Dairy Free · Food Review · Gluten Free · Restaurant Experiences

Erin McKenna’s Bakery Offers Tasty Treats Sans Gluten, Dairy, Eggs, and Soy

I first heard of gluten as an allergen in college over 20 years ago when I found out a neighbor had celiac disease. Back then there didn’t seem to be any commercially available gluten free items. Within the past five years, there has been a rise in the creation and availability of gluten free products in response to what has evolved as a fad in the never-ending search for healthier eating. And yet, for many, it’s not a fad, but a necessity–like it was for my college neighbor.

A few months ago, my husband started having allergic reactions to food where half of his lip would swell up. None of the food items seemed to have a common trigger–cheese stick, peanut butter sandwich, chicken nuggets. The doctor suggested that he cut out gluten. I also have two friends who experience severe stomach cramping and other IBS symptoms and their doctors suggested a gluten free dairy free diet. For  my husband and friends,  eliminating these allergens has helped them feel better, but it’s difficult to find gluten free dairy free treats that taste as good as their regular counterparts.

Erin McKenna’s Bakery, located at Disney Springs in Orlando, is the answer! Everything in the bakery is gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, and even certified kosher.

bakery sign

When you walk into the bakery, you are faced with so many options. Usually if a bakery has an allergen-free items, they’re either special order only, or perhaps they’ll have one or two things in stock. But, here, everything in the bakery fits the bill. It’s hard to know where to begin.

bakery caseinside bakery

We selected a variety of items that tempted, and many of which delighted, our taste buds.

donut cupcake

The cinnamon sugar donut  (upper left) was divine. It’s a cake donut that although a bit more dense than its regular counterpart, has a superb taste throughout, with a moistness that is difficult to achieve without dairy.

The blondie cupcake (upper right) is a vanilla cake with chocolate chips. It was dense but tasty. The frosting was very creamy and firm.  Once the cupcake warmed up a bit in the sun, the cake become lighter in texture.

The cinnamon roll (bottom center) was our only disappointment. Although it had a good cinnamon flavor, the icing was a glaze rather than a thick and creamy icing. That would have been acceptable had the cinnamon roll itself not been dry and dense. It tasted like an incredibly dry coffee cake–not quite what one wants in a cinnamon roll.

lemon cake and blondie

The lemon loaf cake (right) was our favorite item! It had a light but noticeable lemony taste. The cake is moist and the crumb was delicate. There was no noticeable difference between this cake and its regular counterpart. My husband absolutely loved this cake and I’m sure we’ll return to the bakery just to buy more lemon cake.

pineapple cake

The pineapple upside down cake (upper left and upper right) was the largest item and very thick. The pineapple glaze on the top of the cake was phenomenal–sticky and sweet but not overpowering. The cake had a heavier cornbread like consistency but had a good taste. The only problem was that the cake was too thick, so much so that once we got through the top half of the cake, the bottom half was not as good because it lacked the pineapple glaze. If the cake only consisted of the top half, it would be perfect.

The samoa donut (bottom center) was moist and flavorful. It’s reminiscent of the classic Girl Scout cookie (in some areas known as caramel delights) with chocolate, coconut, and caramel–need I say more? It was delicious!

While not everything we tried was a hit, Erin McKenna’s bakery fills a much needed niche in the baked goods space. For those who find it medically necessary to cut out gluten, dairy, soy, or eggs, or are want to do so because they feel it’s healthier or otherwise follow a vegan diet, this is your bakery! And for those of you who want some seriously delicious cake donuts, lemon cake, or other baked goods, this is the bakery for you too!


Restaurant Experiences · Uncategorized

Preserving a Foundation for Living

(A reprint from the original The Gourmandista blog — July 3, 2006)

A couple of weeks ago, hubby and I spent a long weekend in Sarasota, Florida, to celebrate our anniversary and to re-live my childhood vacations to the Gulf coast. During my childhood vacations and re-lived as an adult, we discovered the small Amish community of Pinecraft Village. We ate at two Amish-style restaurants, Sugar & Spice and Yoder’s, and bought some home-style goodies at Troyer’s Dutch Heritage (very commercialized, but very tasty bakery items). In the weeks since, I’ve thought not only about the Amish style of cooking but also their sense of community.

The Amish are, of course, known for their practice of living in today with methods of the past and without our modern conveniences (such as electricity and automobiles). They also are known for coming together as a community to help each other, such as the practice of building a barn in a day. And while the men are building the barn and setting the foundation for the farm and cultivation of life, the women maintain the sustenance and cook a simple yet delicious lunch for all to enjoy together.

Inspired by the Amish community spirit and homemade goodness, this past weekend I made and processed in a water bath a few jars of spicy-citrus blueberry marmalade, blueberry jam, apple pie filling, and no-sugar-added strawberry preserves. And, since jam and preserves should not be eaten alone, I also made some blueberry and strawberry muffins. As hubby and I stared at the kitchen table filled with baked and canned goods, we knew that the only thing we had left to do was share. So we made up gift baskets and paid a few visits to new neighbors and old friends.

After this experience, I am in complete agreement with Nigella Lawson who said the following regarding home canning in How to be a Domestic Goddess:

There are few things that make us feel so positively domestic as putting food in store. “Putting up,” it always used to be called, the canning and preserving of the fruits and vegetables presently in glut but soon to disappear. Life’s not quite like that now, but I do preserve fruits and pickle vegetables for the simple reason that I love doing it. I feel I’m putting down roots, laying down a part of the foundation for living.

Next weekend. . . I’ll put down some more roots, make some Amish apple butter and homemade bread, and see if I can find someone in need of an Amish pick-me-up to lay the foundation of a new formed friendship.