When gluten-free isn’t meant to be

Look around you – for the gluten-intolerant diners who thought we’d never eat a cupcake again or feast on a doughnut or chow down on a cheesy pizza, innovative chefs and bakers have stepped into the gap.

But good heavens, it isn’t easy. Any gluten-intolerant home baker trying to replicate the sweet treats and cherished delicacies of their former life is in for a rough ride. Cakes are heavy, cookies are crumbly, biscuits are chewy.

So you have to admire anyone willing to try it commercially. Ingredients are more expensive and harder to find than plain old wheat. Recipes are completely different and must be tried and adapted again and again to get even an acceptable substitute. (I’ve yet to taste a decent pie crust.) And as much as the numbers of people seeking gluten-free products and meals is growing, they can be a sometime thing.

“It is difficult because there isn’t always a market for it,” said Kelly Ziegler, an owner of Serious Delights Bakery. “Some days we do well and some days we don’t.”

So far, she offers a coconut-lemon muffin, a coconut macaroon and a chocolate decadence flourless cake. She’d like to do more gluten-free baking, but she doesn’t have a separate kitchen to make gluten-free pastries – a requirement to be certified as a gluten-free establishment.

For anyone with a serious gluten intolerance like celiac disease, where even flour in the air can set off a debilitating reaction, that means even many gluten-free treats are off limits.

But for some, gluten-free is a boon to their business. Iron Horse Pizzeria on the south end of town draws a crowd for its made-on-site gluten-free crust. A little Domata living flour, a little gluten-free mix, a little oil and water and voila, a suitable bottom for your pie of choice.

“We have a huge following. It’s a large part of our business,” chef Ryan Clark said of his gluten-free pizzas.

The only drawback?

It costs $2 more than a regular pizza. Of course.

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