Behind the Mask: Jennifer Zimmerman, Baker and Owner of No Gluten Kneaded
Time to read: about 4- minutes
Two Fridays ago I was fortunate to have a chance to catch up with and ask a few questions of Jennifer Zimmerman, Gluten Free Baker and owner of No Gluten Kneaded bakery in Bohemia. No Gluten Kneaded is our local gluten-free bakery bringing you fresh baked goods weekly at the market! I talked with Jen about her process, her triumphs, her failures and dreams.
I am personally a big fan of all of Jenn’s products. Earlier this spring when I brought No Gluten Kneaded into my chocolate shop for a taste test there wasn’t one baked item people didn’t like. Jenn’s baked goods are both delicious and attractive looking. As one of our shoppers put it: “Gluten free stuff that tastes like a bakery. My daughter has colitis and it's so hard finding a real bakery item for her.”
So Jenn, tell me how did you get into GF baking?
Jenn: I was just starting to be gluten free myself and thought how hard could it be to bake gluten free. I have been a baker since I was little, helping my mom bake for the holidays. And I had a custom cake business for 19 years. So I started and to my delight, after a lot of trial and error, my gluten free baked good creations actually tasted good. Most of them you can't even tell.
No Gluten Kneaded was inspired by a friend of Jenns who told her: “There weren't any gluten free bakeries in Suffolk County. There used to be one but it closed”. At the same time Jen was working at AMC Networks and they had offered a voluntary lay off. Jenn accepted their offer, opened up NGK and hasn’t looked back since.
In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about baking gluten free?
Jenn: Bread is the most challenging thing to bake gluten free. It took me over a year to figure it out.
TVM: Jennifer, I can personally attest you have proven that gluten-free goods can actually taste good and still be good for you, a rare and most welcome combination. I shared some with my neighbor and now she’s ordering and enjoying your amazing products too.
I know we pick up for market fresh on Friday mornings at 8:00am, what time does your day begin?
Jenn: I start my day at between 2:30-3:00am depending on how much needs to get baked.
Let’s talk a little about the alternative flours you use?
Jenn: I use brown, white rice and almond flours. I make my own blend of brown, white rice, tapioca starch, potato starch, and xanathan gum.
TVM: Ah, sounds like a secret recipe to me.
People will want to know, do you have Dairy Free, Vegan baked goods?
Jenn: Yes we have dairy free, vegan and paleo options.
Can we freeze your baked items?
Jenn: Yes most of our baked goods can be frozen.
How has the pandemic affected your bakery?
Jenn: We are doing okay through this pandemic. We had to adapt and change a few things at the beginning and still are finding new ways to deal with issues of this pandemic.
What makes NGK a success?
Jenn: Our customers. We have the best customers, they share and recommend my bakery to everyone on social media.
TVM: Honestly Jenn is being very humble here, customers wouldn’t rave and share if her products weren’t both tasty and outstanding. Another thing that sets NGK apart from other bakeries is that they are a 100% gluten free facility.
We see you’ve got lots of seasonal Halloween items coming up, is it a challenge keeping up with the different products with seasonal flavors.
Jenn: No its not hard to keep up with holiday flavors since I like to change my menu weekly. I have fun coming up with our menus and figuring out what will sell.
Do you do anything sugar free?
Jenn: No I do not make anything sugar free. I do not like using artificial sugars.
Is there a kitchen appliance you can’t live without?
Jenn: Kitchen aid mixer!
Will you tell us, what’s one item you've created you're really proud of and one that's been difficult to make gluten-free?
Jenn: I am most proud of my chocolate chip cookie. The most difficult to make gluten free is bread. It is so picky, I still have errors when making bread.
Tell me about those ooey gooey chocolate chip cookies. — how did you perfect them?
Jenn: I like a chewy chocolate chip cookie over a crunchy cookie so I had to figure out how to keep it soft. My secret is cream cheese. Yes I add cream cheese to my chocolate chip cookie.
TVM: By-the-way, those cookies are our biggest seller at market!
What’s your long-term vision for NGK?
Jenn: Our plan is to open a new location and make it a cafe where we sell fresh bagels, egg sandwiches and lunch items. Then our long term goal is to open a few more of these cafes across the island.
Has any particular place, person or event inspired any of the recipes in Delicious Gluten Free Baking?
Jenn: My family has a Thanksgiving tradition where we make danish pastries for Thanksgiving morning. Last year I was able to spend Thanksgiving with my family up in New Hampshire, but I couldn't have the danish because it wasn't gluten free. I set out to make our family danish recipe gluten free and created my Raspberry Braid Danish. I sell it by the slice or during the holiday as a take and bake— you take it home frozen and bake it in the morning for a fresh raspberry danish. So good.
TVM: Sounds like we should preorder these Raspberry Braid Danish now!
No Gluten Kneaded is up for the Bethpage Best of Long Island award. If you’ve tried Jen’s products, I know you love them, so vote for NGK while you are voting for TVM and Chocology!
Make sure to visit the TVM's No Gluten Knead webpage to order and experience these amazing gluten-free baked goods!