Earlier this month while visiting California I decided to pay a visit to my all-time favorite bakery: Grindstone Bakery. In fact this is the only bakery that I’ve been able to find in the U.S. offering gluten-free, or wheat-free breads, made with wholesome heritage grains, that are both stone-ground and lacto-fermented.
If you’ve read Wheat Belly, then you know that standard wheat used in most baked goods in the United States is a genetically modified grain, pumped with extra gluten for an extra doughy product that may also lead to a doughy GI tract and bulky belly.
Rest assured you’ll find no conventional wheat at Grindstone! Instead the baked goods offered containing low amounts of gluten are made with some combination of sprouted quinoa, flax, rye, barley, buckwheat and spelt. Spelt is often confused as gluten-free, but it’s actually a type of ancestral wheat that has not been modified, so it is very low in gluten but not free of it. Rye and barley are also very low in gluten, while quinoa, flax and buckwheat are in fact gluten-free, as they are all technically seeds.
Meet Mario Repetto: the amicable, kindly and extraordinarily knowledgeable baker and proprietor of Grindstone. I rang him the day before our visit to inquire about the possibility of a tour – Mario insisted that I visit, and that I come when the bread is fresh out of the oven. As soon as I met Mario I could tell that this congenial man was engaged in a labor of love. He was beaming with excitement to show us around and proudly explain every detail of his carefully executed traditional baking methods.
To start Mario explained that he has two mirroring preparation facilities – one for gluten containing grains and the other of course, gluten-free. I really enjoyed that to distinguish between the two, the bakery is painted purple on the gluten-free side and a gorgeous vibrant aqua for the gluten facility.
Next Mario showed off his special stone grinding machine used for making flour from whole grains. This process makes a flour corse enough that it doesn’t effect blood glucose in the same way as finely ground flours (even the so called industrially processed ‘whole grain’ variety). The process also preserves vital nutrients like phytochemicals, bran and doesn’t oxidize the oils present in grain. Above at the top of this article in the banner photos you’ll see a smaller machine against purple, that’s the gluten-free grinder. Next to it is an image of the layout of the two bakeries side by side – the two shall never mix!
We were also privy to Mario’s 13 year old starter culture, which is mixed with each batch of dough and left to lacto-ferment for 24 hours. This process effectively breaks down anti-nutrients such as Phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors.
This step is an extremely valuable piece in Mario’s observance of traditional baking methods, or preparation of grains in general. If you’ve been following my posts, then you already know that the importance of this lies in that when grains are not fermented the Phytic acid combines with minerals present in grains: iron, copper, calcium, magnesium and zinc. As such, blocking their absorption in the intestinal tract, while also robbing you of these minerals as it travels through the GI tract and picks up existing minerals.
Over time this can lead to mineral depletion, which can lead to a plethora of disease. Other crucial benefits of consuming lacto-fermented grains is the neutralization of enzyme inhibitors which interfere with proper digestion and better still, the further reduction of the presence of gluten!
The truth is that our bodies were not designed to break down grains and seeds. What fermentation does is pre-digests these foods for us, so that we can benefit from the invaluable nutrients that are released in the process. In Mario’s words, “Whole Grains have antioxidant levels as high as the richest vegetables or fruits but they are tied up in the bran layer and in the germ. They have to be freed to become bio-available to protect our health.” That is the work of lactic acid, hard working bacteria, known for enabling the process of lacto-fermentation.
How genius is that? Grandma really knew what she was doing! She didn’t need science to tell her how and why. Ah! The beauty of intuition and tradition.
Each golden loaf of bread and every cookie is hand made. Mario has a team of three assistants, which hand knead every batch of dough and carefully weight every 1.5 Lb/ 24 oz loaf. That is at least twice the weight of ordinary bread! Not to mention, exponentially nutritious and delicious.
In addition to the benefits of the traditional baking methods at Grindstone Bakery, rest assured that all ingredients are organic and truly natural. Mario is not just a baker, he’s a chemist and is well aware that most of the ingredients in conventional breads listed as being derived from seemingly natural sources such as corn, are actually man-made chemical concoctions that are not good for the health of the body. This is especially true for gluten-free breads.
Until I found Grindstone I could not find a non-toxic gluten-free bread. Take note that none of the brands found in the gluten-free freezer section claim to be organic or non-GMO. All of them are loaded with corn derived ingredients – I’m positive that these chemical ingredients are coming form GMO corn.
At the end of our tour, Mario gave me, my friend and her son several loaves of bread and piles of cookies. Despite our coaxing, he wouldn’t take a penny for the beautiful baked goods!
How nice that I now know my baker! Since I live in NY, and this is the only bakery I trust or like, I order my bread from Grindstone and freeze it. The bread is completely delectable when toasted, but I’m thrilled that I had an opportunity to try it fresh out of the oven. What joy! You really can’t really compare the experience of fresh bread: perfectly soft and doughy on the inside and crispy outside crust. But I must say that even though this bread has zero preservatives, a couple friends and I were subsisting off of it for several days while traveling and it was just as delicious each day.
Bravo for Mario and Grindstone! Perhaps my favorite quote from our conversation–which really sums up the quality of this man’s character–is that Mario is at retiring age, so although he’s hard at work running the bakery, his motivation is not to seek riches, and as such, has absolutely no desire to grow his bakery to national/ industrial scale. He intends to keep it small, meaning that his profits will also be limited, but what’s most important to Mario is the integrity of his work and the quality of his goods – Mario stands firm in that intention.
To order Mario’s artisanal baked goods or read more about the traditional baking process, please visit Grindstone Bakery >