Saturday, November 19, 2011

Delicious and Gluten-free, Together at Last!

That’s not a typo in the headline. When the assignment to write an article about a gluten-free bakery came across my desk, my first reaction was, well, not one of excitement. For many years, gluten-free products have not exactly been, shall we say, very tasty.  And being a baker myself, I was skeptical.  So off I went to investigate.

Most great ideas are born out of a need. And this was no different. Jeff Robbins, the co-owner of Get Fresh Bake House, based in Fairfield, NJ, has a daughter with Celiac Disease and wanted to find a way to provide great tasting treats for her.  GFBH opened in January, following three years of intensive research, planning, and preparation.  Jeff and his business partner, Peter Mykrantz, knew they needed a true food professional to help with this endeavor. And they found that person in Bill Doyle, a passionate baker, graduate of the CIA, and 30 year veteran of the food industry.

Celiac Disease affects one out of every 133 people in the United States. It is not a food allergy – it is an autoimmune disease.  The only treatment is the lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet. When gluten is removed from the diet, the small intestine will start to heal and overall health improves.1

Bill uses three different types of flour, depending on the item he is baking. The bakery is 100% gluten-free and all of the equipment in the facility is brand new, meaning that traditional wheat products never touched any of this equipment.  Gluten-free foods do not contain wheat, barley, rye, oats, or their crossbred varieties.  In addition, all GFBH products are individually wrapped to ensure there are no cross-contamination issues.

But the bottom line, of course, is taste.  And I must tell you that if I did not know that these products were gluten-free, I would have never guessed it. Gone is the dry, mealy texture, and flat taste associated with so many gluten-free products. In its place, a cookie and bar as delicious as any regular product. As the GFBH team likes to say, they’re creating a delicious product that just happens to be gluten-free.

Bill does this by taking a regular recipe, removing the traditional flour, and replacing it with gluten-free products. Everything else remains the same. He uses top-quality ingredients, including Callebaut chocolate, and no preservatives of any kind.  This produces a product with a shelf-life of only two weeks, but I don’t really think they will be hanging around that long! 

Of the products I sampled, the oatmeal-cranberry cookie and the brownie were my favorites. The oatmeal cookie was as delicious as any of the traditional oatmeal cookies I’ve made hundreds of times.  The brownie, extremely moist with a tender crumb, would satisfy the chocolate cravings of any true chocolate lover.  

And, in a fancy bit of name dropping, their classic chocolate chip cookie was the runaway winner of Oprah’s “Life Lift” blog.

GFBH makes a variety of cookies and bars, such as The Midnight 2X Chip Cookie, which is a dark, dark chocolate cookie, Bill’s Excellent Butterscotch Cookie, blondies, and the aforementioned brownie.  They are still working out the formula, but hope to offer a top-notch gluten-free bread in the near future.

Get Fresh Bake House products are currently sold on-line or at various retail locations around the NY/NJ area.

I don’t have gluten issues, but I know this affects many people. Until now, there has been little in the way of delicious dessert options for them.  It seems Get Fresh Bake House has helped to solve that problem, and along the way, created an entirely new category of desserts – “gourmet gluten-free.”  

Get Fresh Bake House
1-855-GET-FRSH (438-3774)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I Go to Extremes

In bakeries, that is.  Last week, I visited a brand new, state-of-the-art bakery that specializes in gluten-free products. On Saturday, I happened upon a traditional, family-owned, bakery that has been in business almost 100 years!  A separate post on Get Fresh Bake House (the gluten-free facility) is coming shortly. 

But right now, step back with me to the early 1900's.  Kohout's Bakery in Garfield, NJ, opened its doors in 1917. It moved to its current location in 1924. Walk in and the sights and smells transport you back. Heavy wooden bakery cases line the walls, laden with old-fashioned baked goods. Delectable treats such as glazed doughnuts, yeasty crullers (how many of you even know what a cruller is???), crumb cake, and sweet, fat tea biscuits (pictured at the top of the post) sit waiting for you. Not to mention the gorgeous Danish pastries, salt sticks, and hearty rye and pumpernickel breads that I was lusting after!  A girl can only eat so much...

As a kid, I remember going to bakeries like this many Sundays after church - I think it's what started me down the dessert highway of my life. There was something really nice about the routine. I can still remember the anticipation of walking through that bakery door and seeing the array of beautiful pastries and cakes just lined up for the taking. There aren't many of these bakeries left anymore. They've mostly been replaced by supermarket bakeries pretending to bake but they're really just "baking off" the dough that's been shipped to them by the mother ship. I'm not saying these items are bad, but they're definitely lacking authenticity. I can count on one hand the number of small, individually-owned bakeries in this vicinity. It's a sad state of affairs.

Look at the texture of the dough in the cruller in this photo. It's amazing - yeasty pockets of dense deliciousness. And the crumb cake - mounds of butter-cinnamon-infused crumbs strewn over a delicious dough. But they are nothing compared to the tea biscuit - two inches thick, and bursting with plump raisins. Mine was enjoyed slathered with butter and plum preserves. Nobody makes tea biscuits anymore - too bad. They are a throwback to a more genteel time.

Got a small, neighborhood bakery near you? Patronize it. If not, pretty soon they'll be extinct. And that would be a shame.

Kohout's Bakery
75 Jewell Street
Garfield, NJ