As a human rights lawyer in Los Angeles, Rose Lawrence was used to fighting for change. She just didn’t think it would be for a healthier diet—starting with her own.
When Lawrence’s physician advised her to nix dairy, sugar, and bread to deal with some serious health issues, she was floored. “Bread’s fed humanity for all time. It’s one of the most basic foods,” she remembers thinking. “It didn’t make sense to me why it was making us sick.”
Creating cult-favorite RedBread—an artisanal bakery brand famed for its gut-friendly, fermented sourdough—was the solution. And now the healthy, whip-smart Angeleno who’s been “pushing preservation, whole grains, and the power of fermentation since 2011” has big things on the horizon—a cookbook coming this fall and a new bakery HQ on the horizon.
Of course, advocating for healthy bread in a carbs-adverse town has not been without its challenges.
But Lawrence and her baking machines are having a big effect: RedBread’s sourdough is a fermented food fave and, like her other 25-some breads, all seem to sell out in a flash via GoodEggs and at Santa Monica Farmer’s Market to conscious Venice beach types, healthy parents, and people with sensitivities who've seriously missed having a great loaf of bread.
While 99 percent of the of healthy bread discussion centers on gluten, Lawrence wants to talk about yeast.
When she began tracing the breadcrumbs back through culinary history for “how bread was implicated in health issues,” she learned that bread of yore was actually made in a much more healthy way than the baguettes she was grabbing from her local bakery.
During wartime America, she says, quick-rising yeast and other shortcuts were introduced to make food go farther. But these bread-making methods, she suggests, should never have become a long-term practice, because they were terrible for gut health, specifically the good bacteria needed for decent digestion.
What is fermented bread?
Sourdough, also called fermented or wild-yeasted bread, is not a flavor; it's the process where the breakdown of gluten and sugar occurs thanks to yeast and bacteria, and becomes minerals, vitamins, and protein. Traditional bread-making requires a live “mother” (also known as a sourdough or wild yeast starter) that’s theoretically just like a kombucha scoby. The gas produced during this fermentation process causes the bread to rise—no shortcuts here—and RedBread’s takes more than 10 hours.
More reading: How to make a fermented foods salad
“When you allow sourdough to ferment this long, it grows Lactobacillus, a healthy bacteria that’s naturally found in your gut," she explains. "You must feed good foods to your Lactobacillus to keep them alive. If you eat bad food, you are starving the Lactobacillus. Feed your gut foods that are alive with Lactobacillus, and the bacteria in your gut will replenish and flourish,” Rose swears.
It tastes delicious, if you were wondering. The inside is fluffy and moist, and the crust is dense and chewy. (And it personally doesn't give me a stomachache, which normally occurs when I eat bread.)
The bread with a healthy social conscience
Making guts happy and bread digestible has turned Lawrence an LA luminary, who, in addition to baking, now spends her days sourcing from local organic farms, holding workshops to educate people on why fermented bread shouldn't be demonized, and writing a cookbook book that will also share her signature recipe. Her Venice-based shop Redbread is shuttered for the time being so the company can find a larger space—that’s a big jump from a company that started as a bike delivery service.
Leaving the law for kneading loaves doesn’t phase her a bit. In fact, the ever passionate Lawrence sees bread as an elemental way to contribute to the greater good, besides making sure that proceeds from every sale go to fighting hunger in LA. “The way to get better gut health long term is to keep eating foods that are alive and easy-to-digest," she says. "And quality sourdough breads are one way to do it.” —Diana Ryu
For more information, visit www.thebreadisred.com
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