Melissa Sharp founded Modern Baker after experiencing the beneficial effects of a healthier diet when she was being treated for cancer in 2010. “It wasn’t long before I realised that, after adopting a healthy lifestyle, there seemed to be loads of other things that came with it,” says Sharp. “I felt much better, I had long nails, I was told how good my skin looked. And even though I was obviously very ill inside, I did feel healthy and well.”
Slow carb baking, she explains, “means a much lower GI level, and fewer sugar spikes. It’s much better for your digestive system. And the only way you [make bread like] that in any decent way is do it how it was done for thousands of years before industrialization came along… it’s natural fermentation.” Campbell adds that the fermentation process also increases the bioavailability of nutrients in the bread.
But in addition to Modern Baker’s tempting product line, its founders are passionate about widening accessibility to their healthier carbs. They have won close to three-quarters of a million pounds ($1 million) in funding awards from the British government’s Innovate UK agency to research the health benefits of Modern Baker’s bread. To do this, the company is undertaking R&D collaborations with Newcastle University’s cell and molecular biosciences department in the UK and Campden BRI, a leading British food and drink research technology organization.
The company is also exploring the possibility of opening a second cafe and a bread-making school in central London. “To be able to teach nutrition to young people, widely, is something that is very dear to our hearts,” says Campbell. “And we would want that to tie in with specific public health outcomes–we’d be achieving public health goals through that education. We’re not talking about sourdough classes for middle class people. We’re talking about proper education to change the public health agenda.” Campbell believes that gut health will soon be “the new frontier for preventative medicine.” “What we’ve produced can be used as part of a preventative diet, preventing you from succumbing to chronic illness,” he says.
Among them is Andina Panaderia, a Peruvian bakery that’s set to open on London’s Westbourne Grove in May 2018. Helmed by head baker Ana Velasquez, the bakery will specialize in what it calls “slow ferment baking with traditional sweet and savory pastries.” Andina Panaderia is from the same restaurant group that runs the buzzy Ceviche in London’s Soho. Its healthful offerings will include sweet potato pancakes and sourdough bread made using sweet potato and plantain. The bakery draws on Peruvian baking techniques, which it says represent “a fusion of Andean and colonial cooking.”
The trend isn’t limited to London. Vogue reports that Zoe Kanan, the head baker at Studio and Simon & The Whale at New York’s Freehand Hotel, is crafting German and Russian-inspired black bread flavored with aromatic raki anise and croissants made from sourdough.
While those health benefits could turn out to be overstated–Consumer Reports writes that activated charcoal may only have a “limited” detoxifying effect even when administered as an antidote for drug overdoses and may potentially upset the stomach when eaten with food–it clear that, for wellness-focused consumers, there’s an appetite for getting baked goods back on the menu. Call it having your cake and eating it.