Paleo Treats for the Modern-Day Caveman Story by Elise Hugus. Photos by Daniel Cojanu.
Liz Miles is surrounded by boxes. Big ones. Little ones. Styrofoam ones for express-mailing pies, cakes and cookies on ice packs.
As one of the most comprehensive paleo bakeries in the country, the Mashpee-based White Lion Baking Company does brisk business in online sales. If the bakery’s Facebook fans are any indication, White Lion’s gluten- and sugar-free muffins, cookies, crackers and baking mixes are in hot demand from San Diego to Afghanistan. Customers may suffer from celiac disease, arthritis, or diabetes, follow a vegan or low-carb diet, or simply be hungry for a healthy snack.
But those of us on the Cape only have to travel as far as Route 151 in Mashpee to get a freshly-baked paleo pumpkin scone or cinnamon swirl, paired with a fresh cup of Wellfleet-roasted Beanstock Coffee.
Though gluten-free options are now available in supermarkets and most restaurants, White Lion Baking Company takes the health trend a step further, eliminating all cultivated grains, refined sugars and highly processed oils from its delectable snacks. Instead of flour, White Lion uses blanched almond or coconut flour; sugar is replaced with honey or dates; and unscented coconut oil or grass-fed cow butter takes the place of the hydrogenated fats that run rampant in store-bought goods.
The so-called “paleo” diet is based on the basic foods that were available when humans were little more than hunter-gatherers—albeit with some modern conveniences. (In case you’re curious, the name “White Lion” is an amalgamation of “pale” and “leo”.) Eliminating all processed foods, grains, legumes and sugar leaves us with meats, dairy and fish, vegetables and fruit, and nuts and seeds, which Miles says is the closest we can get to the natural human diet.
The gluten-free certified bakery’s spacious kitchen is filled with sacks of flaxseed meal, mountains of Himalayan sea salt, and tubs of raw, organic honey—not exactly caveman food, but the stuff that delicious cookies, crackers and cakes are made of.
“To me, paleo is not about what the caveman ate. It’s about not eating from the box. It’s about paying attention to your body,” Miles says. “People don’t want to see sugar as the main ingredient in their food anymore.”
Miles is living proof of the benefits of eating closer to the land. Switching to the high-protein, low-carb and no-sugar paleo diet—combined with several workouts per week—helped Miles lose (and keep off) the pounds that she’d been trying to shed since the birth of her son.
Weight loss is just the beginning. Miles recounts the story of a customer, a mother of two, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 30. Simply eliminating gluten didn’t keep her from eating lots of refined sugar and flour, says Miles. But after switching to the paleo diet, the woman’s rheumatism pain disappeared within five days—followed by 70 pounds over the next five months.
Similarly miraculous recoveries have been reported in people with diabetes, high cholesterol, and various inflammations—and White Lion stocks the book to prove it, The New York Times bestseller It Starts With Food, by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, founders of the influential Whole9 nutrition program.
Such revolutionary health claims have to be eaten to be believed. True to her word, a Paleo Power Muffin—a light-tasting but densely-packed morsel of Zante currants and dates, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, and optional chocolate—powered this writer through breakfast and well into the afternoon. Biting into a Magic Bar, a moist and chewy orchestra of chocolate, honey, coconut and walnuts, made the perfect late-afternoon snack, providing just enough sweetness, but also plenty of good fats and nutrition to keep the cravings at bay.
Admittedly, White Lion’s portions are smaller than most of us are used to—which keeps both the calories and the price point down (almond flour is ten times more expensive than all-purpose wheat flour). As Miles points out, White Lion’s products provide an alternative to the snacks that make dinner parties and cocktail hours enjoyable—a supplement, rather than a replacement, for balanced meals.
“Like with any diet, you don’t want to live on crackers and cookies. We give people the opportunity to eat their favorite foods, but without getting sick,” she says.
And customers are grateful for it. While waiting for her tarts to be wrapped up on a recent evening, Taryl McKee, a part-time Falmouth resident, said she felt lucky to discover White Lion at the Falmouth Farmers’ Market.
“So many gluten-free products are made with sugar and corn. These are better for you, plus they’re delicious,” she said.
As anyone who has tried to bake a gluten-free cake knows, you can’t just substitute wheat flour and sugar for their non-refined equivalents. Miles, formerly a full-time private chef who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, had a steep learning curve when she first turned to paleo baking. Humidity made the almond flour sticky. Her trusty oven became temperamental. Adapting some recipes to also be dairy-free brought on a whole new set of headaches.
“It was absolutely like learning a new language. There’s no more creaming the butter and sugar together,” Miles says, describing the frustrations she shared with her baker, Tara Sullivan. “The process was completely foreign to me. There’s not a lot of wiggle room.”
Since buying the business from its Brookline-based founders in April 2012, Miles has overcome those initial hurdles. Though she still frets over the naturally darker color of an almond flour crust and wonders how much packaging it’ll take to overnight a tart to Connecticut for the holidays, she is confident in her ever-expanding repertoire of goodies.
In addition to her cookie and cracker staples, Miles bakes seasonal treats such as an apple cranberry crisp, gingerbread cake and peppermint-white chocolate brownies. For holiday treats, wedding or celebration cakes, the bakery takes custom orders (Miles recommends placing the order at least a day in advance) and always accepts special requests from vegan or nut-free customers.
Some of White Lion’s cakes and cupcakes are adorned with frosting, which is the one area where Miles makes an exception to the sugar-free rule. But instead of using factory-farmed and genetically-modified sugar from beets, the bakery uses evaporated cane juice in its frostings.
When Miles moved into the commercial facility in April, she didn’t plan on opening up for retail. But due to the demand from her local customers who became hooked on her paleo treats at the Falmouth and Barnstable County Fairgrounds Farmers’ Markets, Coffee Obsession in Woods Hole and Falmouth, and the Daily Brew in Cataumet, she set up the space to accommodate foot traffic.
Build it, and they will come. Soon after opening her doors, Miles realized she would also need to build a wall for an office so that she would be able to get billing and ordering done during the day. Her passion for food brims over while talking to customers who stop in to pick up a dessert or rolls for a dinner party, or pop by for a snack after their CrossFit session next door (the gym just happens to be run by Miles’ sister, Sara Lee—no relation to the frozen dessert maker).
“People typically come in for a couple muffins,” she says. “And then they come back for a dozen.”
There’s no seating—yet—but the bakery offers a 10% discount once a month to locals who pick up their orders. Miles plans to stock all the ingredients necessary to bake her mixes at home, including local eggs and raw buckwheat honey from a family-run farm in Michigan.
Just six months after moving into the Mashpee location, she has begun supplying Whole Foods in Hingham, with other Whole Foods locations expected to follow suit.
“My intuition said this should spread across the country,” she says. “There’s nothing like what we offer now on the grocery store shelves. America needs to learn how to eat.”
White Lion Baking Company 439 Nathan Ellis Highway Suite 1, Mashpee 774-228-2946 / www.whitelionbakingco.com Hours: Monday-Thursday 9-3, Friday 9-5, and Saturday 11-3. Closed Sundays.
First there was the Atkins Diet and the war on carbs. If you’re health-conscious or on a perpetual diet, chances are you’ve dabbled in everything from vegetarianism to low fat to gluten-free and raw foodist.
But to loose weight and clear up physical ailments for good, Falmouth chef Elizabeth Miles says we need to go back to what we ate as cavemen.
The so-called “Paleo” diet reverts to the basic foods that were available when humans were little more than hunter-gatherers, albeit with some twists to suit our modern and convenience-driven lifestyle.
So while all processed foods, cultivated grains and sugar are out, meats and fish, vegetables and fruit and nuts and seeds are the closest thing to a natural human diet, Miles says.
To find out more about what’s cooking in the White Lion kitchen, visit www.whitelionbakingco.com
“This is the food our bodies are meant to be eating. Everything is from the earth,” she says, pointing to links between the nation’s obesity, diabetes and heart disease epidemics and diets heavy in processed foods.
You are what you eat
While the science may be debated, Miles is living proof of the benefits of eating closer to the land. Two years ago, she heard about the Paleo diet while working out at CrossFit Cape Cod in Mashpee Commons.
Switching to the high-protein, low-carb and no sugar diet, combined with several workouts per week, helped Miles shed a stubborn 25 pounds that she had been trying to lose since the birth of her son.
A friend, she said, lost 140 pounds and no longer suffers from symptoms of diabetes since committing to the Paleo diet and regular workouts. Similar benefits have been found in people with high cholesterol or high glucose, Celiac or Crohn’s disease.
But as a professional baker and chef, Miles had a hard time reconciling her newfound nutritional discovery with her cooking savvy.
“Almond meal is high protein and low carb, but it’s not flour,” she said. “Everything depends a lot more on temperature. My son had to eat a lot of mistakes before I figured out how to make [Paleo] raisin cookies.”
Sweet (and savory) rewards
One of the biggest challenges Miles and other Paleo adherents face what to eat in social settings.
“It gets really old to go to a wine and cheese event and not have a cracker. You need the occasional treat,” she said.
Luckily, coming up with Paleo-friendly snack recipes was not difficult for the Culinary Institute of America graduate. Miles’ first attempt, a Paleo brownie, earned so many rave reviews that even her non-Paleo friends encouraged her to sell the gooey treat.
Researching Paleo baked goods online, Miles stumbled upon the White Lion Baking Company, a Brookline-based company catering to people on a gluten-free or low-glycemic index diet
Offering a full line of crackers, cookies and breads baked with grass-fed butter, unscented coconut oil, almond flour and honey, Miles became hooked.
Then, the company went up for sale. Fulfilling a long-term dream, Miles bought the brand in May 2012 and got her home kitchen certified by the Falmouth health department.
A bite of goodness
After just four months in business, Miles, who also works as a private chef, has hired two assistants to help bake, pack and ship orders.
Using the same recipes cultivated by the company’s original owners, Miles bakes everything from bread rolls to cinnamon rolls fresh to order. Driven by online business, she has overnighted hamburger buns across the country and fills regular orders for her carrot cake or “Paleo power muffin” baking mix.
For vegan or lactose-free customers, or those with allergies, Miles says the company can adapt recipes to meet specific needs. Local customers are welcome to come to her Woods Hole Road kitchen to pick up orders, saving on shipping costs, she said.
“These products give you variety. If you’re missing bread or crackers or want a celebration cake, you’ll still feel good eating them,” she said.
Biting into a freshly-baked olive bread roll, the goodness is apparent. Flavored with Kalamata olives and rosemary, the moist and chewy bread is made with almond flour, unscented coconut milk, apple cider vinegar and eggs. Due to their constitution, Miles recommends freezing the rolls and thawing them one at a time.
From melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon raisin cookies to savory cheddar cheese crackers, you don’t have to be a Paleo dieter to enjoy these tasty delights.
Nor is it necessary to live in a cave.
Paleo Magazine Business Spotlight
Finding great tasting grain-free baked goods has finally gotten easier. With products like Classic Carrot Cake, Celebration Cakes, Cinnamon Bun Muffins, Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake and
Double Chocolate Cupcakes, The White Lion Baking Company, located in Brookline, MA is cranking out some amazing products that will please just about anyone following the Paleo diet.
The bakery, named White Lion for “Pale-Leo”, was co- founded by John Vaillancourt and Elena Moir in March of this year. They have been eating a Paleo diet since early last fall and came up with the idea for a grain-free bakery after discovering how difficult it was to find good Paleo-friendly baked goods. One day they discovered an almond flour recipe and thought, “Hey we can do this” Both of them had worked in “regular” bakeries before and harnessed that experience to create some of the lightest, tastiest Paleo baked goods we’ve ever tried – and it’s all done without grain/ legume flours, starches, refined sugars, gums or corn-based products.
One of the downsides with a lot of gluten-free bakeries is that they simply replace the wheat flour with nutritionally inferior gluten-free flours, and then try to boost the flavor by adding a bunch of refined sugar and fillers. Not these guys. John and Elena are committed to using only the best whole food ingredients like almond/coconut flours, pastured eggs, grass-fed butter, coconut oil and honey. And they proudly display the ingredients, as well as the nutritional breakdowns, for all of their products on their website. In a constant effort to provide the best products for their customers, White Lion is now only using paleo-friendly ingredients. They are also more than happy to make egg-free or dairy-free items if necessary for anyone with egg and/or dairy allergies or intolerances. They’ve also started offering baking mixes, all of which can be made dairy free, so you can quickly and easily enjoy a great Paleo treat fresh from your own kitchen, or make a delicious Paleo-friendly cake for your next birthday.
We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to try some of their amazing products and were pleasantly surprised. Each product had a different texture and its own unique flavor – the Rosemary & Thyme Herb crackers tasted different than the Cheddar & Sea Salt crackers and the Parmesan-Herb biscuits were different than the Chive biscuits. Everything didn’t just taste like almond flour. While this may not seem like a big deal to some, believe me, it is. Having everything taste the same and having a similar texture is unfortunately something that happens quite often
with a lot of grain-free products. White Lion has done an amazing job bucking that trend, creating uniquely textured products that taste great and melt in your mouth. It’s no surprise that the bakery has held tastings with the local CrossFit crowds, with great success. They also supply one of the local restaurants, The Regal Beagle in Coolidge Corner, with weekly deliveries of crackers and buns and offer free delivery in the Brookline area. For anyone in the rest of the U.S., their products are available online. You can choose to have your order shipped either 2-day
or if you just can’t wait, they do offer an overnight option. Given the recent explosion of the Paleo diet, and the growing success of their business, John and Elena have set their sites on growth. Elena is toying with the idea of providing classes on how to incorporate their products into meal time and offering advice on cutting grains from your diet. They have recently started adding employees and have been working on opening a brick-and-mortar storefront in the Boston area. The best news? If things go well, they may look at opening more stores throughout the U.S. White Lion Baking Company is a welcome addition to the Paleo community and does a wonderful job of providing Paleo-friendly products that taste great. If you’re looking for that special treat, that cake for your child’s birthday or that Sunday morning coffee cake, give their products a try. You can reach White Lion Baking Company online at www.whitelionbakingco.com or by phone at
New Brookline bakery makes breads and desserts without grains
Elena Moir and her fiancé, John Vaillancourt, started the White Lion Baking Co., which they run out of a small kitchen in their Brookline home, a few months ago after they realized how hard it was to find good gluten-free products. Gluten and refined sugars are two of the many foods excluded from the Paleo diet.
By Teddy Applebaumfirstname.lastname@example.org Posted May. 26, 2011 @ 12:01 am May 26, 2011 at 1:01 PM Brookline
Chances are the cookies at the White Lion Baking Company are not like your grandma’s. That is, unless you grandma shuns grains, loves almond flour and swears by agave nectar.“We follow a Paleo diet,” said co-founder Elena Moir, explaining that she and her fiancé only eat foods humans might have eaten in the Paleolithic era, more than 10,000 years ago. “[The bakery] evolved out of our personal mission to find a sweet treat that we could eat.”Moir and her fiancé, John Vaillancourt, started the company, which they run out of a small kitchen in their Brookline home, a few months ago after they realized how hard it was to find good gluten-free products. Gluten and refined sugars are two of the many foods excluded from the Paleo diet.“One day we were looking for a sweet treat and we came across this recipe for an almond cookie,” she said. “We made them and we were bowled over.”As a former conventional cake baker, and constant entrepreneur, Moir said it didn’t take long for her and Vaillancourt to hatch the idea for the business.“I see an opportunity and I want to take it right to the furthest extent,” she said. “Anything I’m interested in, I turn into a business.”All the products at White Lion use gluten-free almond or coconut flour, and instead of using refined sugars they sweeten their deserts with the likes of honey and agave nectar. Also, any product can be made dairy-free, and tailored to allergy restrictions, Moir said.In many ways, the couple picked the right time to start their bakery. These days, more and more people are being diagnosed with celiac disease, or gluten-intolerance, and gluten-free diets are in vogue even among those who can digest gluten.“It’s a good time to be getting into it,” said Moir, who said she would like to dispel what she perceives as a stigma against gluten-free products. “[Those with] celiac think they’re missing out by not eating wheat, but I don’t think people we’re meant to eat wheat — it’s a toxin.”Because more people are avoiding gluten, it has becomes somewhat easier to find gluten-free products at shops and restaurants. But Moir said most products tend to rely on a series of chemicals to make up for the characteristics lost by removing gluten. At White Lion, they stick to the basics, avoiding strange additives and preservatives, she said.The end result is not as far from conventional baked goods as one might think. The cookies are chewy, moist, and depending on the variety, full of decadent dark chocolate chunks. One of their most popular cookies, the Double Chocolate Fantasy, has a hint of almond in the bite.
And while their most popular items so far have been sweet, they also bake savory items as well. Among their offerings are breads, biscuits, and most recently, crackers. Those are the items the couple is most proud of.
“They’re the products that to me are the most important,” Moir said. “I’m personally gratified to have bread again.”
At the moment, the company is still small, with both of them fitting the baking around their full-time jobs (Moir protects medical patents at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and Vaillancourt is an optician). But if things take off, eventually they hope they can open a storefront somewhere in Coolidge Corner.
“I had always thought about opening up a business where I’d be making pastries and kind of serving people in a very small intimate atmosphere,” Vaillancourt said. “This curiosity about trying to run a business is getting the better of me.”
For now, they take orders from their website or over the phone. Moir said they can accommodate any order as long as they have 24 hours advance notice. They will even modify recipes to make them gluten-free upon request, she said. Their products are also available at a few stores, including The Meat House in Coolidge Corner, and City Feed in Jamaica Plain.
Vaillancourt said running a business is exciting, even though he doesn’t think they are doing anything extraordinary.
“We’re not inventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “But we add our little special tweaks to make it a little more interesting.”
Moir said she gets pleasure out of creating something tasty and also relatively nutritious; something she said does not leave people feeling guilty.
“We feel like were doing something good for the world and at the same time we’re following our passions,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to have my own food business and this seems to encompass everything I want to do and everything I believe in.”
To see White Lion’s product line, go to www.whitelionbakingco.com. To place an order, go to the website or call 774-228-2946