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Winner: Made without Wheat Belgian Chocolate Twists, Village Bakery

Village Bakery’s free-from wheat Viennoiserie products were part of a range of three launches into Marks & Spencer this April.

The Belgian Chocolate Twists are made with a flaky, gluten-free laminated dough using a blend of gluten-free flours layered with authentic French laminating butter. Two layers of pastry are twisted together with the addition of vanilla custard and inclusions of Belgian dark chocolate to provide a luxurious taste and texture. 

“We worked closely with Mark Waples, M&S technical bakery specialist, and Rondo for their know-how, travelling to their Swiss test bakery,” says Village Bakery projects director Christien Jones.

“The challenge was to get the rheology of the dough strong enough to hold the ferment while soft enough to roll out with laminating fat. During nearly 100 trials we found that not just the recipe but the lamination technique, number of turns and temperature control were critical in achieving consistency.

“Then we moved on to the challenge of finding a baker’s custard that was gluten-free, ending up with a bespoke recipe that combined well with Belgian dark chocolate. All the products are hand-twisted in the bakery.”

Finalist: Coffee and Walnut Gluten-Free Cake, Liza Bakes

Coffee and Walnut Cake is a classic for a teatime treat or coffee break, so any gluten- and dairy-free version has a lot to live up to.

Liza Bakes’ version has a rich coffee flavour and nutty texture in a light moist cake with a coffee buttercream filling, swirl decoration then more swirls. Finally, it is topped with walnut.

“We always try to bake premium products that are different to those of our competitors and, when customers began asking for the same cakes in a free-from version, we responded by setting up our own dedicated free-from facility,” explains owner Phyllis Bown. She says the market for free-from cakes has grown significantly in the past 12 months and sales continue to escalate as many people, not just coeliacs, are choosing free-from as a lifestyle choice.

“All our free-from cakes are made in a traditional way using the best-quality ingredients that we can source locally. When customers tell us that they can’t tell the difference between our free-from cake and standard versions, we know we have achieved our aim.”

Finalist: Boss Bagels, Rana’s Artisan Bakery

Boss Bagels are sourdough artisan bagels, made traditionally but free from all 14 major allergens, making them suitable for coeliacs and vegans, and those with other allergies.

Described as “a proper bagel with a slightly sweet taste and tacky texture”, Boss Bagels are meant to be eaten ambient as they come, or toasted.

They were initially intended to be a product for selling direct to consumers, but when co-founder Rana, herself a coeliac, attended trade fairs and took the bagels with her, the commercial side expanded and the firm now supplies several delis, restaurants and cafés, including Deliciously Ella in London. 

Rana teamed up with her bakery partner Alexander West, and collaborated with an American coeliac who was also developing recipes. Together they used his initial know-how, then set about devising the best breads they could and combined their knowledge using ingredients including sorghum, teff and millet. The shiny, light crusted bagels are topped with chia seeds to enhance flavour and mouthfeel.