Imagine walking into a bakery where you could eat everything and anything. That's the dream.
We're profiling Pikanik a bakery located in Vancouver, BC. Owner, Joanna, received the 2016 the Innovator of the Year Award via the Canadian Bakers Journal and we were lucky enough to get an interview with her.
What inspired you to start a business that caters to people with food allergies? Do you have any allergies yourself?
At three years old, my daughter was diagnosed with gluten and dairy allergies. Trying to find replacement staple products on the market - bread especially - was an exercise in frustration. The supermarket breads were all dry and crumbly, the fresh bread from gluten free bakeries in town mostly contained dairy. I was a baker a million years ago, and so I returned to my roots and started researching and recipe development. When I finally hit my stride people kept telling me I should be selling my baking. Five years later I’m glad I listened to them (and to my instincts!).
After changing my daughter’s diet I realized that I, too, had been suffering for years - chronic (almost daily) headaches, body pain, fatigue. After changing my diet I noticed a radical change in my level of wellness. No more headaches. way more energy. Although I miss baguette and cheese, I’ve never looked back - feeling good is so worth it.
What precautions do you take in your kitchen and when sourcing your products to ensure they are free from allergens?
We are extremely vigilant. Our entire facility is free from gluten, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts dairy, soy (among other top allergens like shellfish and sesame). This means none of these products enter our premises.
Our ingredients are vetted to ensure they not only don’t contain those allergens. We receive the detailed statements from each manufacturer that outline the ingredients and allergens. If the sheet says it’s manufactured on a site that contains allergens, we don’t use it. Period. We also don’t accept re-packs from distributors.
Which product is your most popular seller?
Our breads are second to none — honey sandwich, rosemary focaccia, garlic bread, naan are definitely very popular with our customers. Cupcakes run a close second and we have heard over and over again that they are the best cupcakes people have ever had (and that includes gluten eaters).
How has working around food allergies led you to be more creative in the kitchen?
Oh, definitely!! When you’re working with limited ingredients creativity is your saving grace and your motivator. I find this at work and at home. So many of our best products start with me saying to our baking staff, “I’ve had a crazy idea…”. They laugh, listen, and then we try it. Sometimes it’s a huge success (honey sandwich bread comes to mind) and sometimes it’s a colossal failure. But we are always trying, always innovating.
I bet you have a lot of repeat customers who trust your products. How did you spread the word about your allergy-friendliness? And how was it received by the community?
Yes, we have have a solid base of repeat customers and new customers finding out about us all the time. We use social media mostly to get the word out and reaching out to bloggers and food critics as well. Our customers are the most loyal, wonderful people in the world. I believe we’re one of the few businesses out there that have people coming in and thanking us from the bottom of their hearts every single day. This is no exaggeration. People are so grateful to be able to enjoy delicious food that is safe. We have children coming in who have NEVER been inside a bakery due to anaphylactic allergies. They walk in with their parents and the parents tell them they can choose anything they want. There’s nothing more special than that moment of sharing that experience.
Do you see this becoming a bigger movement in the food industry in future?
Definitely. The rise in food allergies is not going anywhere any time soon. When I first started I was only gluten, wheat, nut and dairy free. Then I kept getting requests for soy free, so we went soy free as well. Then came the eggs… now 75% of our line up is egg free. We listen to our customers and we do our best to offer things for the majority of allergy sufferers or those with restricted diets.
Pikanik Gluten Free, Wheat Free, Nut Free Coconut Cream Pie
Yield: Two 8-inch pie crusts; filling for one pie
350 g Pikanik all-purpose flour
125 g sweet rice flour
210 g cold vegan margarine
4 g xanthan gum
6 g salt
10 g sugar
2 cups coconut cream
3 egg yolks
1 tsp agar agar
1 tbsp Vanilla
¼ cup sugar
To make the pastry:
Mix dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add chunks of margarine until a loose crumbly texture. Add cold water slowly just until the dough comes together (you may not use all of it). Roll half of the dough between sheets of plastic wrap (the plastic wrap keeps it from sticking to your counter and to your rolling pin).* Once rolled place in an 8” pie pan, crimping the edges.
Bake at 350 degrees, 10-12 minutes.
*Remaining dough can be refrigerated and used later for another pie or quiche.
To make the filling:
Heat coconut cream on medium heat until simmering. Whisk together sugar and agar agar in a small bowl. Whisk eggs into the sugar mixture until a smooth paste forms. Slowly temper in hot coconut cream. Return mixture to medium heat and stir consistently using a spatula until the filling is thickened. Pour mixture into the prepared pie shell, allow to cool fully before slicing. Top with toasted coconut or chocolate shavings as desired.