New gluten-free (not taste-free) bakery to open soon

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At the gluten-free, casein-free bakery that Mojca Pipus is opening in Squirrel Hill, none of the baked goods contain either of those proteins -- no wheat nor dairy whatsoever.

But, she says you'd never know it, whether you're someone who due to allergies or other disorders cannot eat normal baked goods or someone who can.

"It's not just that you're not going to be able to tell," she says, "but it's probably the best stuff you ever had."

Hence the clever name, Gluuteny, for the business, which is to open by mid-August in a former Verizon store on Murray Avenue right beside Giant Eagle supermarket. It will sell not only ready-to-eat breads, muffins, cupcakes, birthday cakes and more, but also her own brand of boxed mixes for wheat- and dairy-free home baking.

Ms. Pipus and her husband, Radoj Glisik, live northwest of the city in Economy, Beaver County, but chose Squirrel Hill for its more central location and population, much of which is open to healthful food.

Are there enough people with these special dietary needs or wants to support a bakery?

Mr. Glisik, a partner in a small advertising firm who has designed Gluuteny's fliers and boxes, thinks so, with studies indicating that as many as 1 in 133 people suffers from celiac sprue and cannot digest gluten proteins. Many more have allergies. And those aren't the only people avoiding wheat and dairy.

The couple learned about gluten-intolerance a few years after their daughter, Ilana, was born. First diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder, Ilana later was found to be intolerant of gluten and casein.

The couple traveled far and wide in search of foods without wheat or dairy and found that "there is not really much out there, and what there is, she didn't like it," says Mr. Glisik, a native of Macedonia.

So Ms. Pipus, who was a good traditional baker in her native Slovenia, started experimenting with baking with other gluten-free flours (such as potato, rice, sorghum and soy) and without milk or butter. She still uses sugar, eggs and chocolate.

"It's not like normal baking," she says. "Everything I knew before I had to forget about. The chemistry ... it just doesn't work the same way."

Still, she got so good at it that she could not only please her daughter, but also the other children in her day-care group.

"That was the judging criteria," Mr. Glisik says with a laugh.

While they wait for the contractor to finish the floor so they can begin furnishing their new space, and field inquiries from eager would-be customers, Ms. Pipus has continued to practice and has been serving samples at events around town.

The consensus of an informal tasting -- OK, gobbling -- of some of her brownies, cookies and some cakes here at the newspaper was very positive. One person with celiac disease praised hers as not being gritty like some gluten-free goods he's had.

The couple say that once they're up and baking, Whole Foods in East Liberty will carry some of the baked goods as well as some of the boxed mixes.

"It's better than anything that's out there in the market," says Mr. Glisik, who for about a year now also has stopped eating wheat and dairy along with his daughter.

He says, "I'm her tester."


Bob B atz Jr. can be reached at bbatz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1930.


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