Lisa Martullis, owner of Delish, is an entrepreneur in the cupcake world. Her bakery is not the only one in the Austin-San Antonio area making cupcakes, but it is one of the few that’s developed gluten-free cupcakes so tasty, traditional diners request them as much as those who must eat gluten free.
Lisa decided to make great gluten-free cupcakes for a friend’s daughter with celiac disease. Once she and her bakers created cupcakes they liked, she presented them to her young friend. With her stamp of approval, Lisa knew she should add them to the roster of choices at the bakery. She also realized that the cupcakes had to be safe from cross-contamination of their gluten baking. Her inquiry for help with this concern led to this assignment and assessment.
On my first visit to the bakery, the young woman at the counter showed my companion and me the gluten-free cupcakes of the day: lemon with lemon butter cream or chocolate with espresso butter cream icings. These cupcakes sat under their own glass cake dome on a cake platter separate from the traditionally baked items. They looked too pretty to eat sitting in silver liners on the paper doily. Stovepipe swirls of frosting and a sprinkle of glittery confetti decorated the cake tops. I chose the lemon cupcake to sample. It was pretty tasty with a light, airy, but substantial crumb. The cake could have been eaten by itself; the rich frosting complimented its flavor. It was clear to me that the non-gluten-free customers would never notice the substitution of this cake for the “traditional” type.
Since the bakery makes traditional as well as gluten-free products, cross-contamination for any gluten-free diner is a big concern. Here are the ways Delish approaches those issues:
How is cross-contamination controlled?
In the kitchen there is a designated area for gluten-free tools and finished cupcakes separate from the other baking. This area has covered shelving to hold all bowls, pastry bags, tips, whips, spoons, spatulas, or other tools and accoutrements used in preparation of the gluten-free batter, baking, and decorating. These tools are color coded as well to designate the segregated usage. All bins that hold flours and ingredients are marked “GF” or ”Gluten Free.”
The gluten-free butter cream frosting is made separately from the regular butter cream frosting and stays in containers identified as such in the refrigerator or the separate shelving and counter. Since they share a refrigerator with traditional mixtures, leftover gluten-free batter and frosting containers are marked GF to avoid any confusion.
All gluten-free preparation is mixed with a separate, gluten-free-only mixer.
Both traditional and gluten-free cupcakes are baked in cupcake liners, so baking tins are not separated, but silver cupcake liners are used for the gluten-free cupcakes. This identification distinguishes those cupcakes from the traditional ones and keeps the separation procedure consistent.
Each day after all baking is completed, the entire kitchen – mixers, utensils, countertops – all surfaces and floor areas are cleaned of the day’s detritus. This is not only required sanitation and good business practice, but it prepares the bakery for the baking time devoted each morning for their gluten-free baking. Traditional flours and baking does not begin until the gluten-free baking is completed and the products protected from any chance of cross-contamination. A professional service arrives weekly to steam clean surfaces and the floor as another sanitation and procedural practice.
This cleaning prepares the bakery for its gluten-free baking because all gluten-free baking occurs only in the morning. Finished gluten-free products are then safely stored before any traditional baking begins. The bakery also makes a lemon curd and meringue for a number of items. Both the curd and meringue are made gluten free, so the bakers make these ingredients at this time as well to avoid cross-contamination. This procedure allows the bakers to use these ingredients safely in any of their gluten-free foods or gluten-free special orders.
What are the handling procedures for gluten-free goods at the bakery?
A hand-washing/glove exchange and gluten-free procedure card is prominently displayed on the wall in the kitchen to remind the bakers how to avoid cross contamination.
Some finished gluten-free cupcakes are frosted and decorated for display in their special domed enclosure alongside other bakery items. But gluten-free cupcakes are frosted to order so a customer can choose the butter cream frosting they’d prefer on their cupcake. The kitchen keeps these unfrosted cupcakes in a specially marked and covered plastic bin and stored on their own shelf to await their special icings.
When receiving a gluten-free cupcake order, a baker pulls a gluten-free cupcake from the storage rack and decorates it using the designated gluten-free decorating tools and frosting. The bakers change gloves before handling these cupcakes and decorating them. They also spray and or wipe down the area where they will be decorating the gluten-free items as an extra precaution.
Besides putting the gluten-free cupcakes in silver liners as a gluten-free designation, they also use gluten-free stickers for boxes and bags so the confusion for the customer is minimal, too. If a customer has a mixed order of gluten-free and traditional cupcakes, this system eliminates any chance of a mix-up for the recipients. A disclaimer sticker stating that the gluten-free items are baked in a facility that also uses nuts, traditional flours, etc. adds another degree of food safety for the consumer.
Lisa and her staff are interested in their bakery being certified as a Gluten Free Food Service business. They will begin that process through the national Gluten Intolerance Group organization soon.
Giving you the goods:
Creating an environment dedicated to gluten-free baking opens the door for other gluten-free baking opportunities. Their delicious cupcakes are not the only gluten-free treats Delish makes at the bakery.
There are two cookie varieties: chocolate/peanut butter and honey almond. They keep the dough for these cookies frozen and bake off a portion of it during the gluten-free baking period several times a week. The cookies are so popular that out-of-state customers regularly order the frozen dough. You, too, can buy the dough if you’d like to have your own stock at home. At some point Delish plans to market the dough to other vendors.
There is gluten-free pastry for tartlets, which they fill with gluten-free lemon curd and top with meringue. Other gluten-free crusted items cannot be far behind these yummy, delicate tartlets. At this time the lemon tartlets are made to order with 24 hours notice and a minimum purchase of two dozen.
Lisa recommends that customers call to place orders the day before visiting the bakery so they can reserve what they might want. Delish bakes a limited amount of gluten-free items daily to ensure freshness and usually sells out of them.
Delish has plans to develop more gluten-free baked goods as the time and the gluten-free market demands them. But there is an easy way to try their cupcakes, cookies, and tartlets to decide what you might pre-order.
On the first Saturday of every month, Delish Cupcakes samples gluten-free products in the early afternoon. Gluten-free pastry for tartlets, gluten-free lemon curd, meringue, and cookies are always sampled. And, the bakers continue to test new recipes for other items as they develop them. They welcome gluten-free customers to come and give them feedback.
Visit Delish and indulge in buying gluten-free desserts for yourself and your family. To finally have a retail bakery in Austin that includes our dietary needs in their everyday operation is a treat in itself. Step in, place your order, sit at the counter or at a bistro table with a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy. Oh, didn’t I mention coffee and other potables? You get to explore that facet of this gluten-free jewel yourself. (OM 08/10)