The Conscious Palate: Pastries, Cookies, and Cakes, Oh My!

00:00 August 28, 2012
By: 2Fik
[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]

When the need for a sweet treat hits, it hits hard. Something as simple as a warm cookie can give instant comfort. But for those living a gluten, egg, or dairy-free lifestyle, it isn't always as easy as going to the neighborhood bakery or nearest supermarket for a "goodie." A special diet oftentimes requires special planning and research. Buying boxed mixes, gluten-free flour, extracts, spices and/ or dairy and egg replacers to bake at home is fairly easy, but the results tend to fall flat (literally). Grocery stores carry more glutenfree options now than ever before, but they can be pricey, taste "off" and don't have long shelf life. And what happens when the need arises for a special occasion cake like a wedding or birthday?

Fear not. Multiple bakeries have recently opened in the Greater New Orleans area offering plenty of food-allergy-friendly options from freshly baked breads to cakes worthy of any special celebration.

Breads on Oak opened in July as an "Old World bakery." Chef-owner Sean O'Mahony scratch bakes everything, specializing in vegan breads and muffins. The vegan Cinnamon Toasted Walnut Coffeecake is a big hit alongside "healthy" (not necessarily vegan, so please ask) options like the popular multi-grain loaf and Banana Nut, Orange Cranberry, and Date Nut muffins. Though not a gluten-free bakery, Breads on Oak does offer oatmeal raisin cookies and pecanstudded brownies prepared sans gluten.

A strictly-gluten-free bakery is Metairie's own The PeaceBaker. Located on Veterans Boulevard, almost at the Kenner line, is this 100-percent-dedicated, gluten-free (no outside food containing gluten is even allowed in) bakery with an impressive menu. Owner Kelly Boffone has been baking for 19 years, pedigreed as pastry chef at Maurice's and a one-time pastry chef at Emeril's. Her own gluten intolerance inspired opening a bakery where she could indulge in all things gluten-free, organic, vegan, dairy-free and allergy-friendly to "Find the Sweet Balance in Life." Everything in the bakery is gluten and dairy free, though she will bake with dairy upon request. Best sellers include mini donuts, red pepper cheddar cornbread, fresh fruit hand pies and cinnamon rolls. The s'mores cupcakes filled with a dark chocolate ganache are a bit of GF heaven. For the ultimate celebration, The PeaceBaker bakes eight and 10-inch birthday cakes, traditional wedding and grooms cakes, cupcakes or just a top tier for the bride and groom to share. Party tray assortments of your favorite bakery bites (whoopie pies anyone?) are also available.

Cake fans will want to check into Shake Sugary on St. Claude, which is open every Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. With more than 10 different vegan cakes and frostings, including vegan fudge and "butter" cream, owner/pastry chef Dawn Snead is a true vegan-baking genius. Fancy sculpted cakes are also available. Other vegan items include sweet potato praline pie, chai spice blondies, old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies, and pumpkin apple muffins. For gluten-free inquiries, contact the bakery directly.

Newly-opened Gracious Bakery on S. Jeff Davis is owned and operated by beloved local pastry chef Megan Forman (formerly of Sucré and Bayona). Gracious Bakery serves locallyroasted coffee, breakfast pastries and artisanal bread for sandwiches. Many of the breads are vegan by nature, but the bakery is not dedicated to gluten-free products. Megan's "Rochers" - airy bites of meringue, cocoa nibs, and dried orange - are gluten-free but still produced in a bakery that uses gluten.

With wedding season in full swing and the holidays right around the corner, having a reliable bakery for vegan/dairy-free/ gluten-free diners, is a major necessity. Though it may have been difficult to find specialty baked goods for those with food intolerances, Celiac disease, etc., it's certainly getting a lot easier. The hardest part is no longer sourcing treats, but coming up with reasons to celebrate and treat yourself everyday while not over-indulging.

Chef Mia Calamia of La Divina also offers gluten-free pastries at the Magazine Street and French Quarter locations. A gluten-free eater herself, Mia keeps a rotating assortment of cookies (triple chocolate espresso and raspberry thumbprint), muffins, Florentines, and airy baked meringues.

At the Saturday Crescent City Farmers' Market (700 Magazine St. at Girod, 8 a.m. -Noon), Chef Lisa Barbato of Rivista bakes up a generous stash of gluten-free muffins, bagels, and a rotating selection of items. After many request from market-goers and longtime customers, Lisa took on the challenge of re-fashioning her regular recipes into glutenfree. The result has been a huge success. The most popular items include focaccia, bagels, and "Chunky Monkey" muffins studded with bananas, dark chocolate, coconut, and walnuts. Lisa has a strong following for her buttery, handmade pastry (regular wheat), and the early bird gets the gluten-free.

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