2012-05-11 / Community

Neighbors

City resident inspired to create gluten-free treats
By Kristy Wagner
Staff Writer


Marybeth Goldman Marybeth Goldman For most people diagnosed with celiac disease, the condition can take the fun out of eating.

May is National Celiac Awareness Month and even though she does not have celiac, Marybeth Goldman of South Portland is doing her part to support the celiac community by offering gluten- free sweets that are delicious and affordable.

“I don’t have (celiac) but I have a sensitivity,” Goldman said.

Goldman’s sensitivity to gluten led her to open MB Sweets, a gluten-free bakery she runs out of her home part time. Goldman bakes gluten-free whoopie pies and cupcakes, which can safely be consumed by people with celiac disease or people who are sensitive to gluten.

“I started MB Sweets in August 2011 and starting a business right now is not really the best idea, but it took off real fast,” Goldman said.

Celia disease is a condition where the stomach lining is damaged from an adverse reaction caused by eating gluten. People with damaged stomach linings are unable to absorb certain nutrients. Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye.

Goldman cut white flour and sugar out of her diet in 2006 and lost 80 pounds, but when she re-introduced food that contained gluten back into her meals in 2011, her body reacted negatively.

“It did not feel good at all,” Goldman said. “A lot of times they say a life-changing event can make you allergic or sensitive and I had my daughter in 2005.”

Goldman theorized her pregnancy and weight loss might have factored into the development of her sensitivity to gluten.

Goldman, who works as a fulltime mail carrier for the United States Postal Service, noticed many gluten-free pastries were unappetizing and overpriced.

“I had been buying products from the stores and they were just hard as rocks and not good. There were a few gluten-free bakeries in town and when I had some of their stuff I came home and started to bake my own stuff,” Goldman said.

Goldman approached Kate Bathra, former owner of Bathras Market in South Portland, and asked her if she would be interested in selling Goldman’s gluten-free cupcakes in the store.

“She said, ‘Go get your license and give me some samples,’” Goldman said. “Now I have eight locations.”

MB Sweets sells gluten-free cupcakes and whoopie pies at Eight Corners Market in Scarborough; the Gorham Grind in Gorham; the Local Buzz in Cape Elizabeth; Mornings in Paris in Portland; the CITGO gas station in Scarborough’s Oak Hill; Y-Lime’s in Portland; Ricetta’s in Falmouth and the Village Park Variety in South Portland’s Red Bank Village.

“I am trying to branch out as much as I can rather than hit up just health food stores,” Goldman said. “They will inflate the price so high and I don’t like that.”

Goldman’s whoopie pies are not too big and not too small and they have sold very well since she started offering them to the public, Goldman said.

“I started out with only cupcakes, but right now my main seller is whoopie pies,” she said.

MB Sweets offers several flavors of whoopie pies, including peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate, chocolate, pumpkin, lemon and blueberry. Goldman said her products have a shelf life of about six days, much longer than the shelf life of a gluten-free cookie or muffin, which go stale after about two days. Every one of Goldman’s products has to indicate it is gluten free on the label, but she said her secret to a moist cupcake or whoopie pie is the flour.

“I started out with rice flour, but it was just so dry and so gritty,” Goldman said. “I came up with a mixture of five different flours to make the gluten free super smooth and undetectable.”

Goldman said she switched from rice flour over to bean flours and sorghum flour. She said the trick to her flour mixture, though, is tapioca flour.

“The tapioca flour adds a sweetness,” Goldman said.

Along with gluten free, MB Sweets offers baked goods with no hydrogenated oil, which means no monosaturated fats.

“I use an organic palm oil for my frosting,” Goldman said.

MB Sweets has a Facebook page that Goldman maintains, but the in-home bakery does not have a website and Goldman has never advertised.

“I am baking four to five times a week, just by word of mouth,” Goldman said.

She added that the name of the company and its contact info is on the packaging of every whoopie pie and cupcake. Goldman provides sweets not only for local stores; she also bakes for weddings and other events, and she will ship her product to people outside of Maine who want to enjoy her gluten-free baked goods. All Goldman asks for is a 24-hour notice to work an order into her busy schedule.

“It’s exciting. It’s not the main source of my income, but the fact that I can help people out with their diet makes it rewarding,” Goldman said. “I always grew up making sweets. That’s my thing and to be able to transform every recipe I have to gluten free was pretty fun.”

Goldman, a graduate of South Portland High School and a volunteer firefighter in South Portland, said her company may not grow any bigger.

“I like it the way it is. It’s small enough and it lets me stay home with my daughter,” Goldman said. “It all works; the schedule, it’s just perfect. If I have the availability (an order) will happen.”

Staff Writer Kristy Wagner can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 219.

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