Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Review of Julian Bakery's paleo breads and cookies

It seems that Julian Bakery is all the rage on the CFS message boards and facebook groups these days.  I see them mentioned frequently.   Because I've been ordering products from them for a few months I thought I'd offer my review of some of their products.

About Julian Bakery

Based on their website, Julian Bakery was a small bakery with apparently just one brick and mortar location in La Jolla, California.  But because of their unique take on healthy baking, they seem to have exploded in popularity nationally via internet orders and contracts with retailers like Whole Foods and regional health food stores.  Apparently there's a huge unmet need for paleo, low carb, and gluten free bread products and Julian Bakery is one of the very few in the market.  

The first time I placed an order with Julian, it took two weeks to receive my shipment.  The second time: three weeks.  Toward the end of the third week I emailed the bakery to find out if my order got lost.  They nicely responded that they were running a little behind in fulfilling their orders due to large demand.  So the next time I ordered, I placed the order about 3 weeks before my last order ran out, expecting another delay.  The order showed up on my doorstep 2 days later!  If you're a glass-is-half-full, you could look at this as another exciting element of the process - like a game of roulette.  When will my goodies get here?  Who knows!

By the way, Julian sells many more types of breads besides just low carb and paleo breads.  Their focus is really on healthy breads of all kinds.  And while my local Whole Foods carries Julian's products, they only seem to carry the gluten free, full carb products.

For those of you who like to support Christian-run organizations, Julian includes a few subtle clues on their packaging and website indicating that their owners are Christians.  

Bread Products

So far, I've tried the following bread products from Julian: Paleo bread made from almond meal (1 carb); paleo bread made from coconut (1 carb); Zero carb, gluten free cinnamon bread; Zero carb, gluten free regular bread, and Smart Carb bread (3 carbs).  

These first two types of bread, made from almond and coconut respectively, really aren't "bread" at all, in the traditional sense, because they don't contain grains.  They are, however, my favorites because they seem to have more flavor.  The breads that are made from actual grains achieve their low carb-ness by relying heavily on fiber content so that the net carbs are reduced to nothing, or next to nothing.  

If you're going to enjoy these products, you may have to adjust your expectations slightly.  Julian's breads are not large, fluffy slices of traditional grocery store bread.  They're smaller, drier, and much denser, resembling small loaves of artisan breads.  While Julian's loafs vary in size, a typical slice is about 1/2 go 2/3's the surface area of traditional bread, and about half as thick.  On the other hand, each slice probably weighs more than "regular" bread because it's so dense.  

The density and the dryness took some getting used to when I first started sampling Julian breads.  I often found that I needed a glass of water to help wash down each bite due to the dryness.  But then again, traditional bread is full of unhealthy grains, sugars and carbs anyway, so it's probably best if you start thinking of those big fluffy slices as the junk food that they are.

I figured out quickly that it really helps to follow Julian's advice from their website and toast the bread -- heavily.  For some reason, this seems to give it a texture and taste that's more similar to regular bread.  

Once I adjusted my expectations, I found myself almost giddy about welcoming bread back into my life.  It revived a whole palette of convenience foods options.  Ah, the ubiquitous sandwich: I missed you.  Toast and jam: where have you been?  (That's no carb jam from Sprouts, by the way.)  My wife also discovered that using these breads to make French toast is a nice way to moisten them up.

If I had to recommend trying any of their breads first, I would suggest the coconut Paleo Bread.  It has an interesting flavor and texture that goes well with everything from jam to almond butter to french toast batter.

No Carb Cookies

Zero carb cookies.  Yes, these exist. Get them.  End of review.

OK, I was going to leave my review at that, but I guess I should say a little more.  Julian offers three flavors of zero carb cookies: Cocoa Delight, Ginger Spice, and Strawberry Banana.  I've tried all three and love them, ranked in the order listed above.  They're a little bit firmer than the gooey store-bought cookies that are full of preservatives, crisco and who-knows-what-else, but the flavor is almost as good. 

Again, the zero carb-ness is achieved by high fiber content and the use of erythritol as a sweetener instead of sugar.  

The biggest drawback here is the price, at $8.99 per box of ten (almost a dollar per cookie).  Again, I think the secret is to adjust expectations.  Whereas in my pre-sick days, I would often sit down with a box of cookies and pop 6 or 10 at a time like they were M&Ms, now I treat these cookies more like rare delicacies: one per night after dinner.  That's it.  And that's enough to make a satisfying desert.

A Different Perspective 

At least one blogger, "the Diet Doctor," claims that Julian Bakery's net carb counts are deceptive, arguing that their breads raise blood sugar more than Julian's stated carb counts would indicate.  A representative of Julian Bakery then drops by in the comments section and things get a little ugly.  

My take on it: who knows who's right?  But does anyone really doubt that Julian's breads are healthier than typical grocery store bread?  I suppose it depends on how strict your particular low carb/paleo diet is.  If you're truly aiming for no carbs, ever, then maybe the above blog post gives you some pause.  But if you're just trying to keep carbs to minimum (my goal is less than 70 per day, pursuant to Life Without Bread by Christian Allen, et al) then Julian's breads can certainly be a good way to meet your goals and still enjoy some of the flavor and convenience of bread. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

I'd be curious to hear from others who may have tried Julian Bakery's products.  What ways have you found to use these unique breads?  I'd also be interested to know if there are any other companies that make similar bread or dessert products, as I am not aware of any.
   

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