Chef Christian Faure, Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (MOF)

Agave is a product with multiple uses, from mezcal production to tequila to medicinal teas. But one application that has become important is the use of agave syrup as an alternative to sugar, especially for baking and pastry making.

Among the leading proponents of this emerging movement is renowned French-born pastry Chef Christian Faure, Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (MOF), who runs his own Maison Christian Faure cafe, shop and baking school in Montreal, Canada. MOF is a prestigious award in France that recognizes top artisan abilities.

Faure, who describes himself as a technician when it comes to baking and pastry-making, explains that his interest in agave stemmed from his search for a replacement for sugar in traditional French pastry recipes. The chef initially tested stevia but found the ingredient did not respond well to the baking process and had a strong flavor that detracted from the results he was hoping to achieve.

In contrast, Faure says when testing agave, he found it reacted more like sugar in the recipes and did not add any extra, unwanted flavor to the finished product.

Raisa Fernandez and Richard Tanguay of Canadian distributor Loc Indusries Inc

The chef’s use of agave came after meeting Quebec-based ingredients importer and distributor Loc Industries who introduced him to their line of agave syrup products.

Faure was awarded the highly prestigious title of Meilleur Ouvrier (Best Chef) in France in 1997. He also gained the ‘Best Pastry Chef of the World’ title from The American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. Faure moved to Montreal in 2012, attracted by the European feel of the city. He opened the Maison Christian Faure business and pastry school a year later to offer traditional French pastries.

Faure is using agave to redevelop existing pastry recipes, a process which he says typically takes around a month to complete. “There are many stages of development, testing, and research, both in the kitchen and in the laboratory, before we are confident the recipe will be successful,” he explains.

Faure also works as a technical advisor helping devise recipes using alternatives to butter, wheat flour, and refined sugars.

Currently, Faure collaborates with Toronto bakery owner Karen Fasulo, assisting with the development of Feel Free, a new range of gluten, sugar, and nut-free bakery products that will be launched at the end of 2017.

“It is crucial to me that I offer the best possible product that people with dietary restrictions can safely eat, and that tastes heavenly,” explains Fasulo. “Consulting with professionals like Chef Faure is the best way to ensure this.”

According to Fasulo, the Feel Free line will integrate organic sugar substitutes such as agave inulin into each recipe in a range that will initially comprise seven products, including three cakes, one tart, and three cookies.

“Not everybody with dietary restrictions likes to bake or feels comfortable baking even with a mix, therefore I am offering this product line to be already made for them, just like the regular cakes, only with these, they can "Feel Free" to eat,” she adds.

“Feel Free products are not just for the people with dietary allergies but also good for the people who are conscious of what they eat but still like their sweet tooth. It is a perfect balance.”

Faure uses agave distributed in Canada by Loc Industries, which is produced in Mexico by The iidea Company, the pioneer in premium agave products that first introduced the category to the market over 20 years ago. “We only work with The iidea Company. They were also the first to be organic but also BRC, IFS and FSSC 22000 certified,” said Raisa Fernandez, business development manager at Loc Industries. The iidea Company enjoys several other top quality and sustainability certifications. After finding success with the product in Europe, The iidea Company began presenting the syrup in North America. Today, the Guadalajara-based firm exports to more than 40 countries.

Display of agave and derivates at Loc Industries booth, Sial Canada 2017

“The Canadian market is not yet a mature market for these unique products, but we have been working with our distributors and with industrial manufacturers, leaders and formulators to educate the consumer and communicate all the properties and different applications of the agave products: Agave syrup, a liquid sweetener with a low GI; agave powder, a dry sweetener with a low GI that is the dehydrated version of the agave syrup; and agave inulin, a prebiotic fiber used in food formulations to increase the fiber content and to improve texture. Agave inulin is also used as a fat replacer in bakery and dairy applications with prebiotic properties that can be claimed on the label and are diabetic friendly,” said Raisa. Loc Industries just launched a new website to communicate directly with customers, share recipes and information about these amazing organic all natural ingredients. “Our main audience is “conscious foodies,” said Raisa.

 The iidea Company introduced its sweet agave powder – also known as ‘Switter’ – in 2012, which has found multiple uses in baking and pastry making, according to Carolina Aguilar Sánchez from the marketing department at the company.

Produced from organic certified blue agave plants, Aguilar describes the sweetener as a sugar alternative that thanks to its inulin content improves the absorption of nutrients such as calcium and magnesium.

“Switter has the benefit of not only being 30 percent sweeter than sugar, but it also has a low glycemic index,” she says. “It is certified organic, which guarantees a processing with the absence of synthetic substances. It is also gluten and GMO-free and vegan.”

In baking, experts like Chef Faure also appreciate that Switter is highly soluble, does not form crystals and does not require refrigeration.