5 Dedicated Gluten-Free Bakeries Around the Bay Area

Mariposa fruit galette (Anna Mindess)

When I used to walk into even the most elegant pastry shop and ask for something without gluten, I was lucky to be offered a “gluten-free” almond or coconut macaroon, which was cozied up in the case right next to conventional muffins, scones and cookies. The problem for the increasing number of customers who avoid gluten by choice or necessity is that these treats will most likely be prepared in a kitchen which is enveloped by wheat flour: on pans, on hands and in the air. That cross-contamination is too risky for those with extreme allergies or celiac disease, because, for them, even the tiniest bit of wheat can trigger a dangerous allergic reaction.

I have been following a g/f diet for about 15 years, due to a wheat-intolerance. In the old days, there were slim pickings: crumbly, Styrofoam-esque breads, and dry takes on token sweet treats. But oh, how things changed in the last few years! While most local markets now carry a range of g/f frozen breads and packaged cookies, even the finest frozen baked good cannot compare to fragrant, warm muffins, pastries or rolls right out of the oven.

A handful of “dedicated gluten-free bakeries”—where everything is prepared in completely gluten-free kitchens—now encircle the Bay Area, so whether you live in San Francisco, the East Bay, the South Bay, Marin or the San Ramon Valley, you are not far from freshly baked moist muffins, decadent desserts, killer cupcakes or satisfying sandwich breads that you can trust are 100% gluten-free.

A side benefit is that all five bakeries also cater to customers with an array of additional allergies and diet preferences, so patrons with a sensitivity to dairy, eggs, soy or nuts or those who follow vegan or Paleo diets can blissfully munch on sinfully-satisfying brownies, scones, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, cookies, pies and breads. All five bakeries also make and decorate special-order cakes -- enabling weddings, holiday dinners and kids’ birthday parties to be accessible and enjoyable for all. (Prices vary, but generally cakes run about $35, breads from $8-$10, muffins and donuts $3-$4, cookies $1-$2.)

Since each bakery carries scores of sweet and savory products, I couldn’t possibly sample them all (though goodness knows I tried!) but I list a few of my favorites below. You can check out their websites for a full listing, but better yet, stop in for a visit and conduct your own tasting of gourmet gluten-free goodies.

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Mariposa

“Mariposa” is Spanish for “butterfly” and founder Patti Furey Crane picked the name because the transformation that a butterfly goes through reflects the way that “many people who adopt a gluten-free lifestyle transform their lives through food.” Her bakery is the godmother of Bay Area dedicated g/f bakeries. It’s the oldest and largest g/f bakery with two locations: Oakland’s Temescal District and San Francisco’s Ferry Building. But it all happened by accident. Crane never planned to open a bakery café at all. In 2002, after she was diagnosed with MS and researched what she could do to calm the symptoms of her autoimmune condition, she read about eliminating gluten from her diet. The few g/f products she found at the time were, she remembers, “mass-produced, bland, with a texture that wasn’t right.” Since she had baked a lot with her mother as a little girl, she set about converting some tried-and-true recipes (like biscotti and brownies) to g/f versions to sell at natural food markets.

Crane started making her wholesale baked goods in a shared kitchen. When she needed more space and found the Telegraph Avenue location in 2006, it was zoned for retail. She was forced to comply by becoming a retail outlet and Crane and her husband duly installed a counter, but not much else. There was no signage and their door was a heavy, steel contraption. It’s a wonder that her customers managed to find Mariposa, but when they did, they were not shy about offering suggestions of what she should add to her line. “The business stemmed from customer cravings,” says Crane, “including me, too, since I’m a consumer and I have my own cravings.” Mariposa now produces more than 70 items and Crane is always looking to add new things.

Her multi-grain bread has a complex flavor/texture profile with a blend of flours, plus flax and sunflower seeds. The delightful cream-filled Penguino cupcake contains no known allergens but an intensely fudgy flavor. My family loves Mariposa’s seasonal fruit galette, a dessert elegant enough for company, with its balance of delicate crust, tangy fruit and crunch of sugar sprinkled on top. The Oakland location now has a pleasant café with plenty of seating, while the Ferry Building Bakeshop, added in 2012, is more of a to-go spot. For breakfast, try a bagel, cinnamon roll, Danish or pumpkin muffin. Lunch features a selection of pizza, sandwiches, empanadas and more.

Mariposa
5427 Telegraph Ave., Unit 3D [Map]
Oakland, CA 94609
Ph: (510) 595-0955
Hours: Mon-Fri 9am-6pm; Sat 9am-5pm; Sun 10am-5pm

One Ferry Building, suite 32 [Map]
San Francisco, CA 94111
Ph: (510) 595-0955
Hours: Mon-Sat 8am-6pm; Sun 10am-5pm
(for both locations:)
Facebook: Mariposa Baking Artisan Crafted Gluten Free Bakery 
Twitter: @MariposaBaking

Bacano Bakery

As the youngest, local g/f bakery, Bacano celebrates its one-year birthday this month; its name is Spanish slang for cool, or very good. Founder Laverne Matias started selling his g/f goods three years ago at farmers' markets (he continues at Oakland’s Grand Lake and Temescal and San Francisco’s Clement), then opened this cozy spot in Emeryville last September. Matias, who grew up in Puerto Rico, also baked at home with his mother. He moved to California in 2000 to become a lawyer after he was accepted into Hastings Law School, but changed his mind about that career path. Deciding he wanted something “more human,” he did a stint as head of HR for a large (conventional) baking company, then branched off on his own to develop some healthier recipes. He also studied existential psychology at JFK University and worked for three years as a licensed psychotherapist. But at the moment, his bakery/café is keeping him tuned in to people’s more earthly desires.

Matias explains his approach: “We don’t use gluten-free flour mixes. We prefer to create unique blends of gluten-free flours to complement each item. I love ancient grains such as teff, millet, sorghum and quinoa. We also use nut flours and meals like almond, coconut and hazelnut.”

Bacano offers a unique bread called "Seeds of Joy," which contains a complex blend of teff, sorghum and sweet rice flours sprinkled with fennel, caraway and coriander seeds. I keep it in the freezer, and toast to enjoy it with savory spreads like hummus or avocado.

I was wild about Bacano's "Monkey Paradise" muffins—essentially banana bread plus chocolate chips, walnuts and dried cherries—and found their fig scones divine. The De Young Museum serves another of my favorites at Bacano: their grain-free, cranberry date walnut bites, jewel-like orbs that burst with flavor.

Bacano’s cakes feature some unusual flavor combinations, including rosemary with coconut; and orange, almond and pistachio. Since they use all natural ingredients, the classic mauve roses with green foliage on the icing are colored with beet and spinach juice, respectively.

At lunchtime, Bacano’s café offers soups, salads, quiche, pizza and sandwiches.

Bacano Bakery
1298 65th St. [Map]
Emeryville, CA 94608
Ph: (510) 250-9751
Hours: Mon-Sat 8am-3pm
Facebook: Bacano Bakery
Twitter: @BacanoBakery

Zest Bakery

This family-owned bakery in San Carlos is the only one of the five that does not announce “gluten-free” on its store front, as its scalloped green awning proclaims “organic.” But once you are inside, the baked goods in the inviting cases all sport friendly “Hi, My Name is ____” labels which clearly state that every item is indeed g/f as well as often dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free etc.

Cynthia Fleischer is the current manager, baker and co-owner. Zest began in 2009 when Fleisher’s brother-in-law, Patrick Luke, who has celiac disease, and his wife Charissa (Cynthia’s sister), started baking g/f creations at home. In 2010, they found this charming storefront in San Carlos and started their retail bakery. After Cynthia was laid off from Genentech, where she worked as a bio-process-technician, she jokes that she “traded one lab for another” and now develops new g/f recipes as well as baking the favorites that have been there since the beginning. One of these is Zest’s petite almond cake, a must-try fluffy cloud of marzipan. Another winner is their Triple Berry muffin, moist and light, with a hint of lemon and a crunchy topping.

Cynthia Fleischer claims their secret is using a combination of flours and ground seeds for their breads and pastries. When she recently found herself craving something with bacon, she devised the devilishly good bacon maple bourbon muffins.

At lunchtime, Zest Bakery offers quiche and made-to-order sandwiches. They also have ice cream sandwiches, ravioli, unbaked pizza and pie crusts in the freezer.

Zest Bakery
1224 Arroyo Ave. [Map]
San Carlos, CA 94070
Ph: (650) 241-ZEST (9378)
Hours: Tue-Fri 9am-4pm; Sat 8am-4pm; Sun 8am-2pm
Facebook: Zest Bakery
Twitter: @zestbakery

Miglet’s

Katie Taylor started baking gluten-free when her mother, Elaine Taylor was diagnosed with celiac disease. Her mother also happens to be co-founder and president of The Taylor Family Foundation, which runs summer camps for children with physical and mental challenges. When Katie volunteered at the summer Celiac Camp at Camp Arroyo, her sweet treats were such a big hit with the campers, that their parents encouraged her to begin making g/f birthday cakes. Katie was inspired to expand to a g/f catering business and then in 2010 opened a retail storefront, Miglet’s Cupcake shop, tucked away in the corner of Crossroads shopping center in Danville. ("Miglet" was Katie's childhood nickname – a combination of Piglet and Monkey.)

If you or your kids have a sweet tooth and need to eat g/f, Miglet's cupcakes, cream puffs and donuts should satisfy your cravings. Their cupcakes sport a pompadour of swirled icing and sometimes a surprise in the middle. For example, the most popular variety, vanilla salted caramel cupcakes have additional caramel piped into the center. Besides the usual chocolate and lemon flavors, Miglet’s gets creative with their combinations: strawberry margarita cupcakes with key lime frosting; piña colada donuts with pineapple chunks and toasted coconut; rocky road donuts. Be warned that their donuts sell out quickly, often by noon.

They also bake a variety of cookies, scones and sweet breads such as pumpkin, lemon poppy seed and banana bread.

Miglet's small space focuses on baking sweet treats, but they also offer a variety of salads, chicken pot pies, mac and cheese and quiche  for lunch in their cold case. And if you live near the “680 Corridor” and can’t always trek out to Oakland or Emeryville, their grocery section carries frozen loaves of Mariposa’s and Bacano’s breads plus Bread SRSLY’s sourdough. There's also a selection of g/f crackers, pasta, cookies, g/f flour and other products.

Miglet's
480 San Ramon Valley Blvd. [Map]
Danville, CA 94526
Ph: (925) 831-9016
Hours: Mon-Sat 9am-6pm; Sun 10am-5pm
Facebook: Miglet's Gluten Free Bakery & Grocery
Twitter: @migletsgf

Flour Craft Bakery

If you are driving out of the city for a day hike in the North Bay, take a small detour to this lovely, light-filled bakery café in delightful downtown San Anselmo for some awesome baked goods that all happen to be gluten-free. After discovering her own severe gluten intolerance 15 years ago, Heather Hardcastle, chef and co-owner of Flour Craft Bakery, decided to change her career as well as her diet. In 2008, she studied pastry at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, which naturally focused on conventional baking recipes and techniques. She then reformulated all the recipes to make them gluten-free. Her professional training is evident in the quality of her breads, pastries and desserts. Hardcastle began her g/f foray by developing a signature granola that she sold at farmers markets.

After a crowd-funding campaign, she and her husband opened Flour Craft Bakery in 2013. “My goal is making delicious food,” says Hardcastle. “The fact that it is gluten-free is just a bonus.” The menu of breads, brioche, muffins, cookies and cakes changes monthly. For lunch, there’s quiche, quinoa salad, lentil salad and sandwiches on housemade focaccia.

I found the blackberry Earl Grey scone light and fluffy, the flourless hazelnut brownie decadent, and the marbled coffee cake with espresso glaze moist and crumbly. But the warm olive focaccia, kissed with olive oil, is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted—period. Even if you don’t have a date in Marin planned, visit Flour Craft. It’s worth the drive.

Flour Craft Bakery
702 San Anselmo Ave. [Map]
San Anselmo, CA 94960
Ph: (415) 453-3100
Hours: Tue-Sat 7am-4pm; Sun 8am-3pm
Facebook: Flour Craft Bakery
Twitter: @flourcraft

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Additional Resources:
Top Ten Reasons to Eat at a Dedicated Gluten Free Restaurant

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