A History of Thoroughbread
In 1989, one mile into the Northland bush, in a tin hut with no electricity and just an old coal range oven was where the first loaf of bread was baked that was to become Rebecca Rolls’ passion and would eventually seed the beginning of Thoroughbread.
Inspired by a love of nutrition and the enjoyment of making quality food using old slow traditional methods Rebecca would spend hours in the kitchen experimenting with different ingredients. She has always loved the process of starting with a base product and combining and manipulating ingredients to reach the end product. She found it exciting and loved the challenge of pursuing a new idea in food. The pioneering experience of treading new ground and using innovative ideas to achieve a desired result energizes her and in time sparked the foundation of a new business.
In the early stages of Thoroughbread, Rebecca baked only wheat breads. These loaves were made by freshly stone grinding wheat as well as hand kneading and fermenting the dough using an old traditional European method. The result was an excellent loaf with lovely texture, taste, crust and keeping quality.
The breads were sold at a local market. It gave Rebecca a lot ofsatisfaction to have people come back each week and buy from her the very thing that gave her pleasure to make. Although the work was time consuming she became addicted to the end result of the loaf. Rebecca expanded the range to incorporate new varieties, which was often inspired and guided by customer feedback and requests. Loving the experimentation of different food ingredients and the challenge of making a success of a new loaf was a driving factor for her.
Before long Rebecca started getting asked if she made Gluten Free bread. Aware of the nature of gluten and how it effects the end result of the bread Rebecca was unsure how it was possible to be successful in making a loaf without this ingredient, but the fact that she was having to turn people away because she was unable to meet their need inspired her to respond.
She decided to look into the possibility of making loaves “gluten free” and bought every variety of gluten free loaf that she could find available on the market. Having been used to eating her own wheat bread she found the available gluten free options very unsatisfactory and only suitable for toast at best. Needless to say she never finished a loaf and was left with little hope of any possibility that she could do any better. In spite of this, before long and after seeing enough disappointed faces at the market, coupled with the love of experimentation and a challenge, Rebecca made up her mind to pursue it.
She decided that the only way she would be happy selling gluten free bread was if it met three requirements that she considered important to her in a loaf. The bread would have to:
- taste like real food and be made with real food
- be nutritious
- have good texture and usability
In Rebecca’s search for a flour base she found gluten free bread mixes were snow white, unhealthy and the end result disappointing. She quickly realized she would have to come up with her own flour base. She decided on using brown rice flour as the main ingredient for the base but found it hard to come by. So in the interests of flavour, freshness and nutrition she decided to buy whole brown rice and freshly grind it just before baking.
Developing the recipe and method took many months and trials. Rebecca had strict expectations and listened to customer’s feedback as an extra guideline. The response was good from the out set but behind the scenes there were many frustrating moments. She likened the experience to attempting to befriend a wild animal. Orchestrating the ingredient combinations and method was a delicate process with unpredictable results. There were joy and tears alike. In time a recipe and method began to emerge but she constantly looked for ways to improve it.
Rebecca began experimenting with different varieties. She would buy fresh ingredients such as onions, carrots and garlic from the market each week for next weeks baking. As word of mouth traveled she found she had to make more and more loaves every week but she was now faced with a problem. She had built Thoroughbread up to a successful small business selling both wheat and gluten free bread but was finding that the popularity of the gluten free bread meant that many new gluten free customers were missing out and yet she had no time to bake more.
Rebecca decided that in the light of the need in the market place, and where her heart was going, that Thoroughbread would stop making wheat bread and become exclusively gluten free. Initially it was not an easy decision but Rebecca saw a huge need in the market for good gluten free bread and by the great feedback she was getting she knew she had something unique. She loved both the constant challenge that this bread made for her to perform and the great satisfaction she was getting when achieving success.
It turned out to be a decision she has not regretted. Demand for Thoroughbread’s gluten free bread has been overwhelming and outlets around the country continue to grow in number.
“Starting from scratch, when preparing the ingredients, gives me the involvement I love and the result I am proud of. I have found the whole process of getting to this point, which was full of disappointing failures and triumphant successes, so colorful and satisfying. I feel like I have tamed the wild horse and also feel I have met the three requirements that I set out to achieve in gluten free bread. In saying this, my expectations are constantly being refined so I have concluded that it will always be a work in progress.
I hope that you enjoy the bread as much as I have the journey. “
— Rebecca Rolls