For people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities we do our best to do without gluten, but man– when someone walks by with the yummiest looking cake or pastry– it really can make you jealous, frustrated or just plain sad. Many of us would love to once and a while have a fresh, spongy cake, a flaky crust or a fab roll or bun. We all know those can be hard to come by on the gluten free diet.
The Twin Cities had been booming with three gluten free bakeries — but as of September of last year, it was cut down to one making fresh gluten-free goodies hard to come by unless you drove to Bittersweet Bakery in Eagan. — Until now.
Down in the Valley’s Gluten Free Baking
Introducing Down in the Valley Bakehouse. It was the brainchild of the folks at Valley Natural Foods Co-op in Apple Valley. Something they’d been trying here and there for a while…
“We tried to do some [gluten free] baking in the deli, but it wasn’t safe I felt,” Jill Webster, manager of Down in the Valley Bakehouse said Wednesday night during a focus group inside their headquarters.
She knew they had to keep trying. Webster recalled the turning point for her one day at the co-op. She saw a little boy and said “Hi”. She said he screamed, cried and was inconsolable toward her. When Webster saw the same child six months later he was calmer and happier — overall a different child. She said his mom told her he had been just diagnosed with celiac disease and the gluten free diet had helped. That’s when, Webster said, she knew they could make a difference and had to do this Bakehouse.
They purchased an office space on Cliff Road in Eagan, Minnesota and converted it into a state-of-the-art bakery with a sweet convection-style oven that can bake 200-300 cookies at a time — in 8 minutes! The facility is strictly 100% gluten free, “We don’t even bring our sandwiches [from home] in here,” Webster said, referring to the fear of contaminating the facility with gluten.
Sampling the Gluten Free Goods
Baker Mark Hamer says he has been baking for more than 30 years and thought he was done with it. Until the challenge of gluten-free baking rejuvenated him. “My focus is to make items you can’t tell is gluten free,” Hamer said. “You can take this home and the whole family will love it,” he continued — as he pulled out several mini gluten free quiches from the oven. I detected the salivating had begun in earnest around that time among the dozen or so that were there to provide feedback on the foods.
Then we got to try everything– a spread of many products: cake, cupcakes (several varieties), pizza, quesadilla, quiche, hot dog buns, banana bread, egg bread, and baked/seasoned baguette chips. Some of the items were fresh, some were frozen and some had two samples both fresh and frozen — to see which we liked better and how the frozen held up. There were also a few dairy free selections.
The foods were awesome. Spongy cake, soft cupcakes, flaky crusted quiche — all filled with flavor and no grit or dried crumbles left behind. The hot dog buns were a huge hit. But I think my favorites were the quesadillas and cupcakes. They also have a baguette that we only tried as a the aforementioned chip, but some were sent home with us to try. Emma is very excited to give it a go when I can prepare it for her. However she LOVED the marble cake!
See all of the pictures of the gluten free goodies at The Savvy Celiac Facebook page
Buying Down in the Valley
The good news is, you can already buy the following gluten free items: cookies, granola bars, date bars, fudge brownies, cupcakes, mini pound cakes, blueberry muffins, coffee cakes, banana bread, egg bread and cinnamon raisin bread. However right now you can only buy them at the Valley Natural Foods Co-op in Apple Valley. Down in the Valley does not have a store front for the public.
The company confirmed they hope to get their products to other grocery stores, restaurants and maybe someday schools! So even if you can’t make it to Apple Valley, you should keep your eyes peeled! We already discussed having them at the celiac walk next year. So hopefully we can work it out so you will see them there!