This is an article that should start with the words “once upon a time,” because it tells a wonderful tale that is sure to gladden the heart, leaving you with that “happily ever after” feeling, except that this isn’t a fairy tale at all. It is the story of Las Delicias Patisserie, a wonderful artisan bakery producing high end goodies that are sure to put a smile on your face, and in a twist that is worthy of a truly fabulous bedtime story, many of their insanely delicious products just so happen to be gluten free.
Las Delicias was one of those many business endeavors that evolved out of pure necessity. Deborah Brenner, a Riverdale resident, was trying to find gluten free baked goods for her husband who suffers from celiac, but found herself disappointed with the items that were available in the market.
“Everything that was gluten free looked good, but it didn’t taste like the real thing,” Brenner told The Jewish Press. “It is very hard to make a berachah on something that doesn’t taste good.”
Unwilling to settle for mediocrity, Brenner decided to take matters into her own hands.
“I love challenges,” said Brenner. “I wanted to create a gluten free product that tasted real and I wanted my baked goods to be not just gluten free, but unadulterated, using the purest, most natural ingredients.”
Brenner drew on her own multicultural roots in creating her business. Born in Argentina, she had spent many happy hours in the kitchen with her mother and Italian grandmother baking and cooking. An eight year stint living in France further broadened her culinary horizons and the name “Las Delicias,” which translates as “the delights,” is a nod to summers spent in an ocean-front home located on Avenue Las Delicias in Punta Del Este, Uruguay.
Intent on her goal of using all natural ingredients, it comes as no surprise that many of Las Delicias’s products are dairy because they are made with real butter, although most of the gluten free items are pareve.
“In order to make some things pareve I had to find ingredients without any artificial additives,” Brenner explained. “When you buy a frosted cake that is pareve, it may look like butter cream but it tastes like you are eating chemicals.”
Creating the ultimate gluten free challah took significant amounts of experimentation in order to create a product that would not only taste good but could also be braided like conventional challah. Las Delicias’s gluten free challah is made with a variety of flours including oat, brown rice, millet, garbanzo, sorghum and fava bean and both potato and tapioca starches, with every challah braided by hand. For those who eat gluten, Las Delicias offers several tempting challahs including chocolate chip, cinnamon and mixed seed as well as a pearl sugar topped loaves. All of Las Delicias’ products are certified kosher by Rabbi Chaim Goldberger of the Twin Cities Community Kashruth Council and are supervised locally by Rabbi Michoel Guttmacher. Both Rabbi Binyomin Taub of the RCBC and Rabbi Avrohom Marmorstein of Mehadrin Kashrus allow Las Delicias’s pareve products to be sold in establishments carrying their hechsher and Brenner is currently in the process of obtaining a heimishe hashgacha on her products as well.
Brenner, who uses all locally sourced products in her baking, prides herself on being part of Greenmarket, an effort to promote regional agriculture while giving consumers access to the freshest items. Becoming part of Greenmarket is no small feat, she said.
“It is the hardest certification to get, even harder than kashrus. I am the first baker that they have accepted in eight years. We get our eggs from New York State and our fruit is local. We are the ultimate local bakery.”
As a member of Greenmarket, Las Delicias, which is based out of the Bronx and does not have a formal brick and mortar storefront, sells its handcrafted delicacies at Union Square Market, Columbus Avenue/79th Street and West 97th Street, as well as several other seasonal locations. Brenner’s products are also available at upscale retailers in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Teaneck, online at the Challah Connection and Farmigo, an internet farmer’s market that gives community groups access to locally grown and produced foods, as well as on her website LasDeliciasPatisserie.com. Las Delicias’s offerings continue to grow in popularity, but to date Brenner has yet to invest a single penny on advertising, with her tantalizing artisanal creations attracting customers in droves.
Las Delicias has a full line of baked goods that reflect Brenner’s rich heritage, including fruit galettes, savory tarts and lavender cookies, but she is unabashedly proud of her gluten free line which features four different kinds of cookies (triple ginger, oatmeal treasures, chocolate chip magic and chunk of heaven), babka, rugelach and brownies in enticing flavors like peanut butter swirl, triple chocolate, white chocolate macadamia and caramel fleur del sel.
In her blog, Loving A Gluten Free Life, blogger Brandi Moore describes Las Delicias’s cinnamon rugelach as “mind blowing” and Good Eggs NYC gushed about one of the bakery’s French pastries calling them “the best canelés in NYC.”
For Brenner, Las Delicias is more than just a job but an opportunity to turn eating into a pleasurable experience, even for those who adhere to a gluten free diet.
“We have a sense of doing something that goes beyond just business,” Brenner said. “We are allowing people to enjoy food that they haven’t had since they have had to go gluten free. When you cut a tree in half, you see all the rings and that tells you about the tree. To me, how a person prepares food and serves it tells you a lot about them. For me, this has been an absolute journey, drawing on my heritage and having really excellent food. This a truly wonderful experience.”