluten-based products.
Our raw materials and ingredients come into a loading dock area separate from our production facility, and although they are in sealed packaging, are inspected upon arrival for any possible cross-contamination. Employees are not permitted to bring any products on the premises that may contain gluten or peanuts and tree nuts. Employees are also required to wear protective head covering, protective clothes covering, and keep a dedicated pair of “work” shoes at our facility.
Our gluten free and gluten-free/dairy free products are run on the same equipment, but the equipment is broken down, thoroughly washed and inspected by hand, and then sanitized between products. Dedicated containers are used for the coconut milk and are never used for our dairy-based products.
Could you summarize what your products are free of?
Our products are free of the following:
- Xanthan Gum
- Trans Fats
- Tree Nuts/Peanuts
- Industrial Ingredients
How do you handle peanuts and tree nuts?
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.
How do you handle yeast, corn, soy, rice, and sugar?
Our products contain no yeast, corn, soy, rice, or sugar. 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.
Do all your products include eggs?
Yes, all of our products contain eggs.
Is it easy to tell which products don’t contain dairy?
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.
Is your facility gluten free certified or do you test for gluten?
We routinely have our products tested by an independent, third party laboratory for the presence of gluten and casein (for the dairy free products.) Our products are tested by 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.
About Against The Grain
Who is Against the Grain Gourmet?
We are a celiac-owned family business, located in Brattleboro, VT. Like you, we have to navigate our way through the maze of specialty and mainstream gluten free products, some excellent, some not so good, some we trust implicitly, some that have given us reason to doubt them. We make all of our products ourselves in a dedicated gluten free facility, with all new equipment, that we built from the ground up. Everyday, we eat what we make. You won’t find a higher quality gluten free bread than ours, from the cleanliness of the label, to the integrity of our ingredients, to the passionate care of our employees who are paid excellent wages and are provided with health insurance, paid sick and personal days, as well as paid holidays and two weeks of vacation.
We strongly believe in supporting our local economy and family farms. We buy all of our ingredients, supplies and services locally whenever possible and don’t cut costs at their expense. We work with Efficiency Vermont to source the most energy-efficient heating, cooling, lighting, and equipment, and recycling is one employee’s dedicated part-time job. However, we still have not figured out what to do with the tons (literally) of egg shells we produce.
How Long Have You Been in Business?
Our company was founded in 2005, and we began shipping in 2006. Initially, our breads were sold in New England, and then we expanded our distribution as interest in our products grew. Breads were our first products, followed by the introduction of pizza shells. Our prepared pizzas were introduced in June, 2010. In October, 2010, we launched a new line of dairy free breads made with organic coconut milk. Our distribution expanded into the Western part of the country in January, 2011 when Whole Foods selected our pizzas for national introduction.
Do You Have A Gluten Free Baking Philosophy?
Most definitely! Against The Grain is committed to baking gluten free products using the natural properties of real foods. We combine innovative, artisan baking techniques with naturally gluten free ingredients to stabilize, bind, and leaven our breads. In fact, we don’t use a single ingredient that you couldn’t find in your own pantry. The result is a line of products with absolutely no compromise in taste, quality, and texture.
We bake everything from scratch, including making our own pesto and pizza sauces. Indeed, we spend a good amount of time chopping, shredding, pouring, and blending our ingredients, as well as cracking farm-fresh eggs. There are no boxed or powdered eggs and milk here, and there is no question that you can taste the difference.
We’re not interested in imitating gluten-based products typical of the industrial food chain: you won’t find industrial formulations in our breads, like enzymes, modified starches, and “natural” mold inhibitors. In the words of Jamie Oliver, “Don’t worry if the food you bought begins to spoil, worry if it doesn’t.”