UConn opens nation’s first on-campus gluten-free bakery
University of Connecticut’s chefs have begun whipping up gluten-free desserts in house to better meet student demand.
Published in FSD Update
The dining services department at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn., no longer has to rely solely on supplier-provided, gluten-free baked goods for gluten-intolerant customers. University bakers can now create their own treats in the first gluten-free bakery on a college campus in the country.
The bakery officially opened April 2 and is mass-producing brownies, rice crispy treats and cookies—the most popular baked goods on campus— for campus dining halls.
Rob Landolphi, culinary operations manager at UConn, says the department retrofitted a test kitchen to serve as the bakery. The 600-square-foot space was chosen because it is across campus from the central production kitchen, which significantly reduces the chance of cross-contamination.
“It’s a 100 percent gluten-free bakery,” says Landolphi. “There’s no other kitchen within a mile of it. “
He says the move was made to accommodate a growing number of requests for gluten-free items in a way that would provide higher quality products than store-bought items. More than 400 students are now requesting gluten-free foods, and the department has been selling an average of 2,000 gluten-free brownies and 1,000 gluten-free chocolate chip cookies per week—all supplied by an outside vendor. Dining services staff felt that they could produce a larger variety of higher-quality items without increasing costs, Landolphi says.
Landolphi, who has written three gluten-free cookbooks, is teaching gluten-free baking techniques to a staff chef, who in turn will teach fellow staff how to use such ingredients as rice flour, sorghum and tapioca starch to produce high-quality baked goods.
Landolphi’s team tested items with students before the bakery went live. He said he sought out students who don’t normally eat gluten-free foods, because they could better judge whether an item tasted similar to one made with wheat flour.
“When someone who is not gluten-free tastes your brownie and says, ‘That’s awesome,’ [that product’s] a go,” says Landolphi.
As more staff are trained, Landolphi says, he plans to gradually increase the number of offerings. Staff also are working to create higher-end products, such as chocolate lava cake, for special events.
“If we find something that is becoming popular,” he says, “we want to be able to offer it.”