Sunday, October 26, 2008
Heaven In A Box
Very rarely in life… but sometimes it really and truly happens… something great just drops into your lap. Or in this case, into your sweet tooth. This summer I became affiliated with a wonderful Southern California based gluten free blog called Gluten Free In SD which promotes education about celiac disease and gluten intolerance and acts as a forum to connect San Diegans with gluten free resources of all kinds. Not long after my Tasty... and Gluten Free! URL was published on their site, I received an email out of the blue from an extremely talented gluten free chef. Her name is Rachel Marie Helmer, and she is the dessert genius behind Mari Made.
Diagnosed with celiac nearly four years ago, Rachel Marie started her blog for the same reasons why many of us do: to share her gluten free discoveries and recipes with others going through a similar experience. Her lifelong passion for cooking and baking enabled her to see going gluten free as a fun adventure that has "introduced (her) to an array of different flours, each with a unique flavor and texture."
Adds Rachel Marie, "I can honestly say I love my gluten free diet now, not only because I don't feel sick anymore but because it has inspired me to try all sorts of new foods that I shied away from before... and filled my life with even more dining and cooking adventures than I had back in my gluten eating days."
Over time, Rachel Marie’s passion for gluten free baking has led her down a new and exciting life path – the creation of her own gluten free bakery. After receiving numerous emails from San Diegans who had read her blog and were interested in trying out her recipes but did not have time to bake for themselves, she realized it was time to share her cooking with others. "I started Mari Made in response to these requests and have been having such fun with it ever since."
Thanks to Rachel Marie’s genuine delight in gluten free cooking it is no surprise that her bakery has already developed into a successful small business catering for private parties and social fundraisers - including a recent fundraiser to benefit San Diego’s Monarch School and A Reason To Survive. At this event called Fruit of the Soul, she provided hundreds of cupcakes and assorted tarts to share with attendees.
As she shares her favorite part about participating in the event, Rachel Marie describes how happy guests were to discover that her baked goods were gluten free. "When someone would come to my table and look at all the cupcakes and tarts, and I would say to them that all of the baked goods were gluten free, their eyes would light up and they would exclaim that they had celiac and were just looking at my treats and wishing that they could have one." How wonderful it must have been to assure them that they could!
After checking out the Mari Made website, I knew exactly how these eager eaters must have felt. In fact, as the resident Tasty and Gluten Free Expert of this blog I felt it was my sacred duty to sample some of her scrumptiously decadent looking desserts and report back to my readers about them. (Hahaha, how noble of me!!!) My sole challenge was deciding which of her gorgeous desserts to order first.
Exceptionally gracious, Rachel Marie worked with me to select a sweetie that fit our price range and cravings. After much discussion and upon suggestion from Rachel Marie, my husband and I decided to order a box of her "favorite" mini lemon tarts, which she describes as "a kind of cross between a mini tart, butter shortbread and lemon bar".
Willing to go the extra mile - even beyond gluten free - she kindly created the lemon tarts according to my individualized dietary needs. After I explained my difficulties with sugar (and my husband’s distaste for agave nectar) she suggested using Z-Sweet instead and kindly adjusted her recipe to support my tummy. Sugar lovers will be relieved to know however that she usually creates her delicacies using real sugar and powdered sugar. That said, my husband and I were thrilled with the Z-Sweet filled tarts and highly recommend them. Not only were they the perfect blend of lemony flavor and sweetness, but she also does something very special with the crusts, which held together beautifully.
Other Mari Made baked treats include peanut butter cookies, blueberry muffins, pumpkin scones and maple-oat-pecan scones (gf certified oats) – and many more.
Currently offering delivery in the San Diego area, Mari Made is in the process of expansion and will eventually offer shipping of baked goods all around the United States. In addition to running her bakery, Rachel Marie also acts as a private consultant for people new to the gluten free diet – helping them to learn how to grocery shop safely, cook gluten free versions of their favorite meals, plan for vacations and eat out at restaurants.
What a joy for those who, like me, suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease to know that such a fulfilling and accommodating gluten free bakery exists in Southern California. I dearly hope that bakeries like this will be popping up in every neighborhood, so that ALL families and children will be able to relish eating gluten free desserts with great affection and appetite!