Many people think eating "gluten-free" is just a temporary fad, but while only less than one percent of the U.S. population can become terribly ill from gluten, a growing number of Americans are beginning to adopt a wheatless lifestyle. According to a recent survey, 30 percent of adults are going gluten-free and have found that eliminating wheat in their diet improves their energy level and makes them feel better.
Thankfully, Los Angeles is a dietary restriction-friendly town. The ratio of juice bars to gyms and number of health-conscious restaurants her are testament to that. But while gluten-free baked goods are slowly becoming more commonplace in local grocery stores and restaurants, they still get a bad rap. The words gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, and sugar-free have long been associated with sub-par offerings, but as this list proves, wheatless snacks don't have to be nasty.
1. Babycakes NYC
If you found a Babycakes treat out of context, chances are you'd have no idea it's gluten-free or vegan. This New York transplant is our number-one pick for wheatless snacks because all of their treats are wonderfully decadent -- even without the use of milk, butter, or flour. They rotate between garbanzo fava bean mixes, rice flour a la Bob's Red Mill, and oat flours. Rice and coconut milk are used in lieu of soy and cow milk and sweeteners are made from agave nectar and evaporated cane juice. Located in Larchmont and (un-coincidentally) sandwiched between a yoga studio and a fresh juice pressery, Babycakes has a delicious repertoire of cupcakes ($4.75), cookies ($1.75) and a mean salted caramel donut ($3.95) that's more cake than donut but wonderfully moist and light in texture.
2. Rising Hearts Bakery
This cozy Culver City establishment has fantastic gluten-free brownies ($4.00 for two). They're as big as bricks, moist, and you can taste the chunky chocolate bits when you bite in. While the bakery isn't vegan (they use eggs in some products), they are dairy-free and kosher. This is the perfect stop for people who don't necessarily want to satisfy their sweet tooth but are looking to stock up on their daily bread. They have an extensive bread and bagel collection. Pizza crusts are also available but here's a footnote: gluten-free bread stales fast, so keep it frozen in an airtight container and thaw for use.
3. Breakaway Bakery
Breakaway Bakery is the only one of the three that does not use xanthan gum. It's a product, they claim, that contributes to the artificial texture to gluten-free products but may possibly cause gastrointestinal distress. Their unique offerings include babka (a spongy, Eastern European sweet yeast cake), challah, rugelach, and brownies covered with a chocolate crust. Note: not everything is vegan here. They also sell frozen batters for home bakers.