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.