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