Prepared Foods talks with Jonathan Davis, senior vice president of research and development for ARYZTA LLC. Davis studied at the California Culinary Academy, San Francisco, before joining Nancy Silverton at La Brea Bakery when it opened more than 25 years ago. Last year saw La Brea Bakery introduce its first two gluten free items: White Sliced Sandwich Bread and Multigrain Sliced Sandwich Bread.

Prepared Foods: Our culinary feature examines ancient grains and gluten free products. This topic also must be top of mind for you.

Jonathan Davis: Developing a gluten free bread for La Brea Bakery was a close, personal issue for me. I have family members who have to adhere to a gluten free diet, so it was important for me that we create a gluten free bread that actually tasted good. 

We worked for months to find the right combination of ingredients that yielded a bread with the right texture and taste, because at the core, La Brea Bakery strives to make delicious bread. The resulting gluten free breads are moist and flavorful. 

We currently offer gluten free White Sliced Sandwich Bread and Multigrain Sliced Sandwich Bread. As we look ahead to 2017, we are hoping to expand our gluten free options into different sandwich platforms like individual rolls and possibly extend to sweet goods.

PF: Have you reached a gold standard for product quality? More work to do?

Davis: In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in gluten allergies and therefore more and more bakeries have started providing gluten free options. The complaint that we’ve heard time and time again is that gluten free bread has poor texture and bad taste, which is why we took time perfecting our two gluten free bread options. Our texture is unmatched and the bread accomplishes the goal of tasting like actual bread. Customer demands for gluten free bread options remains high, so creating new gluten free bread lines is always top of mind for La Brea Bakery. 

PF: Last year also saw La Brea Bakery debut several foodservice items. Do those use ancient grains?

Davis: Yes, one of the new items is an ancient grain sandwich roll. We want to provide options for our foodservice customers that represent the most recent trends. 

Speaking of ancient grains, some of these grains can be polarizing if used individually and we needed to find the right balance so that they complemented each other.  

PF: Do you see ancient grains’ popularity continuing in 2017?

Davis: We have seen an uptick in popularity as it pertains to single-origin ancient grains, which is what we use to make La Brea Bakery Reserve, the first nationally available farm-to-table breads. I can’t speak highly enough about this line, as it really is changing the way that people think about bread. 

We’ve seen customers embrace new ways to describe bread—similar to ways in which they describe wine, which is wonderful to see. The need for excellent terroir, or soil, is one parallel of quality bread baking and wine making. Although most breads are made using wheats that produce high yield, we chose a more difficult path to work with heirloom wheats, which can grow quite tall and become unwieldy. The resulting Reserve breads are in a classification by themselves.