This is the first in a series. Within each Great British Gluten Free Bake Off products from two artisanal gluten-free bakeries will be blind taste-tested by a panel and the findings shared. This is an excuse to try out lots of lovely things and celebrate the very best of them. If you would like to join as a panel member for future Bake Off episodes, you can! Join the London Gluten Free Meetup Club.
It is wonderful that there are lots and lots of bakeries to include in this series. How many? Look!
Any missing? Tell me!
Bakeries with Nationwide Delivery
Bakeries with London Delivery or collection only
Unbakeries (raw foods)
24 freshly baked savoury and sweet items suitable for take-away was sourced from the two bakeries and blind tasting facilitated for a panel of 5 tasters. Other than me, tasters did not know which bakery each bake came from. One of our judges was a non gluten-free eater and therefore an excellent barometer for whether bakes were great considering they were gluten-free or simply great. *Mostly* they were simply great.
Beyond Bread opened their first venue at Charlotte Place close to Tottenham Court Road in 2014 and their second on Upper Street, Islington late 2016. They both offer food to take away but are wonderful, smart looking, comfortable places to eat-in too. Quiche, soup, salads, sandwiches, cakes, pastries and muffins fill out the menu and are complimented by a tantalising range of teas. They have the most charismatically named sandwiches such as ‘The Usual Suspects’ for ham and cheese and the vegetarian ‘Bad Hunter’ (no meat, see?). Also love that they removed their scones from their menu for several months after opening because they were not satisfied with them. Fear not, they are back.
Artisan Gluten Free Bakery have a single venue also on Upper Street, Islington but some of their breads are retailed via Wholefoods and are available for order online. It is delightful to see these people at many free from events such as the Allergy Show and when an entire cabinet filled with their bread appeared in Wholefoods Piccadilly I stood still and mute thinking I had just witnessed a major milestone in the gluten-free food movement. I think their ever-popular sausage and spinach rolls pretty sell out wherever they take them!
Great British Gluten Free Bake Off Episode 1 – Savouries
From Beyond Bread we had a Goats Cheese Veggie quiche, a Ham & Leek quiche and a Sweet Potato & Quinoa Burger. From Artisan Gluten Free Bakery a Sausage Roll and a Spinach Roll.
Both the Sausage and Spinach rolls were 5 Star hits thanks to great crusty, crunchy pastry, tasty sausage and creamy, contrasting spinach filling. As a mark of how great they were one of our judges departed our “take tiny bites” approach needed to pace ourselves through the many samples to come and finished off the sausage roll.
The pretty pair of quiches both earned 4 Stars. Their pastry was very soft and slightly sweet. Filling was smooth and creamy with generous quantity of the veggies, ham and leek. Also not too salty! Texture was melt in the mouth. Despite my love for Beyond Bread sandwiches I am now going to experience buyers remorse whenever I choose one instead of a quiche. Wait . . . Beyond Bread, could you offer a Quiche-Wich? I don’t think that is a thing yet. Make it so!
The Sweet Potato and Quinoa Burger was curiously laced with cranberries. The texture offered a contrasting crispy crunch on the outside and softness on the inside. One judge adored the flavour but the rest of us found that the striking sweetness of the cranberries conflicted with our expectations of a savoury food. We thought it would have been better without the cranberries and decided upon 3 Stars.
Advantage – Slight advantage to Artisan Gluten Free Bakery
Great British Gluten Free Bake Off Episode 1 – Cakes & Muffin
There was just one lonely muffin, a Blueberry Muffin from Beyond Bread, within our goodie-basket. It was 5 Star gorgeous and in fact received the highest ratings of any product of all that we tried. This humble muffin took first place! Light, airy, moist, spongy, not too sweet but bursting with blueberry-ness. Other muffins reading this should take note and be inspired.
Another 5 Star delight from Beyond Bread was their Cheesecake. Aside from the gluten-free base the ingredients were conventional – butter, cream cheese, eggs, whipped cream. It was soft, smooth, silky, melt in the mouth. A simple thing produced excellently.
Also lovely were the Lemon Drizzle Cake and Brownie from Beyond Bread, each receiving 4 Stars. The Brownie was made from Black Beans and sweetened with Maple Syrup and the result was a slightly cakey brownie with the taste pleasingly dominated by chocolate rather than sugar. It is simply fantastic to see Beyond Bread experimenting with a black bean brownie.
Confession to fellow judges – I kept a Carrot Cake from Beyond Bread in my fridge and forgot to serve it. Trust me on this though, it was deserving of 5 Stars. It was everything a Carrot Cake should be, moist, soft, carroty cake and thick, creamy, cream cheese topping. I am willing to try it again and again as many times as people wish to challenge me on this :-P
The outcome in this category is a little unfair since we did not test anything from Artisan Gluten Free Bakery but the range from Beyond Bread were so gorgeous it is difficult to imagine they could be beaten so . . .
Advantage – Beyond Bread
Great British Gluten Free Bake Off Episode 1 – Scones
Before we started tasting I presented our judges with a challenge. Hidden within all our artisanal delights was a single store-bought product. Could they pick it out? Would it be given away by appearance, aroma, taste or texture? Only I knew it was one of the scones and these were from Marks & Spencer. Of 4 judges, all but 1 was fooled by other things. 1 picked it out, well done Katie! The almost successful subterfuge was a compliment to the Marks & Spencer scones rather than a criticism of the others as all were pleasing.
The Artisan Gluten Free Bakery scone was distinctively enormous and could easily have been cut into thirds rather than halves before receiving its blessing of jam and cream! Although all the scones received 4 Stars this one received just a teensy bit more love than the others.
Advantage – Tied!
Great British Gluten Free Bake Off Episode 1 – Pastries
There were two stand-outs. An Apricot Danish from Artisan Gluten Free Bakery was just amazing. The intensely vibrantly tasty apricot filling wowed us all. For me it evoked for me a passionate desire for more apricots and made me think and long for summer. This was the second highest rated product overall and easily awarded 5 Stars.
Beyond Bread gave us the most beautiful bake of them all via their Raspberry Danish. Here too the Raspberries were intensely flavoursome. It could not quite match the wonder of the preceding Apricot Danish but easily deserved 4 Stars.
Other 4 Stars within this group were a Chocolate Custard Twist Danish from Beyond Bread and a Pain Au Chocolate from Artisan Gluten Free Bakery. Apple & Cherry Danishes, Pain Au Raisins and Cinnamon Buns were not bad at 3 Stars but certainly outdone by others.
When speaking with a lovely lady from Artisan Gluten Free Bakery in advance and being offered choices of what we could have at some point the word ‘Croissant’ was spoken. I immediately replied ‘Impossible’! There is no such thing as a Gluten Free Croissant. I offered as evidence the entirely non-Croissant like things that Genius used to sell as Croissants.
These Croissants were certainly among the best we had tried that were gluten free but . . . not a patch on memories of those made with gluten. I hope that Artisan Gluten Free Bakery keep trying though and if these were warmed up and served with butter inside they are probably as good as it gets. Gluten-Free people, we can have lots of things, we cannot have great Croissants.
The one other product that did not delight us and earned only 2 Stars was an Apple and Blackberry Turnover, also from Artisan Gluten Free Bakery.
Advantage – Tied!
Great British Gluten Free Bake Off Episode 1 – Overall
Within future Bake-Off tests I may declare a winner but in this contest and based on the products we tried they are almost inseparable. Artisan Gluten-Free Bakery took a slight edge amongst the superb savouries and had a knockout Danish pastry. Beyond Bread wowed us with their marvellous Muffin, gorgeous Cakes and wonderful presentation. The only winner that needs to be announced this time are people eating gluten-free, anyone living nearby these places and anyone that makes the smart decision to visit them for a treat.
Much love to Beyond Bread and Artisan Gluten Free Bakery and my fellow taste-testing judges!