Naturbit is a craft, artisanal bakery with a fully gluten-free range also featuring many vegan options. Naturbit also offer bakes that are ‘Free 14’ meaning free from all 14 major allergens. No gluten, no dairy, no eggs, soy or nuts. Most important of course, none of that demon celery.
I sampled a lovely basket of Naturbit bakes for this taste test report. It was my *first* time tasting anything from Naturbit. I *almost* tried Naturbit mince pies within a comprehensive taste-test of Gluten Free Mince Pies.
Sad story follows. I bought a dozen Naturbit Mince Pies to sample and picked them up whilst at work. Two of my work colleagues tried and loved them. Despite being entranced by their lovely looks and aroma I deferred gratification until I could get home from work. Tragedy prevented me from actually eating them. My work office has a Friday 5pm ‘anything left in the fridge gets thrown out’ rule. I left my boxes of mince pies in the fridge at work, forgot about them, and at 5pm they were duly trashed. Regret. Sadness.
Lesson learned. Always eat all of the mince pies you buy before 5pm. Yes, it is possible I may be getting this lesson confused with the do not feed after midnight rule for Mogwai from Gremlins.
Memories of lost Mince Pies and appreciation for a bakery offering vegan gluten-free treats prompted me to treat myself and friends to a generous sample of the Naturbit range. Together with three non-free-from eaters I took on the challenge of sampling a Carrot Cake, three Cupcakes and Sourdough. Some challenges are more welcome than others!
What makes a great carrot cake? Fresh carroty juiciness and sweetness. Wonderful textural contrast between the cake sponge, added raisins and crushed nuts and generous creamy topping. Being moist. For some, notable notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. For me, all the above, plus the critical feature of it being on a plate in front of me and accompanied by a cup of green tea to sip in between delicious bites.
The Naturbit Carrot Cake excels at some of these despite being both gluten and dairy free. Textural variety is wonderful. Moist sponge generously punctuated by softer vine fruits and crunchy nut pieces. Velvety buttercream-like dairy-free topping. Lovely. Spiciness is dialled in low. I would enjoy more but it is probably best just as it is for broader appeal. Easy to dust a little extra over the topping should your preferences incline that way.
Greatly appreciated within all Cupcakes tried is at least one notable flavour note complimenting pleasant sweetness. The sweetness is in the background like a chorus. Present and pleasing but not overwhelming flavours from other ingredients. The sponge part of each Cupcake was also moist but not clammy or sticky. Easy to eat with a fork, spoon or fingers!
Coffee & Walnut Cupcake is my personal favourite of the cupcakes tried. Gorgeous coffee flavour is the star of the show rather than basic sweetness and the flavour emerges early both within the sponge and the cream topping. Walnut pieces add crunchy, earthy, nutty pleasure and the cream is wonderful compliment to each bite.
Combining anything with Chocolate is in my opinion, fraught with danger. Chocolate is so delicious by itself. Some combinations do work well however. Chocolate & sea salt, chocolate & caramel. The Chocolate Orange Cupcake definitely captures the delicious alchemical magic of the chocolate and orange combination. I must one day blind taste-test these Cupcakes against the Chocolate Orange Brownies from Cookies & Scream. Frankly, I might need to sample many of each before being absolutely sure which I prefer. More of a journey than a destination.
The Lemon & Poppy Seed Cupcake is a contrast to the darker, deeper flavours. Bright, light & lemony sweet topping with an earthier poppy rich sponge. Lovers of sweet & sour taste combinations may prefer more lemon zest and more lemon overall. Disclosure – I am very happy to eat fresh lemons just as they are and even small quantities of lime.
The Naturbit sourdough is a genuine sourdough made from a living, breathing (thinking?) sourdough starter. This already makes it very different from many breads sold as Sourdough made using a one-off quick-start sourdough powder.
I maintained a gluten-free sourdough starter for several years. I frequently added kefir to my starter the day before baking to boost the bacteria. Within my bread mix I used a 50 / 50 ratio of starter to flour which is extreme by any measure. To that I would add apple cider vinegar and then let the bread mix sit for 8 hours in a warm environment before baking.
So my benchmark for sourdough is quite possibly one of the most sour sourdoughs the world has known. I adored it. Fellow sourness lovers adored it. I did need to *warn* people before allowing them to sample it. Get ready. Take a nibble first. It was not for everyone.
So I am unlikely to find other sourdough breads to be a match to my own taste. For me the Naturbit sourdough is a very mild sourdough. I do like the texture which is like that of a European style rye-bread. Dense, chewy, firm & substantial. Great for scooping up hummus or being dipped into oil and herbs or dukkah. Marta tells me that folks who sampled her sourdough at the Allergy Show in 2016 commented on how strongly sour it was, a tribute to how variable individual perception of taste and flavour is!
My vote remains, crank up that sourness! I have also suggested making a Sourdough heavily laced with flavour enhancers such as artichokes, olives & sundried tomatoes.
How to Buy Naturbit Bakes
Visit Naturbit UK.com and know that although there is a delicious range of products offered Marta of Naturbit will almost surely welcome any requests you might have for other vegan, gluten-free or nut free bakes.
For the fresh bakes delivery is offered within South East London and Catford area. I hope availability will broaden in the future, and it might! See the Q&A that follows for hope . . .
Q&A with Marta of Naturbit
Marta is the baker and entrepreneur of Naturbit and I took the opportunity to learn a bit about her motivations and plans for the future.
Benjamin: What is your personal motivation for baking free from gluten, dairy and often eggs and nuts?
Marta: I am wheat, gluten, yeast and dairy intolerant myself and been on a gluten and wheat free diet since 2009. I try my best to make my bakes available to as many people as possible, and since the number of people living with multiple intolerances is on the rise, it makes sense to bake without allergens.
Originally my father developed our MIMEN range ( Multiple Intolerances Managed to be Enjoyed and to Nourish), because he was diagnosed with many allergies himself and he was struggling with ill health. He already was running our certified gluten free factory in Hungary, so the next step was to build a new factory, dedicated to produce our top 14 allergen free and vegan MIMEN range.
Benjamin: What are the biggest challenges of baking a vegan, gluten free cake or muffin?
Marta: The chemistry of the ingredients while baking and the behaviour of the bake once it’s ready. It takes some time to experiment and learn what works best, what gives you a satisfying result. Some things just can’t be done with a gf/ vegan bake. You just go for the best that is possible.
Benjamin:Tell me about it, there is no such thing as a gluten-free croissant, right? In place of a refined sugar, what sweetener do you prefer and why?
Marta: It has to be unrefined cane sugar. Without sugar, my bakes don’t work, sadly. Tons of bakes ended in the bin, while my father experimented with using various sweeteners in our flour mixes, and some I tried myself. You can get away with honey or other sweet syrups in a gf brownie, because you are after a sticky and dense texture anyways, but not if you are after a spongy , light texture. The sugar gives the rise during baking. Stevia or erythritol doesn’t do the job either.
Benjamin: I love erythritol and one day I will learn to spell it without Google autocorrect. However baking is chemistry and I totally understand the need for cane sugar. What bake are you most proud of? What would you feature on the Great British Gluten-Free & Vegan bake-off such a thing existed?!
Marta: My top 14 allergen free and vegan pies and tartlets are a real success, and my mince pies during the Christmas season received a lots of praise, also the one that is closest to my heart is my sourdough bread. I use my own sourdough, which is just over a year old, and has been improving on the bread a lot. Sourdough also keeps the bread fresh and soft for a week, which is a bonus 🙂
Benjamin: What is next for Naturbit? What can we look forward to?
Marta: My dream is to open my own allergen free and vegan cafe, where everybody, even those without an allergy, can be included, and can enjoy everything on the menu, without having to ask for a “free from ” option.
Benjamin: Sounds good, hope to hear great news about that soon! Keep baking delicious things Marta!