By Vic Dolcourt
The thing about a really good cookie is that it should be so flavorful and so delicious that you need only one to be satisfied – oh yes, rich, too. That is the way that Gluten Free Klippy’s cookies are. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Laura Klipp and I met at a comfortable coffee house in Mountain View because Wednesday was Laura’s day to be on the peninsula. She is a pastry chef extraordinaire with a particular penchant for cookies – that is to say great cookies. I’m not easily intimidated; however, it made sense to me to bring along an expert in this sort of thing, my wife and partner, Hallie. I’m glad I did because Laura and Hallie speak the same language. I just bake bread.
Laura, originally from Los Angeles, is a neuroscience graduate from Northeastern University who decided to step out of the lab and pursue her passion for pastry. Her first job was baking for a Los Angeles restaurateur who challenged her to transform classic desserts. Her tour de force was a rich, creamy cheesecake that didn’t leave customers feeling heavy.
R&D gets results
Five years ago, Laura discovered that the wheat flour she loved to bake with did not love her back. Laura related: “I was completely challenged by not being able to use flour any longer. At first I just wanted to come up with a few good recipes because there weren’t many good products on the market at that time. I took a few of my simplest family recipes and began research and experimentation.” Perfecting and testing various flour blends took two years. She zeroed in on just one blend. She said her cream puffs, cakes, muffins, scones, and cookies have the same texture as those made with wheat-based flour.
Better than culinary school
Laura joined the start-up team at the soon-to-be-opened Short Cake in Los Angeles in autumn 2011. One of the principals was the famous artisan chef and baker, Nancy Silverton. Laura said, “Although I didn’t go to school for pastry, working for Nancy and her team was the most amazing training I could have ever imagined. I learned how to totally deconstruct a product and recipe: taste, texture, mouth-feel, and how it looks. I can change any of these independently.” Laura also helped Short Cake launch a line of gluten-free desserts.
A concept becomes a business
Laura was too entrepreneurial to remain baking wheat-based goodies for a restaurant. She wanted to own and manage her own gluten-free baking business. In the summer of 2012 she enrolled in Small Business Administration courses, began working on the business plan for Gluten Free Klippy’s and focused on product development. Gluten free Klippy’s launched in early 2013 as wholesale manufacturer of convenient, bake-from-frozen, super-premium cookie dough pucks.
Laura is not one who bakes up a batch of cookies and has them hang around. She relates, “There is nothing like an indulgent cookie still warm from the oven, made with the very best ingredients. I use local cage-free eggs, organic fair trade sugars, non-GMO flours, and Ghirardelli chocolate chips. I want to share my very French mentality of a dessert – a small portion of something rich, indulgent and very satisfying.”
Laura began making Gluten Free Klippy’s in a gluten-free bakery after hours. She had to haul all of her supplies in and out of the bakery every session. That was exhausting. She needed to look for a different approach as her business grew. The solution turned out to be Certified Kitchens, a dedicated gluten-free commercial kitchen in Berkeley. “The facility is top of the line, and it is totally gluten-free! There is space to store all of my ingredients, and my suppliers deliver directly to the kitchen. I can focus much more on my business and do a lot less heavy lifting.”
For Laura, Certified Kitchens is more than just a place to make her flour blend and bake cookies. Laura said, “Marie, the owner, is so generous and wonderful to work with. She is helping me gain my gluten-free certification, and she has put me in touch with resources to help me grow my business.”
Laura’s business has expanded to the point that she has hired her first assistant, who shares the vision of what makes great pastry. Together they are working on a product line extension to bring decorated custom cakes with interesting flavor combinations to the Bay Area. One that caught my attention was summertime carrot-zucchini cake with goat cheese frosting. I didn’t know this before, but Laura’s carrot-zucchini cake is not the same in summer versus winter. Laura said, “Summer spices are light and fresh but winter spices are warmer and heavier.” Customers will also be able to order dairy-free and vegan versions of the cakes.
Fortunately for us, Laura offers her flour blend for sale via her website. Laura said, “I want to make it possible for people to bake the family recipes they love but have been unable to eat since learning of their gluten intolerance. It’s my job to reconnect people with their family traditions.” Her website explains the simple modifications that home bakers need to convert non-gluten-free recipes.
Laura also sells fully-baked cookies at farmers’ markets and street fairs. Her customers are the public at large. She said that people at the farmers’ markets often don’t realize Klippy’s are gluten free.
Five Bay Area retail stores sell both the frozen cookie dough and flour blend. That is soon to change. Laura expects that customers will be able to find her products available at a number of other stores, and that baked Klippy’s products will be available at more farmers’ markets. Check the Gluten Free Klippy’s website for retail locations: www.glutenfreeklippys.com.
Laura also demos Klippy’s from time to time. The best way to find out about upcoming demos and events is on her Facebook page. Watch also for the availability of the new custom cake line. Please note that a number of coffee shops bake Klippy’s in their own ovens for convenience; these shops may not observe gluten-free food preparation practices.