Years of practice makes perfect gluten-free goodies
Susie Stewart has been preparing for her career ever since she was 6 years old.
She started cooking and baking at that age, and over the years Stewart has honed her palate and culinary skills to the expert level. Eighteen months ago, she took the plunge and launched Vintage & Cream, a gluten-free bakery offering a wide variety of muffins, brownies, cookies, breads and more.
The bakery was housed in a commercial kitchen in Canby to start, but Stewart says she soon recognized that most of her customers lived in the southwest Portland metro area, so she moved the operation to Lake Oswego earlier this spring.
Stewart says her mother took the family off gluten and dairy when she was 8 and, motivated to make foods taste better, Stewart started experimenting in the kitchen.
"I used old cookbooks and compared recipes to build recipes that were gluten-free and delicious," she says. "The banana bread recipe I use today is the same recipe I created many years ago."
Gluten-free foods used to lack taste and texture, Stewart says, which is why she has spent years perfecting recipes.
"Now I have them down pat," she says. "I am a self-taught baker. My sole training comes from hundreds of hours in the kitchen, learning the ingredients and the chemistry. I had to learn the chemistry to get a proper rise and just the right texture."
Her extensive research and experimentation has resulted in a wide variety of offerings at Vintage & Cream. She creates delicate eclairs, croissants, danishes, and tarts, as well as more-sturdy muffins, scones, breads, brownies and cupcakes.
"They have to look pretty, too, with great texture and flavor," she says.
Stewart is a stickler for using organic, local ingredients and for knowing the origin of the ingredients — right down to the vanilla beans.
"I use fair trade-certified foods and buy top quality every time," she says. She also runs her business following fair-trade practices, supporting other local entrepreneurs whenever she can.
Stewart says the biggest challenge is keeping on schedule. She makes about 300 cookies a day, and that production requires careful planning to ensure ingredients are on hand when she is ready to bake. She also likes to experiment with creating new items, such as shortbreads. Coming this fall: caramels, truffles and fudge.
The products currently are available at Woodstock, Lake Oswego and Beaverton farmers markets; special orders can always be made on her website, vintageandcream.net. She also does catering and makes wedding cakes.
"In order for you to fully understand what I do, I always say that you need to taste for yourself what makes my business special," she says.
Learn more online at vintageandcream.net or follow Stewart on Facebook at Vintage & Cream.