Sweets Too Good To Be Gluten Free? Not Anymore.
Madeleine’s gluten-free Berkshire Crunchie cookies, strawberry shortcake cupcakes, and lemon chiffon mini muffins.
By Amy Krzanik
You’ve seen it everywhere lately – “gluten free” – and either grabbed five of the item or rolled your eyes. I admit, I have to laugh at some of the products that advertise themselves as safe for my specific dietary restriction. Yogurt? Salad? Of course these items don’t have gluten in them, but thanks for the reassurance, I guess. On the other hand, I’ve been searching high and low for baked goods like breads and desserts that I can safely eat. When I do find them at stores, they’re mostly dry and tasteless, and I sigh and dream of days past when I could eat a cookie or slice of pie without dissecting its ingredients.
But it looks like those days are over, and I have local bakers to thank for ending my fruitless (and flour-less) search for dessert.
Kelly Spencer started Rhinecliff’s Savvy Girl Baking Company two-and-a-half years ago after a 25-year career in writing and editing, and has since seen her business grow by literal word of mouth. At her “savvy” college-aged daughter’s urging, Spencer was inspired to restart the brownie business she’d once run in her twenties. A friend in the foodie scene urged her to put a gluten-free spin on her secret, made-from-scratch recipe this time around. He actually did more than urge Spencer… he dared her. “He said ‘gluten-free isn’t a fad and it’s not going away,’” she says. Always up for a challenge, Spencer took a month to perfect her recipe, working nonstop until she created a brownie that no one could tell was made with brown rice flour instead of wheat flour.
“The goal is to get my brownie into somebody’s mouth first and then tell them it’s gluten-free. By that time, they can’t believe it and they don’t miss the gluten.” Her signature brownie – moist, chock-full of chocolate chips and the winner of the “Best Dessert” award at 2013’s Taste of Rhinebeck – will have competition next month when she rolls out two new products – a chocolate chip blondie and a chocolate ginger brownie. Even though her brownies are celiac-safe, Spencer stresses that those afraid her sweet treat will be too “healthy” need not worry. “This is not health food,” she says. “This is definitely a dessert because everyone should be able to treat themselves.”
Madeleine’s Patisserie & Cafe, which opened on Pittsfield’s North Street in October of last year, is a bakery and cafe owned by 26-year-old Ashley Summers. The Lanesboro native left high school early to attend the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, VT, followed by stints around the world, most recently working at NYC’s famous Tavern on the Green and serving as executive pastry chef for Richard Sandoval Restaurants. When she became pregnant with her daughter Madeleine, Summers realized that, as a single mom, continuing to work 80-hour weeks would mean leaving her child to be looked after by strangers most of the time.
Ashley Summers in the cafe.
She moved back to Berkshire County to be around family and, after searching but not finding work in the area, struck out on her own.
Madeleine’s offers the standard French cafe fare – buttery croissants, cookies, quiches and breakfast and lunch sandwiches – but also carries a gluten-free bread option and at least four pastries a day that are wheat free. In addition, Summers takes special orders for sugar-free and lactose-free baked goods. “The community uses us as a resource now,” she says. “People come in and say ‘We can’t find this anywhere’ or ‘Can you make this?’ I also think about what my dad would want.” Summers’ parents are both gluten free and are the inspiration behind many of her special recipes.
The cafe also has teamed up with local purveyors David’s Biscotti of Pittsfield and No. Six Depot Roastery out of West Stockbridge to offer their products in the cafe.
More Gluten-Free-Friendly Spots In The RI Region:
407 Warren St., Hudson, NY
Their “Uncle Barry’s Gourmet Waffle,” shown right, is made with gluten free flours, walnuts and coconut.
CrossRoads Food Shop
2642 Rt. 23, Hillsdale, NY
For the Love of Pie
786 State Rt. 20, New Lebanon, NY
Our Daily Bread
54 Main St., Chatham, NY
Irving Farm Coffee House
44 Main St., Millerton, NY
Rusty’s Farm Fresh Eatery
5 Old Farm Rd., Red Hook, NY
Gluten-free raspberry cupcake (shown left) from Rusty’s.
Ruth’s Brownie Kitchen
2517 Rt. 44, Salt Point, NY
107 Main St., Poughkeepsie, NY
Great Barrington & Pittsfield, MA and Hudson, NY
The Gluten Free Gourmet Cafe
284 Main St. #9, Great Barrington, MA
Great Barrington & Lenox, MA