Among the little miracles of nature is the action of gluten.
A component of wheat flour, it gives dough made with it elasticity and aids in rising, yielding baked goods that are flavorful and complex.
However, for the 1.5 million Americans who have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder which affects the digestive tract, gluten is the villain.
For them, eating food containing gluten -- such as such common edibles as bread, pasta, cakes and cookies -- results in a host of gastrointestinal symptoms which ultimately stymie the proper absorption of food and nutrients, leading to a variety of health problems including headaches, diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating, weight loss and anemia.
Yet, because gluten is pervasive in the American diet, those who suffer from celiac disease are faced with an ongoing challenge -- how to eat “normally” yet avoid partaking of foods containing it.
This is particularly challenging when the individual suffering from celiac is a child, who want food containing gluten because it tastes good and because it’s what their peers are eating.
Enter two Brooklyn-based entrepreneurs, Bruce Bassman and Pedro Arroba, who have established an artisanal bakery, Everybody Eats, that crafts breads, cookies, cakes, brownies, cinnamon buns, pizza and ravioli that are gluten-free.
That, in itself is no mean feat. The duo worked on their first recipes for a full six months before launching their product line six years ago, recalled Bassman, because of the complexity of finding an appropriate substitute for the gluten that resulted in an end product that had a pleasing flavor and texture.
“To reproduce what gluten does, takes about 20 ingredients,” he explained.
That makes gluten-free baked goods more costly; they are also challenging to mix and clean up after. “The dough is not like the dough you use when you’re making pie crust,” Bassman noted. “It’s roughly the texture of pancake batter.”
Nonetheless, the duo have seen their products-- which are prepared with high-quality ingredients that are carefully sourced -- eagerly snatched up by people who are restricted to gluten-free diets, and especially by parents of children with celiac.
“A lot of our foods are focused on that market,” Bassman stressed, explaining, “Parents will go the extra mile for their kids that they wouldn’t for themselves.”
Arroba knows the sense of deprivation that comes from having celiac disease. He was diagnosed with the condition in his native Venezuela when he was in his 20s. It was when he sought gluten-free recipes that he met Bassman, through an on-line food magazine. After Arroba moved to New York, he met Bassman in person and suggested they found a company to produce gluten-free baked goods.
Initially, Bassman recalled, he was skeptical -- the more so after he tasted the items that were available at the time. But, the pair persevered, and the result is crispy cookies with a satisfying crunch to them, breads such as baguette and challah that, when toasted, taste and feel remarkably similar to the real thing, and light and airy cupcakes that belie any sense of privation that may come from the need to eschew gluten.
How successful they have been in their effort is mirrored on the faces of people who have celiac disease as they taste the products produced by the pair.
“I’ve seen many people cry,” Bassman recalled. “It’s not that other people don’t make the stuff. But, they don’t seem to be able to make stuff of the same quality we do.
“It’s not the Gowanus water,” he joked. “Everything is handmade. We could cut the butter and the sugar, but we don’t. We’ve already cut out flour. Quality has to go down as you take stuff out, and we believe people want something delicious to eat.” Currently, Everybody Eats sells through mom and pop stores up and down the East Coast, as well as through their Gowanus kitchen, and by mail order through the company’s website, www.everbodyeats-inc.com.
In Brooklyn, their products -- which are also nut-free, because, said Bassman, “food sensitivities run together” -- can be obtained at Root Hill Café, 262 Fourth Avenue, in Park Slope, and Rimini Pastry, 6822 Bay Parkway, in Bensonhurst, as well as from New York City’s cupcake truck, www.cupcakestop.com. Customers can also pick up pre-ordered baked goods at Everybody Eats, 234 Third Avenue, which is open for walk-in business on Saturdays.
For further information, or to order, call 718-369-7444 or email everybodye