By Molly Dillon
There is something very satisfying about biting into to a big, juicy hamburger, as your hands clamp the package tightly together and your mouth opens wide anticipating that wonderful blend of meat, bun and the other variety of flavors that may grace the burger of the day. Those of us who cannot eat gluten are often relegated to knife and fork, or the lettuce wrapped burger. It is woefully deficient. As I was dining at Monti’s Rotisserie (one of my favorite gluten-free mainstays in Santa Rosa), I notice that the gluten-free menu was now touting a gluten-free bun for its beef and lamb burgers! I had to give this a try, and I’m glad that I did. It was delicious.
It turns out that the scrumptious burger experience I had just enjoyed was in part made possible by Jenn Maly, an employee at Monti’s, but also a local entrepreneur and founder of the Liberty5 Baking Co. I was fortunate to talk to Jenn about her latest endeavor. “I’ve always loved to cook,” says Jenn, explaining why she decided to start her own gluten-free baking company.
When she learned that she was gluten intolerant, she decided to experiment with gluten-free baking. “The commercial options were so limited, and they get stale so fast.” Jenn started by baking for herself, but found that she had many gluten-free friends interested in her products. “So I decided to try [gluten-free baking] on a larger scale.”
She founded Liberty5 Baking Co. and was able to rent a kitchen space in downtown Santa Rosa. Though she currently shares the space, the shared equipment is thoroughly cleaned between uses and she uses all of her own bowls and baking pans. She looks forward to finding a dedicated gluten-free space someday. Monti’s purchases her signature hamburger buns with the black sesame seeds on top, which makes them easily identifiable as gluten-free; it also helps make them delicious. Though they have less volume than the standard wheat-based bun, Liberty5 Baking Co. gluten-free buns hold together amazingly well in the face of a fully loaded juicy lamb burger.
Recent offerings from Liberty5 include warm pear and ginger crisps, Thanksgiving stuffing mix, bacon and cheddar muffins, Morning Glory muffins, mini coffee chocolate gingerbreads, pumpkin chocolate chip bread, cranberry orange bread, apple and cheddar bread puddings, olive rosemary and seeded boules, French baguettes and favorite sandwich breads.
Demand for Liberty5 Baking Co.’s products is growing, and they are currently producing the equivalent of about 60-70 loaves of bread per week. Jenn uses different blends of flour for different types of products. Her repertoire includes tapioca and rice flours, but she veers away from corn, soy, beans and dairy, because she understands that people unable to process gluten often have difficulty with these other ingredients.
You can find Liberty5 Baking Co. products at the West End Farmer’s Market in Santa Rosa on Sundays from 10am-2pm, Shelton’s Market in Healdsburg, and Bill & Deb’s Downtown Deli and the Undercover Baking Agency in Santa Rosa. Willi’s Wine Bar, an affiliate of Monti’s located on the north end of Santa Rosa, also serves gluten-free crostini made by Liberty5 Baking Co., and the Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa serves Liberty5’s bread as a breakfast special. Questions? Go to www.liberty5bakingco.com or find updated offerings and locations on Facebook.
Molly Dillon is Assistant City Attorney for the City of Santa Rosa, past board member of the Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California, and enjoys exploring the gluten-free offerings at local restaurants with her husband and two daughters.