The third installment of the Looking Local Gluten Free Series introduces us to JoAnn of JoAnn’s Desserts. JoAnn is new to the entrepreneur world, her company has only been open for little over a year, but she is hardly new to gluten free baking. This is a company I again came across at the Farmer’s Market style event out in Riverhead, and I stocked up on her goods right then and there because they are that good. Even my skeptical gluten eating friend that was with me purchased a few boxes of her rainbow cookies. They are phenomenal. Let’s hear from JoAnn herself about her every batch from scratch company and more:
1. First I’d like to know about you. Tell us a bit more about yourself:
I have always loved baking and cooking in general. Desserts have been my specialty. It gives me such pleasure to prepare a meal and top it off with some kind of grand finale. I have a wonderful family, a husband and three children. They have been my toughest critics. They know what they like and will tell me if something didn’t come out right.
2. Now let’s hear about your business. Your products are safe for the gluten free community. Was this an intentional choice? If so why?
My business, JoAnn’s Desserts, Inc has been official for about a year now. I have been baking rainbow cookies for about 35 years and they have become one of my top desserts. I also make delicious trifles, chocolate chips, pound cakes and the infamous Lemon Drops. I decided to go gluten free when I had friends and family over several times and specific people would turn down certain foods. When I finally asked them, (hoping my cooking didn’t go south) they all said that they have digestive issues. Each of them was embarrassed and said the doctors are doing tests. Then after the tests, most of them needed to change their diets to gluten free diets. One of them has diverticulitis and cannot eat seeds. This was a game changer for me. I did not want to be exclusive at all and said to all of them I will cook so that everyone can eat and feel healthy, not embarrassed. Then, the more I began to read, the more I realized that going gluten free is actually good for everyone. So, the gluten free cooking began!
3. What do you see as the number one struggle and number one success to being a small gluten free business?
The one struggle was and still is the cost of going gluten free. I cannot get over how expensive my flour is. I combine four different flours to create a base of my own. Each one is delivered directly from Bob’s Red Mill in Oregon. The shipping is very high. However, I’d rather buy direct than from a warehouse that has the flours sitting on a pallet somewhere getting old.
4. What precautions do you take to ensure your products are gluten free and free from cross contamination.
I label my desserts as Made With Only Gluten Free Ingredients. I cook from my own gluten free kitchen. For me to get the gf license, it’s a very costly process. I bleach my counters with diluted bleach then clean with warm water and a dish soap. I then rinse it with a vinegar and warm water solution…TWICE!!! I cook with a hair net and my kitchen is spotless. I use the preparation tools and bowls only for my baking. I have a separate refrigerator just for my ingredients as well. I can be OCD about my business. I want my guests, customers and family to be able to eat without worry of cross contamination. I cook with only the best ingredients and can attest that it makes a difference. I believe in the saying, “buy cheap, buy twice” so I only use the best.
My favorite gluten free product so far are the Rainbow Cookies and the Lemon Drops. The rainbows take a long time but the results are worth it. I love raspberry and apricot so the combination is perfect for me. As far as the Lemon Drops, I use fresh lemons and the rind. The sweet/tart taste of them is delicious. They freeze beautifully in case I want to store some for guests. When I take them out of the freezer, they thaw in no time and taste as if I just baked them.
6. What is your biggest tip for someone who wants to buy from more local companies.
My biggest tip from local companies is to ask what the ingredients are. Ingredients make a difference.
7. Based on your experience with making gluten free products and engaging with gluten free customers what is your top suggestion to help someone live a great gluten free life.
My top suggestion for a gluten free life is to eat to live not live to eat. It’s okay to enjoy desserts and pasta, but if you’re going to have them, eat carefully. No need to suffer. Buying good quality will probably cost a bit more, but it’s worth having a little of the best than a lot of the least best. Remember, balance is key.
8. Please provide your website, social media, contact details and where people can purchase your products:
You can find me on social media as @joanndesserts for Facebook and Instagram. I have an email address firstname.lastname@example.org and a website www.joannsdesserts.wixsite.com/batchesfromscratch my phone number is 631-241-2415.