Gluten-free baker specializes in and ships gluten-free goods
STIRLING, N.J. (AP) — Going gluten-free began as a trend many assumed would pass. But avoiding gluten has become par for the course for some Americans, not to mention necessary for people with severe gluten intolerance.
Though years have passed since gluten-free was a buzzword, the world of gluten-free baking is still characterized by gummy brownies and tasteless cakes. Enter Chef Nick Nikolopoulos, owner of the Stirling bakery Gluten Free Gloriously, who says he is creating gluten-free baked goods that taste like the real thing.
“There’s a misconception that gluten-free requires sugar and xanthan gum,” Nikolopoulos says. “It’s ludicrous to even think that. If you have good ingredients, the product tastes good naturally.”
Gluten Free Gloriously specializes in breads, pastries and pizzas — all completely gluten-free. Nikolopoulos has even begun shipping out his baked goods, a valuable resource for parents wanting to send care packages to their children with gluten allergies going off to college.
The worry that many parents feel sending their kids off into a world not accommodating to their health needs is something Nikolopoulos knows well. His nephew was born with life-threatening gluten, dairy and egg allergies.
“I saw how my sister was dealing with it, always a doggie bag and fear factor. I’m a second generation pastry chef. I thought, let me bring my experience and passion to gluten free,” Nikolopoulos says.
Nikolopoulos studied pastry at the French Culinary Institute of New York City. His father is a pastry chef, as well, and his family owns Bay Ridge Bakery in Brooklyn. He funnels this know-how into making desserts that, he says, taste exactly like their glutenous counterparts.
“Imagine having to live with life threatening allergies — going to friends’ houses and restaurants. You become a burden to society,” Nikolopoulos says. “People don’t want to deal with you. I’ve taken it to the other extreme because it’s real and it’s affecting people. If the culinary world doesn’t want to accommodate that — shame on us.”
To create pastries and breads that he maintains are identical to those with gluten, Nikolopoulos uses different blends of rice flour, potato flour and tapioca starch, to avoid using wheat flour. Nothing comes into -- or out of -- the kitchen at Gluten Free Gloriously without being certified gluten-free.
“There are so many mixes being used, it’s a breath of fresh air when I come across a chef that makes things from scratch,” Nikolopoulos says.
So, what’s hot at Gluten Free Gloriously? Nikolopoulos says the tiramisu is constantly selling out, the German chocolate cake is “decadent,” and his personal favorite are the cannolis. All are made with tailored blends of the rice, potato and tapioca starches in place of wheat flour, but don’t expect the menu to be the same every day.
“Pastry is artistic to me,” he says. ” If there’s mango on the market, I’m making mango mousse that day.”
When a recipe isn’t right (that is, the product doesn’t taste exactly like the regular version), Nikolopoulos reworks it again and again. Right now, he’s working on a gluten-free challah bread.
“I’m such a Type A personality that if you can tell the difference, I don’t want to make it,” he says.
For Nikolopoulos, making delicious gluten-free desserts more accessible to the community is a matter of passion, family and social responsibility, he says. He’s dedicated to making sure people with food allergies no longer have to eat bland or oddly textured foods.
“That’s why I drive an hour into New Jersey from my home in Brooklyn every day,” he says. “My staff and I don’t see this as a job. We love what we do.”