Naples’ hottest gluten-free bakery is also sweet-tooth heaven for epicures. Our own fearless Mary Ann Green steps inside Epiphany’s doors for one delicious taste test.
Today, I had an epiphany. And no, it wasn’t about the plausibility of string theory and the multiverse, or a definitive answer in the great vaccination debate, or the best angle for an Instagram selfie (45 degrees above the head, duh).
It was about cookies.
Oh, not just any mere mortal-made cookies; I’m talking sublime, bursting-with-flavor, sonnet-worthy chocolate chip with a kiss of vanilla! Divine, angels-singing-on-high coconut chocolate chip! Zesty, feisty, punch-you-in-the-face ginger!
These inspired indulgences were interspersed by a sampling of possibly the most decadent chocolate brownie I’ve ever had the good fortune to wolf down, followed by insanely thick, nutty sandwich bread topped with butter and toasted tomato. Um, oh em gee.
So what makes all of this flavorful fare unique, and why the heck was I gobbling down treats like I was in training mode for a county fair pie contest? Well, the fact that each taste temptation was gluten-free and flavorful was quite the epiphany. Epiphany Gluten-Free Bakery, that is (see what I did there?).
Located in east Naples, Epiphany shares a kitchen with personal chef and caterer Laurie Allmenger and her partner Andrew Nittoso, whose business is also completely gluten-free. In fact, together, they’re a one-stop shop for gluten-free sauces, soups, breads, rolls, and baked goods.
While you may have heard a lot of hype about gluten-free products and diets these days, when you ask Epiphany’s baker, Ruth Wardein, and her business partner, Andy Amick, “why gluten-free?” the answer is simple: gluten-free means anti-inflammatory.
Inflammation has been linked to most major illnesses affecting Americans, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and overall aging. Our diets can either increase the level of inflammation in our bodies or help lower it, and processed foods containing gluten can be hard — even impossible — for some people to digest, leading to inflammation in the intestinal lining. Ruth herself is no stranger to health issues springing from gluten; both she and her father went gluten-free 18 years ago, and she’s been baking healthy versions of “regular” food for her family ever since. And now that she’s turned her talents into a full-time bakery, the Naples community has become part of her extended family, too. Lucky us!
Although both Andy and Ruth are the first to admit that their tasty temptations aren’t what they would consider “health food,” per se, their products are “clean” and a fantastic alternative to the overly processed baked goods you’d find at your typical chain supermarket. Bonus: besides being 100-percent gluten-free, many of Epiphany’s treats are also paleo diet-compliant — free from dairy, grains, refined sugar, and yeast.
Related: Is a Gluten-Free Diet Right For You?
For those of us with food allergies and sensitivities, Epiphany’s sinful fare, which includes cookies, sweet breads and rolls, brownies, dinner rolls, and cakes, is welcome news for Naples. Finally, a place where health-minded folks can experience the enjoyment of full-flavor treats without the shameful cocktail of remorse and harmful physical reactions! Huzzah!
But with all this healthy talk, let’s not forget the most standout thing about Epiphany: the flavors. These are not your run-of-the-mill, tasteless-as-cardboard gluten-free goods. Epiphany’s products are so tantalizing, they not only stand up to their “regular,” gluten-filled counterparts, they beat them in a fair fight wearing a blindfold and earplugs. One-handed. While hopping on one foot. Hyperbole? Maybe a smidge, but just ask their growing legion of fans and you’ll find I’m not too far off base.
So what’s left to praise that hasn’t already been praised? If you or a loved one are living with food allergies, if you like the idea of supporting a local business living out its passion for high-quality products, or if you just plain want to eat healthier, be sure to stop by Neighborhood Organics and have — yeah, you know what’s coming — an Epiphany.
Oh, and while you’re there, be sure to pick up a bag of Epiphany’s gluten-free “My Mix” flour so you can dazzle your family and friends with your own version of the delectable, gluten-free cake in our featured recipe. If they ask, “what’s your secret ingredient?” just tell them it came to you in an Epiphany.
Epiphany’s Gluten- and Dairy-Free Carrot Cake
- 2 cups evaporated cane sugar or coconut palm sugar
- 1 cup coconut oil
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups of Epiphany’s “My Mix” flour (or any all-purpose gluten-free flour)
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ginger
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- 3 cups shredded carrots
- 1 cup crushed pineapple
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Grease (or put parchment paper in) 2 or 3 eight-inch (8”) cake pans. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together oil, vanilla, sugar, and eggs. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
- Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients, alternating with carrots and pineapple.
- Mix just until fully combined.
- Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes until center of the cake springs back.
- Let the cakes sit for 5 minutes, then remove from pans and transfer to cooling racks.
- Cream Cheese Frosting (contains dairy)
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 stick butter, room temperature
- 3 cup confectioner’s sugars
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Toasted coconut or chopped walnuts to garnish
Cream together butter and cream cheese. Then, add in powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Mix until silky and creamy. When cakes are cooled, frost away!
Craving more Epiphany? Check out their Facebook page. You can visit them too:
Galleria Shoppes at Vanderbilt
2359 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Suite 406
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