Saturday is Doughnut Day at Dee's One Smart Cookie in Glastonbury. We'll often head there — my kids and I — all the way from West Hartford, looking for a blueberry, a chocolate or on old-fashioned. It's the kind of trip I made with my dad growing up in Jersey, and I'll be damned if I don't drill a similar donut tradition into their heads before they get too old.
One hitch: six months ago, we learned our 11-year-old has Celiac disease, a condition where the lining of his small intestine gets damaged every time it encounters gluten, preventing him from absorbing nutritional goodies. So we've transitioned into strict gluten-free land, away from the ubiquitous Dunkins and rare, boutique donut-eries.
The worst part, for my boy, has been giving up on delicious breads, pizzas and baked sweets. Enter Dee's (deesonesmartcookie.com), whose GF donuts are not only moist, delicious and smothered with icing (depending on your choice), they're huge; one donut per person's probably enough, even for a grown-up. (Whatever: grab two.) They're incredibly rich and sweet, and not much like a conventional donut at all. But maybe better? Dee's also bakes a mean slice-as-you-go sandwich bread (nuke it briefly to soften before spreading mayo or peanut butter), righteous chocolate-y whoopie pies, cakes (even for weddings), handmade pizzas on Wednesdays and Fridays (and in the freezer on other days), cookies, you-name-it.
Because so many gluten-intolerant folks have other food allergies as well, Dee's goods are dairy-free as well (with one notable exception: pizza cheese), and also devoid of tree nuts, soy and peanuts. Egg-free is an option, says owner Diane "Dee" Kittle, who crafted her business model literally the day after her own Celiac diagnosis five years ago. When I spoke to Kittle, it was right before Thanksgiving, and she was hustling like a mad baker. I could hear customers at the counter ordering.
"I wanted people with special needs to be able to walk into a bakery like any other and have that freshly made experience," Kittle says. "Our primary business is walk-in retail." Including Kittle, there are five full-time bakers at Dee's. And although Kittle's heart is in the walk-up business, she also supplies a number of area establishments with GF grub and does a considerable amount of special-order business.
Kittle, who became a certified pastry chef after leaving a 20-year career in the financial services industry, says the range of GF products available these days is "mind-boggling." "Huge strides have been made," Kittle says. "The thing that hasn't been huge for Celiac people is that a lot of products are gluten-free but oftentimes not dairy-free. At least 50 percent of people with Celiac cannot do dairy either. That wasn't being addressed."
If you live closer to New Haven, head into Claire's Corner Copia (clairescornercopia.com) for GF coconut macaroons, cakes ("not every day, but often," according to the menu) and cupcakes. They also carry brown rice tortilla wraps for any of their burritos, quesadillas and sandwiches, if you need more than a baked snack. Hugely popular — and not just with Celiac sufferers, says Marjorie Cancel, one of Claire's chefs — is their signature Lithuanian coffee cake, made with fresh-brewed coffee in the batter, a yellow sour cream base, black walnuts, cinnamon and topped with a homemade buttercream frosting. The recipe was passed along to owner Claire Criscuolo from a friend's Lithuanian mother years ago.
Glukey's Gluten-Free Bakery in Milford (glukeys.com) does breads, cakes and cupcakes, muffins, cookies and special-order pastas, and during the summer they tote their wares to the Woodmont Farmer's Market at Robert Treat Farm in Milford. In fact, there are gluten-free bakeries sprinkled all over the state; here's a short list to get you started. (Not all of the facilities listed here are strictly gluten-free; call ahead and visit websites before you go. Head to the Celiac Disease Foundation (celiac.org) for more information.)
Where to get gluten-free baked goods
Claire's Corner Copia
1000 Chapel St., New Haven, (203) 562-3888, clairescornercopia.com
Dee's One Smart Cookie
398 Hebron Ave., Glastonbury, (860) 633-8000, deesonesmartcookie.com
DePuma's Gluten Free Pasta
268 Quinnipiac Ave., North Haven, (203) 891-5572, depumaspasta.com
404 Middle Turnpike West, Manchester, (860) 643-2552, dtchocolates.com
225 West St., Suite 6, Seymour, (203) 828-6587, freckledfrosting.com