BERLIN — For those who fear gluten but like to bake, there’s a new option in the form of the Thank God It’s Gluten Free (TGIGF) baking and bread mix.
Crafted by local Liz Davis the mix is the result of years of experimenting with ingredients with the goal of creating a product that is safe for common food allergies while still tasting great.
“It’s across the board with so many sensitivities,” said Davis.
A life-long baker, Davis first became interested in gluten-free products when she learned that celiac disease ran in her family. Not satisfied with some of the gluten-free options already available, she decided to take the issue to the kitchen, an area Davis has always felt comfortable in.
“It was hard at first,” she admitted, adding that cooking gluten-free takes a lot of study and usually a little trial and error when making recipes.
Davis put in the time and ended up with the current TGIGF mix, which she has sold online and at local retailers for the last year. The mix has no preservatives or additives and is packaged in a GFCO-certified kosher process facility that is free of the eight most common food allergens such as soy, dairy, wheat, egg, tree nuts, peanuts, fish and shellfish.
Locally the mix is available at the Baked Dessert Café, Go Organic, Ocean City Organics, and Greenbranch Farm. While TGIGF isn’t organic, Davis pointed out that it does well in the stores because people who shop organic tend to want to know exactly what they are eating and the gluten-free mix is simple, sensitive and the ingredients are completely transparent.
There’s more to creating a good product than just making it gluten-free, added Davis. If TGIGF tastes bad, then everything else would be wasted. Luckily, Davis has her own “test kitchen.” For many years, Davis has operated a daycare from her home. Whenever she bakes, the kids in the daycare are able to play food critic and their impressions are taken seriously because children aren’t known to sugarcoat their opinions to protect someone’s feelings.
“If they didn’t like it, they’re not eating it,” Davis joked.
The arrangement works out for everyone, especially any kids with food allergies. Besides making the traditional loaf of bread, Davis said the mix is perfect for waffles, cookies, pizza crusts, breading and more.
“It’s great for breading seafood, chicken, shrimp; you just season it up however you want,” she said.
Once she had a product, Davis admitted that the real work began.
“I just started trying to find manufacturers and that was a really hard thing to do,” she said. “I was trying to find somebody who could do smaller batches and wasn’t crazy expensive.”
Davis reached out to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Salisbury University, a decision she said could not have turned out better. Working with SBDC representative Louise Haggerty and some Salisbury University students who helped with social media, Davis established her website and found local retailers for TGIGF. Within the next two or three years, Davis hopes to see the business expand to some major retailers as well, though keeping growth to a point where the venture doesn’t affect quality is also important.
“It’s going really well so far. It’s grown at a pace where I can keep up with it,” she said. “And I’m learning as I go so I don’t feel so overwhelmed or like I’m missing something.”
This weekend Davis will take TGIGF to a gluten-free event hosted by the DC Children’s Hospital and plans on attending similar events in the future. Another area she would like to take TGIGF is to private homes to show off the mix in intimate settings.
While the new business has been a lot of work for Davis, she underlined that it was a collaborative effort and couldn’t have happened without help from her husband Tommy and children.
For more information or for recipe suggestions, tips and baking videos visit www.tgigf.com.