New Capitola bakery takes gluten-free goods to the next level
What’s the worst thing about having a gluten sensitivity? The obvious one is that bread is just so tasty. The second worst thing is always having to worry about cross-contamination. Melinda’s in Capitola is one of those places where that’s never a concern—they are 100 percent gluten free, and they have a variety of baked goods to choose from. We’re talking sandwiches, sliced bread, muffins, cakes, bagels, pies—even donuts and croissants! And it’s all delicious. Gluten free manna from heaven. Owner Melinda Harrower has spent years working on her recipes, in order to accommodate her own gluten sensitivity. She and business partner Hannah Balliet opened the bakery on June 1, and are already doing a ton of business.
GT: What’s people’s biggest misconception with gluten-free baked goods?
MELINDA HARROWER: That it’s gross. We’re trying to disprove that. Initially, gluten-free items were pretty basic and very bland, but the gluten-free community has grown and matured in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, wheat is pretty magical grain. You can make it into something stiff and hard, you can make it into something light and fluffy. You can’t do that with gluten-free grains. So it takes a lot of time. Every baked good, in our bakery at least, comes from a different blend. We have blends for all the different breads. We have blends for cookies, blends for cakes. It’s kind of ridiculous how many different blends we have and how much time we spend actually blending flour.
How has gluten-free baking changed?
I think there are enough people now interested in trying to figure out the chemistry of it. It’s a completely new science compared to old school baking. That’s actually what I love about it. I don’t feel like a baker. I feel like a chemist.
So, you have a gluten-free croissant?
They are pretty amazing. I don’t think anyone’s doing anything even remotely close to what we’re doing with croissants. One of our bakers, Nancy—we were all in the bakery one day, and croissants had been eluding us for years—and she had a moment where she made a minor mistake putting together some croissant flour and it ended up giving us the most flaky, amazing croissant any of us have ever had. Yay for mistakes in the kitchen!
What’s the item you are most glad to be able to have again?
Good bread—bread that I don’t have to toast, or that tastes like sandpaper. The bread we make actually comes out of the oven soft and, for a few days stays really nice and soft and chewy and delicious, and it has a good flavor all by itself. I can actually have a piece of toast, put some butter on it, and there you go. And I really got tired of what was on the shelf and available, which was mediocre at best. There’s no flavor in it. You can put sandwich meat between it, which is great, but that’s pretty much all it’s good for.
1420 41st Ave., Suite B, Capitola, 687-9098. PHOTO: CHIP SCHEUER