By Carolyn Neff

How does a healthy and mouth-watering meal under the redwoods in Marin County sound right about now? If you can’t visit Flour Craft Bakery & Cafe in person, you can still order treats online or make your own standout dishes from a striking selection of beautifully photographed gluten-free recipes and videos. This popular Marin County gem has something for everyone, near or far – there’s even a cookbook on the way!

How many different gluten-free flours can you name?

At Flour Craft, alternative flours are abundant, with baskets of brown and white rice, sorghum, millet, tapioca and ground nut and seed flours.

Heather Hardcastle is the founder of this all-gluten free oasis that opened its doors in 2013. Boasting a plethora of beautiful and healthy plant-forward food, each bite offered by the Flour Craft team at both San Anselmo and Mill Valley Lumber Yard locations—from fresh baked goodies like walnut sourdough, almond raspberry brioche French toast, iced pistachio pound cake, to berry-topped granola parfaits—has been carefully crafted from a different combination of flours.

“A layer cake should taste different from brownies and breads,” explains Hardcastle. “It’s not all about a one-to-one all-purpose blend.”

The bakery requires a certification from each supplier and wholesaler, detailing the source and delivery of the flours to ensure no cross-contact. Many nut and seed flours are also milled in-house.

“The way we approach gluten free is that it’s really just accessible for all people,” says Hardcastle, whose Flour Craft kitchens are also peanut-free facilities.

Supporting staff, supply chain and community

Hardcastle has remained true to providing an inclusive experience for everyone—gluten-eating and not—especially during this year’s public health restrictions.

Focusing on a way to provide an outlet to sell products that would support all Flour Craft partners, including wholesalers and farmers, Hardcastle introduced meal kits.

The carefully curated “one-stop shop” community-supported agriculture boxed kits included fresh ingredients for three nights of meals and an accompanying series of recipes. Tasty home-cooked options included recipes like loaded organic roasted chicken tacos with coconut black beans, fresh tomato salsa and flourless mudslide cookies.

The meal kits “allowed us to keep the doors open,” explains Hardcastle.

At the same time, as grocery business shot through the roof, the San Anselmo store closed for eight weeks and turned into a 24/7 granola factory. “It was crazy,” recalls Hardcastle.

The San Anselmo facility also transitioned into a charitable kitchen that provided food for the local Marin community, specifically seniors. Hardcastle and her team fed 250 people a week for ten weeks, and partnered with Extra Food, Conscious Kitchen, World Central Kitchen and Marin City to feed an additional 150 per week during the same period.

As business has ramped up again, the Flour Craft team continues to feed 50+ a week even as they have gone back to retail operations and may work back to meal kit offerings.

A new cookbook

Hardcastle’s love of cooking and sharing food with people is clear. She got really into gastronomy two decades ago following a diagnosis of gluten intolerance and recognized a gap in gluten-free options.

Having been in the design field, Hardcastle pivoted to earn a baking and pastry arts degree—which just about killed her with all the exposure to gluten, but “I survived!”—and began experimenting in her own kitchen. First came farmers markets, where her success was fueled by granola creations from certified gluten-free oats and then the introduction of baked goods.

Today, Hardcastle remains Flour Craft’s primary recipe developer.

“That’s my jam, developing recipes,” explains Hardcastle.

She just finished writing a cookbook, for which she crowd-sourced recipe testers, and is currently in the final stages of the book’s layout and design. The book, due out in April 2021 and published by Rizzoli International, has photos by Erin Scott.

Can’t wait for some recipes?!

Hardcastle posts weekly recipe videos on Instagram @flourcraft (click on the IGTV tab) and regularly posts blog-shared recipes. The beetroot hummus with lemon and yogurt is oh-so summer good. I swapped in SoDelicious unsweetened coconut yogurt for a dairy-free version and am still drooling.

Hardcastle’s latest creation brings a unique twist to the sourdough bread base that the world has reached out and embraced during the global pandemic. Hardcastle has been baking teff sourdough for years. Her new twist is sourdough chocolate-chip cookies.

“They’re not sour at all, but sourdough adds a chewiness, a really unique umami,” says Hardcastle.

Not sure if people would like her new creation, she tested the cookies with her team first before putting a few out for sale. And people are obsessed.

While we can’t get our hands on the full recipe until the book launches in April 2021—along with a sourdough starter how-to, simple plant-forward bread loaves and so many other snacks, dips and easy-bakes—you can continue to enjoy Flour Craft treats from the comfort of your (home) office or as takeaway.

Both the San Anselmo and Mill Valley locations opened for pickup and outdoor dining this summer and customers can enjoy avocado toast and orange polenta cake among many well-distanced seats nestled under redwoods at both locations. They are currently in the process of transitioning use of their indoor dining room to a small gourmet market, with a curated, gluten-free assortment of locally made artisan foods. Check Flour Craft’s website, Facebook or Instagram account for the latest news on hours and services.

Flour Craft ships a range of fresh items directly to you, which arrive delicious and in good shape. You can also purchase Flour Craft granola in Whole Foods stores throughout Northern California and in specialty Bay Area markets.