Q+A with Husk Bake Shop
Whether you’re gluten-intolerant or just looking for some good bread, Husk Bakeshop has the real eats to put you and your health first without skipping out on taste. Perhaps best known as the supplier for all the goodies at cult Aussie cafe Bluestone Lane, Husk has recently launched an online store to ship their gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, and most importantly, tasty baked goods nationwide.
One of the ingredients in the magic mix is Copra’s 100% pure, hand-harvested, low glycemic coconut nectar. It adds just a touch of sweetness and the perfect color to Husk’s breads and granola. We had the chance to speak with the powerhouse female leaders behind Husk Bakeshop: Co-founder Alexandra Stone and Tesha Borin, Chief Creative Officer and baking extraordinaire.
Former international fashion model and mom Alexandra Stone (Zand for short), holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science and is a graduate of the School of Integrated Nutrition. She shares the inspiration and vision for Husk and her thoughts on wellness. Next, we chat with Tesha, the mastermind who perfected Husk’s products.
A key part of the product is sourcing very specific, high quality ingredients. We ask why she challenges her team to always question the process and why they choose Copra. We even get a pointer or two about toast and trust us, these Aussies know good toast.
Alexandra Stone, Husk Bakeshop Co-Founder
We love your philosophy. Why did you decide on gluten free? And no refined sugars?
AS: The idea for Husk came into my world about 4 – 4.5 years ago. Food is a token of love or kindness and I love making a product that feels like an act of kindness. It’s about the cleanliness of the product and its ethical value. I’m a young mom as well and if I’m not feeding it to my own children, then I’m not feeding it to anyone. Much to my husband’s dismay, I don’t like to cut corners with regards to using the best of the best to produce a seriously premium product. The timing of the company has definitely been challenging for myself and my husband, which is why it’s been amazing to have the support of Bluestone behind us to support us.
How does your nutritional background inform how you feed yourself and your kids?
AS: As a professional fitness model for many years, I have a strong awareness of my body and the way it moves and functions. It functions well on whole foods and clean products. I also have a degree in Biomedical Science which helps me understand it from the inside out. I’m also a big believer in the mind / body connection. I assess products for their nutritional value because if we’re just eating to fill our own tummies, what’s the point, right?
This commitment to quality is not always cheap. Is there anything you would say to business owners who want to source for quality but are scared that consumers won’t pay for it?
AS: It comes down to what your values are and where your company stands.. If your values are about being authentic and providing a product that uses the highest quality, you stick to it. That means maybe you start with smaller runs, maybe your exposure is small to begin with but trust your gut and trust that using the best of the best does produce a better product. With time, the snowball effect will build and in the end, your products will be adored.
What do you think customers appreciate most about Husk?
AS: The number one thing is the taste profile, because there is still a great deal of the country that will turn to a donut. Our products are clean but also delicious. Get them in the door with the taste profile, and then they’ll realize “ oh wow, these products are actually better for me than other choices”. Then they’re a returning customer.
I think that is another stigma in the natural health world — that healthy things don’t taste as rich and delicious as more artificial options. We’re showing that stigma isn’t true. Ultimately as a culture, we need to change the way that we think because society will no longer exist if it continues to eat the way that a typical American does.
Type 2 diabetes is dramatically increasing and it’s not looking like it’s slowing down. We also have begun to see obesity issues in Australia. If we can think about what is going in our mouths so that we can help our bodies function a little easier on a day to day basis and avoid illness, then we have a bright and healthy future. I’m very proud that Husk stands in that circle of companies that are socially aware.
What is your favorite Husk product?
AS: I’m very passionate about the bread. That bread is an absolute standout and is very special to me. I wanted to get back to basics, which is why we wanted to redesign a simple thing like bread. I am sure we are going to continue to roll out more iterations of that. More into the staples, less into the trends. It also means a lot to me to have the Husk protein balls. Especially when I lived in New York and was always on the run, living out of a bag and not knowing what to turn to when I needed a snack. I know there is a lot of Copra coconut nectar in those and they are absolutely delicious. They are a clean sweet for you and a fantastic handbag staple!
Do you feel like there is a shift in consumer attitudes towards food? How would you qualify that? What food trends do you think are here to stay?
AS: Massively. I know the interest is there, because we’ve seen the reaction to Husk. Let’s be honest, there is gluten-free bread already out there. But is there a gluten-free bread out there that can toast the way that normal bread can? That can taste the way it can? And can crumble the way that it can? What I like most about Husk products is that when you taste one, you have no idea that it’s gluten-free.
We have worked on those designs and recipes for a substantial amount of time to achieve that goal. We want to change the mindset that gluten-free isn’t yummy. We invested in sourcing the best, whole ingredients that worked for a healthy but tasty bread that behaves the way bread should. And we’ve seen a huge positive reaction to that, even though it’s not the cheapest option. There is definitely consumer demand.
What’s your favorite way to eat toast?
AS: The amount of toast I eat has grown exponentially since I got pregnant.
Avocado toast! With a poached egg.
Peanut butter is growing on me.
I’m more into spreads and open sandwiches. Lunch has to have some sort of bread, but I stop eating bread at 2 pm because it’s heavier and harder to digest.
Tesha Borin, Husk Bakeshop Chief Creative Officer
How did you find Copra?
TB: It was a blessing to find Copra. I have been using it for about a year. We started off using another coconut syrup from another supplier. Over time, it would turn very dark and very bitter, which changed the color and flavor profile of the bread. The first time I came in and found the box of Copra on the shelf, I nearly fainted. I was like “we need to use this” — the flavor, the color, the smell, the consistency. It changed the product and made it so much better. It completely changed my life, made it so much easier!
How did you decide which products to use it in?
TB: At Husk, we want to make sure our products are as affordable as possible for the customer. Ultimately, the price of the product and consumer demand dictates what we develop. We were using it in protein balls, but customers didn’t want any added sugars at all in that product. Being that the bread was already a liquid consistency and the coconut sugar had difficulty dissolving, I went with a more liquid form and it’s just treating me nicely.
Apart from the consistency, it seems like you have tried a lot of different coconut nectars, how is Copra different?
TB: I really love the process behind it, how you harvest it by hand. You can really tell in the quality of the product. Copra is best in class, it doesn’t measure up to anyone else’s. I want my team to know what goes into the ingredients, that there’s so much behind the products that they’re baking. We went through this really labor intensive process trying every nectar on the shelf.
We got to the point where I had given up. Unless you’ve tried a few coconut nectars, you don’t understand that there are so many different levels and varieties — it’s common to have a burnt-bitter flavor. It gives coconut nectar a bad rap.
The most important things I look for in a coconut syrup are consistency, color and then the flavor profile. Like coconut sugar, most of the nectars weren’t the right color. Copra is similar to what I had used in Australia. It is sweet and a little bit tangy.
It is very consistent, especially if you store it in the right conditions with no big shifts in temperature. 55 to 60 F is ideal. If it crystallizes a bit, usually those crystals will go away when you heat it up. There are certain things I need to worry about every single day, but your product is not one of them.
Since you’re such an expert, how would you explain the flavor profile of Copra’s coconut nectar?
TB: In relation to other coconut nectars, it has a very distinct taste but is also very subtle. It’s floral and light. It also has the perfect amount of acidity. It does a lot of different things for the palet. It has acidity, it’s got sweetness and sourness that I think is integral. Especially when you’re sweetening something, you don’t want it to be too sweet. But, you also what it to be able to do what you want it to do while retaining a balance.
If you get the wrong one, it becomes a different kind of acidic. You produce something that is pure, healthy and carefully sourced, which fits our philosophy. And Husk being refined sugar free, Copra coconut nectar is a perfect fit.
A lot of coconut nectar brands are reverse engineering it from coconut sugar. You may think you’re getting unrefined coconut nectar, but it’s coming from something that is refined. It’s crazy to me that people do that. It completely defeats the purpose but it’s cheaper and easier. You can taste the difference with Copra’s.