A Redmesa mom who began baking gluten-free items at home to protect her childrens health, has turned the labor of love into a paying commercial venture.
Melinda Wood, who has one child with severe celiac disease and two others who are gluten-intolerant, last week began supplying a variety of gluten-free goodies to the Steaming Bean coffee shop in downtown Durango.
Id been looking for a reliable source of gluten-free pastries since I bought the business three years go, Ivan Unkovskoy said Friday. We quite frequently have requests for gluten-free, but I hadnt found a good source.
The Steaming Bean is entering a growing field of local purveyors of gluten-free food. In addition to health-food stores and supermarkets, at least two individual entrepreneurs besides Woods produce gluten-free food. One does pastries, the other, pastas such as ravioli.
Wood began baking gluten-free bread, cookies, cake and muffins two years ago to thwart her childrens gluten intolerance. Gluten, a protein in cereal grains, gives elasticity to dough, but it also can damage the small intestine, preventing it from absorbing nutrients.
Wood switched from wheat flour when her daughter Dakota, then 9 years old, had a severe reaction to gluten.
She had been losing weight, her hair was falling out and she had a rash over her face, Woods said. She was down to 30 pounds, but doctors couldnt determine what the problem was. We had to go to Childrens Hospital in Denver.
Daughter Ashland, 8, and son Colt, 4, are gluten intolerant. Only daughter Naomi, 12, has no adverse reaction to gluten. Dakota has rebounded to health.
As her baking skills won acclaim from friends and neighbors who would commission cakes for special occasions, Wood began looking further afield. Since she landed a deal with Unkovskoy, Wood obtained a license to sell commercially and now rents the commercial kitchen at the La Plata County Fairgrounds.
Wood experimented until she settled on her present flour, a mixture of sweet rice, potato and tapioca.
I test my gluten-free recipes on Naomi, Wood said. Since shes the only one not gluten-intolerant, I know I have a winner if she likes it.
The fairgrounds kitchen is rented on weekends to vendors at large events such as the Home and Ranch Show, said fairgrounds office manager Jane Zimmerman. She also has eight individuals or companies as renters.
The kitchen, with convection and traditional ovens, a grill, three refrigerators, a freezer and a dishwasher, is certified by the San Juan Basin Health Department.
In order to avoid cross-contamination, I take my own bowls and pans to the kitchen, and I make sure no one has baked anything with gluten for 24 hours before I use the oven, Wood said. I also wipe down all surfaces because there could be residue. If theres more than 20 parts per million gluten, its not gluten-free.
Each pastry is wrapped individually in cellophane.
Consumers at the Steaming Bean pay the same price for gluten-free as for the same pastry made from wheat flour.
Unkovskoy, who serves Boars Head meats and cheeses, which have no gluten or fillers, matches them with Woods bread to add gluten-free sandwiches to his lunch menu.
All baristas have been trained to keep gluten-free ingredients separated from wheat-flour items, Unkovskoy said.