Truly Wize baker sells foods free of gluten, sugar and casein from her own recipes
Caren Weaver scoops out batter for gluten-free, casein-free cinnamon macaroons in her bakery, Truly Wize, near Greensburg.
Gluten-free and casein-free items from Truly Wize bakery include vanilla macaroons, top; snickerdoodles, left; and lemon-blueberry biscotti, right.
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Ten years ago, former New York baker Caren Weaver was driven to create gluten-free cookies, biscotti and shortbread for a friend diagnosed with celiac disease -- a condition that prevents the proper absorption of foods containing gluten, which is found in any form of wheat.
She got busy, stirring up recipes without wheat flour.
Today, the owner of Truly Wize Bakery in Unity is quickly becoming a local expert on preparing baked goods that are natural, organic and free of gluten, sugar and casein, which is found in milk.
Each Saturday, May through October, she brings her gluten-free buns, cookies, cinnamon coffee cake and lemon ice cake to the farmers market at Lynch Field in Greensburg.
On Saturday, she will have a booth at the Healthy, Wealthy and Green Expo at the Four Points Sheraton in Hempfield.
Her online business is also lucrative, with orders coming from as far away as Italy and Japan.
Despite not having a storefront, the business is growing -- orders have increased 19 percent in the past two years.
"When the weather gets cooler, business goes up and people begin to get things for themselves," said Mrs. Weaver, adding that during the holidays, her bakers pull "all-nighters" to get their made-to-order products out the door.
Now living in Greensburg, the Long Island, N.Y., native is passionate about testing ingredients to produce gluten-, sugar- and casein-free bakery items with the same consistency and taste as their traditional counterparts.
First, she breaks down conventional recipes to determine the exchanges that will be made to make the desserts healthier.
Part of that is deciding what flour would be best. Brown and white rice, tapioca, potato and a high-protein garbanzo flour are options.
"Let me tell you something: Once you remove the gluten from the flour, it just plops," she said.
Next she considers all of the other properties, such as flavors and sugar.
"If I want a moister texture, I use a brown sugar," she added.
All Truly Wize products use nonhydrogenated -- transfat-free -- organic palm fruit shortening.
Once the product is perfected, she takes it to market, where it's analyzed by fellow graduates of the Culinary Institute of America.
After "a couple of flops" she perfected her chocolate gluten-free brownies. She has sold a few cases each week at Whole Foods in Pittsburgh for several months and they were featured on the "Rachael Ray Show" as the "snack of the day" in April.
"It's amazing how they don't taste different," said Whole Foods' Mark Bremer, who added that gluten-free products usually have a different consistency. "I myself wouldn't taste the difference."
Whole Foods recently began selling Mrs. Weaver's cakes as well and eventually will stock cupcakes, too.
Truly Wize products also are sold at Sunny Bridge Natural Foods in Peters, Frankferd Farms in Saxonburg and the Raisin Rack Natural Food Market in Canton, Ohio.
Little E's Pizzeria in Greensburg has served Mrs. Weaver's cinnamon coffee cake and lemon, zucchini and chocolate peanut butter cakes for about four weeks.
"On a Friday night, we can go through a whole cake easily," owner Kevin Ereditario said.
As with most natural and organic foods, Truly Wize products are pricier than their traditional counterparts. For example, a package of 12 blueberry muffins sells on the website -- www.trulywize.com -- for $16.95.
"When you use fresh, top-quality ingredients," Mrs. Weaver said, "it can only taste good."
First Published November 4, 2010 5:27 am