I’m Vera, and baking has been a part of family life for generations.  My great-grandmother, also a Vera, baked everything from scratch in a wood-burning oven.  She never measured, and her breads, jams, and desserts were unbeatable.  I’m not sure what the baker’s equivalent is to a gardener’s green thumb, but whatever it is, Grandma Barr had it in spades.  Or wooden spoons.

So did Grammie Childs.  Her recipe for chocolate chip cookies has been passed around the family, but no one makes them like Grammie did.  Her cookie jar was always full, which was no small feat with 16 grandchildren.  We grew up helping her stir, eating spoonfuls of uncooked batter (now forbidden), and tasting the warm cookies freshly baked with the chocolate chips still softly melted.  Oh, the sweet scent of her kitchen!

Baking days in our home have continued the joy of sampling cookies fresh from the oven, but now those cookies are gluten-free.

My husband, Ray, helps with packaging, labeling, and deliveries, and he is the main reason we dove into the world of gluten-free baking.  Ray lived with severe abdominal reactions to gluten for many years before identifying the culprit.  When we first discovered that gluten was a problem for him, we stocked the kitchen with store-bought gluten-free breads, wraps, snacks and treats.  I bought cookbooks, experimented with gluten-free flours, and learned new techniques, gradually replacing store-bought staples with home-baked ones.

We looked for restaurants that offered gluten-free options, and we learned that some did a better job than others at protecting against cross-contamination.  Every bad experience resulted in about a week of intense abdominal distress for Ray.

We mostly eat at home now, enjoying homemade pizzas, Chinese food (with gluten-free Tamari), breads, cookies, muffins, and whatever else strikes our fancy.  Our kitchen is a dedicated gluten-free, home-based kitchen operating under the Florida Cottage Food Law.  All items are handmade from scratch in a cottage food operation that is not subject to Florida’s food safety regulations.  My training includes experience in a professional store bakery, food safety training, state inspection of our North Carolina kitchen, and research that includes avoiding cross-contamination and hidden sources of gluten.

As a gluten-free baker, whatever I create has to satisfy two criteria – my gluten-free husband’s sensitive system and my non-gluten-free son’s sensitive taste buds.  Everything I bake has to pass both tests with flying colors.  The greatest proof of success is to offer a gluten-free treat to someone who hates gluten-free foods and watch that person take a bite, close his or her eyes, smile, and say, “Oh, this is goooood!”  We’d love to share that experience with you, too!

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