Freshly Baked and Gluten-free

dining cookieOne of my favorite places downtown is the sidewalk that passes in front of Pacific Cookie Company. The sugary aroma of cookies baking draws me through the doorway, and after choosing one of my favorite flavors I head back onto that sidewalk and slowly savor its comforting crumbliness.

Approximately one in 133 people have been unable to experience this pleasure until two weeks ago, when the Cookie Company introduced two gluten-free varieties.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. People with Celiac disease cannot digest this protein. The intestinal difficulty they experience when they ingest even a small amount is not only painful and inconvenient; it can reduce the amount of nutrients absorbed into the body and cause weight loss.

This is why Pacific Cookie Company searched the Bay Area for a gluten-free bakery in order to eliminate the possibility of cross-contamination with their own gluten-based products.

What they found was Red House Bakery, conveniently located on the Westside of Santa Cruz. Red House makes, scoops and freezes the dough, which is made with sorghum and whole grain organic rice flours, organic butter and coconut palm sugar. At Pacific Cookie Company, designated trays, gloves and utensils avoid contamination, enabling them to offer freshly baked cookies to the gluten-intolerant public.

The snickerdoodle is a pale yellow color, perfectly coated with cinnamon. With crisp edges and chewy centers, a flavor difference was indiscernible from the wheat version. The chocolate chip cookie with sea salt was thinner and more spread out than its gluten-full cousin, but it was moist, and just loaded with tiny Guittard chocolate chips (from Burlingame). The tastes differed, but both were so good, I could eat a plate of either any day. | KP

Pacific Cookie Company, 1203 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 429-6905. Open Sunday through Thursday 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. until midnight. Visit pacificcookie.com

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