I'd heard about the wonderful gluten free offerings at Sweet Christine's dedicated gluten free bakery in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania for years. Their reputation for wonderful gluten free baked goods has taken them from a local bakery to one that delivers nationwide and also has a thriving wholesale business. Despite good intentions, I've never had the opportunity to pay them a visit in person.
Recently, however, I had some products sent to me by none other than Laura Hahn, Community Manager for Sweet Christine's and former winner of NBC's Next Local TV Chef. I met Laura last summer, while we were both volunteering at Camp Celiac in North Scituate, Rhode Island. I've been a parent counselor there for the past several years since my own Celiac son starting attending the camp. This was Laura's first summer, and she had volunteered her time to prepare the campers' gluten free meals for the week. How fortunate we all were to have Laura's talents in the kitchen!
Laura has an interesting story herself...one not unlike many other Celiacs' stories of suffering with symptoms and going from doctor to doctor before being correctly diagnosed with Celiac. But her story actually began while she was deployed to Iraq. After battling debilitating symptoms, she found herself back in the states trying to make sense of what was going on inside her body. Once diagnosed, she wanted to get involved in serving the Celiac community.
In addition to working at Sweet Christine's gluten free bakery to broaden their distribution of their wonderful products, she publishes her own Blog, Guilt Free Food Cutie.
But back to Sweet Christine's and the products we had the opportunity to try...you can try them, too, even if you don't live anywhere close to Philadelphia, because all their products are available on their website.
Of course, if you do live in the Philadelphia area, you're in for a treat. You can visit the bakery, which is open Wednesday through Saturday for purchasing baked goods or lunch items like pizza and sandwiches. Laura is the chef in the store on Saturdays and is always cooking up great gluten free specialties . There's also a cake decorator on the premises who can decorate special order gluten free cakes for pick-up. And now, with Thanksgiving around the corner, they are taking orders for gluten free stuffing, mac-n-cheese, pies and tons of other holiday treats found only in the store.
In addition to the great taste of Sweet Christine's products, I also like that they use all natural ingredients without any preservatives and no trans fats. They use many organic ingredients, too. Plus, if you do order items from their website, they are shipped freshly frozen, so the items stay nice and fresh.
One of our favorites was their Home Style Pizza Crusts. They come 6 to a package and can be used in a variety of ways. While we used them all for pizzas, these 8" thin tortilla-like crusts would have made a great quesadilla as well. The pizza crusts also come in a 12" size, which I'm looking forward to trying at some point. Sweet Christine's uses a variety of flours to make their thin pizza crusts: white rice flour, potato starch, cornstarch -- aong with canola oil, water, yeast, salt and xanthan gum.
Another favorite -- something that's typically difficult to find -- is their Home Style Baguette. It had the feel and taste of a tradition gluten-filled baguette. Even though it says, "Keep Frozen Until Use," I let it thaw in the bag for several hours before dinner and then wrapped it in aluminum foil and warmed it in the oven. As you can see, it looks just like a typical baguette! Best of all, it was nice and crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. It's not only gluten free, but also dairy and egg free for folks with other dietary restrictions.
We also had the opportunity to try their Gluten Free Sandwich Bread. Made from a flour blend of brown and white rice, potato starch, and tapioca, it reminds me a bit of Whole Foods Gluten Free Bakehouse sandwich bread. I preferred using it for hot sandwiches like grilled panini, and my son loved the grilled cheese sandwich I made him using this bread.
Other products available online include hamburger and hot dog rolls, 3 varieties of muffins, bagels, dinner rolls, kaiser rolls, and even mini "slider" rolls! Sweet treats include cookies and brownies (both of which we sampled), cupcakes, chocolate lava cakes (I've never seeen a gluten free version of those before!), and now gluten free donuts!
If you want to try any of these items, you'll be pleased to hear that Sweet Christine's always offers free shipping on orders of $100 or more. You can also check out their Facebook page for promotions and discounts.
With their expanding wholesale business, you may also be lucky enough to find Sweet Christine's products in a restaurant, store, stadium, school, or hospital near you.
If you've tried any of Sweet Christine's products, share your thoughts by submitting a quick review to our website, GlutenFreeTravelSite, so other Celiac and gluten free folks can read about Sweet Christine's when they search our site for GF-friendly spots in the Philadelphia area!