Do you get bellyaches after eating your favorite pizza or pasta? How about unexplained weight changes, when you haven’t changed your diet? Actress and baker Jennifer Esposito suffered from these symptoms (and others) for years before discovering she has celiac disease. But going gluten-free turned out not to be enough: packaged “gluten-free” foods were still making her ill. So she’s opened Jennifer’s Way Bakery, which is also free of refined sugars, non-GMO and organic. We asked about her diet:
Q. Is it not enough for a gluten-sensitive person to just eat “gluten-free?”
A. Gluten, a protein mostly found in wheat, rye, and barley, is everywhere and in an astonishingly high number of foods, as well as vitamins, drugs, cosmetics and other items in which we come into contact. It’s also important to be aware that even products that claim to be “gluten-free” can be contaminated with microscopic amounts of gluten from another part of the factory or kitchen. Cross-contamination can happen very quickly and easily in restaurants or at markets (organic or not). Fresh meals are being prepared with the intent of being gluten-free but are contaminated during preparation with a knife or cutting board that was exposed to gluten. I keep my bakery safe from all gluten contamination.
Q. Do you have any favorite treats?
A. Some of my favorite treats at the bakery—besides everything—is the fresh baked bread. Yes, you read right—bread that tastes like bread! Also, I made bagels that sold out in 45 minutes last weekend. But my new banana vegan cupcakes and vegan devil’s food cake cupcakes really make me smile, as well.
Q. Are there any local restaurants and dishes you enjoy?
A. I can’t really say a particular restaurant since I cook for myself a lot. The best advice I can give to a Celiac [sufferer] is take back control and get in the kitchen. Focus on what you can eat and make it delicious with what you can eat. Once you create something for yourself, you will start to feel like the disease doesn’t “have you.” You can still eat well.
Q. Any yummy recipes you can share with us?
A. Yes! Here is a vegan, gluten-, soy- and dairy-free sweet potato scone.
In this recipe, I decided to use quinoa flour which is a wonderful fiber and wonderful grain—and almond flour because it is full of protein and fiber.
Sweet Potato Scones
1/2 of 15-oz. can of sweet potato purée
3/4 c. rice milk or other milk (if rice milk, Clean Plates recommends unsweetened)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 c. almond flour
1/2 c. quinoa flour
1/2 c. brown rice flour
1/2 c. arrowroot starch
3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
1/3 c. grapeseed oil
1/3 c. maple sugar (or can use coconut sugar, date sugar, or lastly brown sugar just has less nutritional value)
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt (Clean Plates recommends sea salt)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. fresh dried vanilla, or 1 tsp. liquid vanilla
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 c. chopped pecans (optional)
1/3 c. maple syrup (for brushing on top of scones)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk together sweet potato, rice milk and lemon juice (if using liquid vanilla, add here). In a separate bowl, combine all flours, starch, xanthan gum, maple sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, vanilla and cloves (and pecans if you choose); whisk out lumps. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine with a wooden spoon. On a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper, drop batter in tablespoons. Place in oven for about 15 to 17 minutes (look for firm texture and/or slightly browned bottoms). After about 11 minutes, or when tops of scones get a bit firm, brush maple syrup over top and then continue to bake.
Jennifer’s Way Bakery
263 E. 10th St., New York, NY 10009