Baking Innovators Share Recipes for Gluten-Free, Whole-Grain and Vegan Desserts

Food & Wine: Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Ginger Cupcakes
Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Ginger Cupcakes Photo © John Kernick
By Emily Kaiser Thelin Posted October 24, 2013

In the quest to create gluten-free, vegan and whole-grain desserts, innovators are rethinking the way we bake with ingenious new methods and ingredients.

Sweet Bar (Oakland, California)
Mani Niall has been experimenting with new ways to bake since the '80s, back when he worked as a private chef for Michael Jackson and William Shatner (during the actor's wheat-free period). In 1989, he opened Mani's Bakery in Los Angeles, among the first places in the country to offer vegan and gluten-free sweets. Back then he was on the fringe; today, with his new Sweet Bar Bakery in Oakland and new book, Good Morning Baking, he is firmly in the mainstream. At Sweet Bar, his signs for the display cases indicate the flour, sugar and fat source of every item. But he's no zealot—he even offers a killer pulled-pork sandwich on crusty French bread. "I've never been a nutritionist; I'm not on any bandwagon," he says. "I just want to make good food."

Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Ginger Cupcakes
Gluten-Free Buckwheat Gingerbread Cookies

Tu-Lu's (New York and Dallas)
"We're kind of like scientists," says Jennifer Wells of Tu-Lu's Bakery about creating gluten-free and vegan baked goods with her business partner, Tully Phillips. Phillips was working at a catering company in New York City in 2008 when she learned she was gluten-intolerant; Wells, then working in finance in New York City, found out she had celiac disease around the same time. Together, the women own Tu-Lu's, with one location in New York and two in Dallas. To come up with new recipes, they find the best version of a classic, deconstruct it, analyze it, then rebuild it. Their brownies—inspired by pastry genius Alice Medrich—required many trials to make them densely chocolaty but not too fudgy. "We put our recipes under a microscope because we want them to be perfect," Wells says.

Double Chocolate-Peanut Butter Chip Brownies
Vegan Banana-Walnut Muffins

Bakeshop (Portland, Oregon)
Kim Boyce is a kind of whole-grain supertaster. The former pastry chef of Spago, Patina and Campanile in Los Angeles fell in love with whole grains in 2005 when—forced to pack up her white flour during a home-kitchen renovation—she found herself making multigrain pancakes from a mix. To her amazement, she loved their earthy flavors. Soon she was combing health-food stores for amaranth, barley and other flours to try, and realizing that different whole-grain flours pair best with different fruits. "That discovery was really exciting," she says. Her experiments grew into an award-winning book, Good to the Grain, and the new Bakeshop.

Caramelized-Apple Custard Tart with a Rye Crust

Related: America's Best Gluten-Free Desserts
Gluten-Free Recipes from Silvana Nardone
Vegan Recipes

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