Chickpea interviews the mother-daughter founders of the Gluten Bootin’ Bakery AND gets a take-home treat that was divinely delicious…
When I went gluten free almost 2 years ago, I thought I’d never have one of those gigantic super-tasty muffins again. Well, I was happily proven wrong and found a great mondo muffin available from Fort Collins’ own Gluten Bootin’ Bakery. I first learned about Gluten Bootin’ when I partook of their Chocolate Zucchini Muffin at the Bellvue Bean with another gluten-free friend. I was amazed, delighted, and wanted more! These muffins are moist, flavorful, and scrumptious. A few weeks later, but not soon enough, I went back to the Bellvue Bean and got a Lemon Poppyseed Muffin to enjoy with a cup of chai tea. I had been day-dreaming about those muffins and was finally sated, for a few hours at least.
What I love most about this local wholesale bakery, founded by Tam Wahl & Adriane Gless, a dynamic mother-daughter team, is that they have worked and perfected their recipes for mondo muffins and cookies over the past 13 years. They developed their baked goods because they had to make a change for Adriane’s health and because they wanted gluten free foods to taste “uncompromisingly delicious,” which just happens to be their tagline. They developed their baked goods to taste so good you don’t even know they’re gluten free. To most of us who are gluten free, that’s pretty special.
Tam and Adriane have developed their own proprietary blend of gluten free flours, rented a gluten free kitchen space from a local commissary, and started their business in September 2011. This small business is run by Tam and Adriane, even while Adriane is in school at Cornell, studying Food Science and Product Development. Adriane keeps busy developing new flavors and ingredient combinations for Gluten Bootin’, studying, and also serving as a Prep Chef, and additionally developing a new gluten free line of menu choices for the Statler Hotel at Cornell. Tam also keeps busy with her landscape design business. Being dually impressed, I was full of questions for this talented team. How did they do it? How did they master the art and science of gluten free baking to taste so good?
It all started 13 years ago, when Adriane needed to be on a gluten free diet. Nothing on the market tasted good and there were many disappointments. With Tam’s background in biology, science, and design, Tam started cooking and baking gluten free for the whole family. They worked through their own recipes, learning about the different types of gluten free flours to use, and developed their own stunningly-delicious baked goods. They tested, tried, practiced (including making gluten free “hockey pucks”, because, hey, you have to start from somewhere!), and logged many kitchen hours figuring out how to make the best gluten free baked goods possible. “Because it feels so good to be gluten free” is ultimately the statement that defines how satisfyingly delectable their baked goods are. When Adriane was a sophomore at Poudre High School’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program, she was required to create a personal project and decided to put together her first cookbook titled “Look Ma, No Wheat: The Ultimate Gluten Bootin’ Cookbook” which was filled with tasty gluten free recipes. The cookbook was given to friends and family and was even available for sale at a few local stores. Motivated by this successful school project, their business name was dreamt up and a bigger project was looming on the surface, leading to where they are at today with their wholesale bakery business. A future project for Adriane may be to update the original cookbook, and I know I’ll stay tuned because I definitely want a copy.
On a recent wintery December day, Tam and Adriane welcomed me into their kitchen and graciously allowed me to ask lots of questions about their new business. While we talked about their experiences and business, Tam served hot tea and we shared 2 of their muffins, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffin and Cranberry Orange Almond Muffin, and one of their new cookies, a new ultimate favorite for me, called the Double Chocolate Buzz Buzz Cookie. The cookie is a chocolaty dessert fix for sure!
I enjoyed the interview time so much with Tam and Adriane, but once again I was impressed with their giving nature, both in their products and with gluten free advice, including tried and true GF mixes, new recipes, and altitude adjustments. For example, I learned that I could make crepes using Pamela’s Gluten Free Baking & Pancake mix. (Recipe here). The best part is that customers can go and talk to Tam at the Winter Farmers Market (hosted by BeLocalNC) held at the Opera Galleria building held 12 Saturdays from late October 2011 through early April 2012 and discuss the Gluten Bootin’ baked goods, suggest new flavors, and get more advice on eating gluten free.
Found at a lengthy list of local stores and sources [including the Bellvue Bean, Truman’s Coffeehouse, Everyday Joe’s Coffee House, Bob’s Coffee Shop, Lyric Cinema Cafe, Beaver’s Market, Food Coop, Poudre Valley Hospital, and Medical Center of the Rockies,] as well as the Winter Farmers Market, they have rotating flavors, seasonally based, and are they also developing new cookie flavors. Both their website and Facebook page list current and new flavors. They also look to their customers for feedback and flavor development and are very open to comments and feedback. This is what I call really listening to their customers. In fact, you can vote on their Facebook page for new flavors of mondo muffins. For January, they are introducing a Savory Sundried Tomato Cornbread Muffin (offering a healthier choice for the resolution-minded people right after the new year). They basically develop new muffin flavor choices each month with four rotating flavors all of the time. The selection, flavors, texture, and consistency of their products really dispels the idea that gluten free doesn’t taste good and is quite the opposite, with a warm rosy glow of satisfaction resulting from eating their baked goods. When you eat one of their goodies, you realize that it’s so good that everyone will want to eat it, whether gluten free or not, and really eliminates the negative stigma previously associated with so many other commercial gluten free goods.
While they have developed a proprietary flour mix that they use for their baked goods, there are a few gluten free ingredients that are staples, like eggs, sugar, and xanthan gum. Their products have been lab-tested for gluten and they are extremely proud to report that their baked goods measure at 0 ppm (parts per million) of gluten content. Again, driven by season, new flavors are developed, but the staple ingredients remain the same. The muffins are here to stay because as Tam reports, they’re fun to make with changeable flavors, they’re easy to eat, travel well, and can enjoy with a wide variety of drinkables (tea, coffee, juice, milk of choice, etc), plus these muffins basically usurp cupcakes (in my humble opinion).
The day to day activities of running the business result in Tam baking twice a week, testing new flavors, taking orders from clients (including special orders with a week’s notice), doing sales and cultivating client relationships, marketing, ordering supplies, bookkeeping, and personally delivering the ordered items to the stores and sources that sell their products. One of their recent special orders was to make 3,000 gluten free mini muffins for a special event at Poudre Valley Hospital. What was really neat about this is that the muffins were served and enjoyed by both gluten free and non-gluten free guests alike. Quite inspiring!
A big topic with gluten free foods is their cost and we all know that gluten free products do tend to cost more, due to the ingredients and flours. However, Gluten Bootin’ keeps their costs as low as possible and applies wisdom and every day strategies to keeping their costs down while still supplying a high quality product to all their consumers. All their ingredients are extremely fresh, from fresh eggs to orange zest, juices, and spices like nutmeg (Tam is a nutmeg purist and only uses whole nutmeg which is then hand ground!) and all these touches really add up to make a difference. Both Tam and Adriane enjoy making a difference and helping their consumers to enjoy gluten free foods.
Transitioning from baking in a home-kitchen to a commercial kitchen with a convection oven was part of the equation in starting the business. With Tam baking the goods twice a week, she really uses her science background and logical mind to utilizing the commercial kitchen space to its fullest. The business is growing organically, and the products are basically selling themselves, and that’s a perfect fit for Tam and Adriane. With the business ultimately growing in their first year alone, the future is very exciting for the Gluten Bootin’ Bakery. Other projects down the pike may include developing dry mixes for gluten free muffins and cookies and potentially developing other gluten free foods. In addition to developing their goods, they also share recipes in ways to use their products such as making croutons from some of their savory muffins, or making bread pudding from their sweeter muffins, or even making ice cream sandwiches with their cookies. Just by talking with Tam at the Winter Farmers Market, consumers can learn more about the business, the gluten free products, and more product ideas and recipes for use.
So, remember that Double Chocolate Buzz Buzz Cookie? Well, I got to take it home with me where I promptly devoured it with a cup of chai tea and had both my chocolate fix and my dessert-of-the-day fix. I truly felt this cookie was the best I’ve ever had, even before going gluten free. They are fulfilling their mission by making gluten free taste so good that everyone can enjoy. “They are so delicious you’ll want to eat them even if you’re not actively avoiding gluten.” Believe me, take it from Chickpea!