Daughter's celiac inspires mom's baking

Lisa Reichelt has had a passion for baking for as long as she can remember.

So it wasn't much of a stretch when she started a baking business from her home.

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After her two children reached school age, Reichelt returned to the workforce but had difficulty finding a job. She thought while she was looking for a job she could do something that she loved for some income and started an organic bakery in 2011. She sold her baked goods at local farmers' markets and soon added several lunch programs to her list of clients. The business was growing and Reichelt began considering opening a storefront.

During this time, the family was also dealing with a worrying health issue. Reichelt's youngest daughter, Sawyer, was experiencing severe abdominal pain on a regular basis and was in and out of hospital and specialist's offices as they tried to find a diagnosis.

Just as her organic baking business was taking off, Reichelt's daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease and a severe egg allergy. Celiac disease is a condition in which the small intestine is damaged by gluten so that the body can't absorb the nutrients it needs. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and related grains and products. Sawyer's condition was so bad that any cross-contamination, even a small amount of leftover wheat flour, could affect her condition. At that time, Reichelt was baking for her business from her own kitchen, and although relieved to finally have a diagnosis for her daughter, she knew her business was over.

She thought maybe she could bake during the day while her daughter was at school and then clean before she got home so it wouldn't impact her. She discovered, however, that even pouring flour from a bag created too much dust and she couldn't clean well enough to make her kitchen safe for her daughter.

Reichelt was heartbroken that she would have to give up her baking business until her husband suggested she start baking gluten-free treats.

After four months re-learning how to bake gluten-free and egg-free, Reichelt introduced her new line at farmers' markets in the spring and the business has grown from there. Two Daughters Bakeshop now occupies a small space on East First Street in North Vancouver, and Reichelt says, "It's just been a whirlwind but really, really exciting."

She explains that figuring out the right blends of rice flour, tapioca, potato starch and other ingredients was a trial-and-error process. "I've played around with different ratios and I've come to a really good blend that I use now as kind of my all-purpose flour, and I'll use that cup-for-cup when I convert a regular old recipe of mine when I was baking with regular wheat I'll use that cup-for-cup in exchange for the regular wheat flour."

She notes that some gluten-free products on the market can be a bit dense, but her formula, for example using white rice flour instead of brown rice flour, creates a much lighter product.

"I'm making goodies, cupcakes and cookies, so I wanted them to have that decadent feel that you get when you bite into a regular cupcake," she says. "My daughter is seven, so I wanted her to have those same experiences other kids get when they have a cupcake, not have her bite into it and go, 'Oh, mine's different from everybody else's.'"

Within weeks of being on a gluten-free and egg-free diet, Reichelt's daughter showed improvement.

"Hopefully as she goes along and her health improves and her immune system improves it won't impact her quite so severely," says Reichelt.

While finding gluten-free products her kids would eat was challenging enough, Reichelt says it was also difficult thinking that she couldn't bake with her kids anymore. "One of my favourite things to do with my kids, and has been since they were little, is baking. We would spend, often, a rainy Sunday and we'd bake," she says. "To suddenly not be able to do that with my kids, it was pretty upsetting."

However, since her entire house is now gluten-free and egg-free, Reichelt's daughter is able to join her mom in the kitchen and Reichelt is looking forward to doing her regular holiday baking with Sawyer and her sister Marley.

Two Daughters Bakeshop is ready for the holiday season with gluten-free gingerbread men, Nanaimo bars, holiday cupcakes and various sandwich cookies. The bakery can also do special-order vegan and gluten-free pumpkin, apple or pecan pie, and is also offering a holiday pistachio-cranberry loaf among its artisan breads.

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