For our second installment of our “Phenomenal Moms” series for Women’s History Month, we profile bakery owner Jennifer Zimmerman, who owns the only fully gluten-free bakery in Suffolk County.
Lovingly nominated by her husband, Gary, Zimmerman has been described as attaining “rock star mom” status.
After-school or Sunday morning sweets are a staple of most childhoods, and Zimmerman is making that experience available to more children and families with her forward-thinking bakery/eatery, No Gluten Kneaded.
As indicated by the fantastic, whimsical pun, everything in Zimmerman’s bakery is gluten-free, with some treats even being vegan. Zimmerman recalled a story with a 12-year-old who had been diagnosed with celiac disease from birth.
“He had never had a cookie, or a doughnut,” Zimmerman said. “Suddenly, he came in and realized, ‘I can eat anything here?!’”
While Zimmerman herself does not have a diagnosed allergy to gluten, she had decided six years ago to go on the Whole 30 diet, where you slowly reintroduce food groups into your meals after starting from scratch.
“I noticed after reintroducing wheat to my diet, I was lethargic,” said Zimmerman.
Deciding to make a lifestyle change for herself (while her family undoubtedly enjoys her bakery goods, they are not gluten-free), Zimmerman continued on with a wheat-free approach to food.
Previously working 19 years in the television industry (Zimmerman said she was “paid to watch sports”), she grew weary of her hours (3:45 p.m. to 12:45 a.m.) that kept her from seeing her twin boys and also wanted to do more with her cottage business of baking specialty cakes.
Seeing a paucity of quality and delectable gluten-free options on Long Island, Zimmerman decided to open the only fully gluten-free bakery in Suffolk County, in Bohemia.
Trading in her night-owl hours for waking at 2 a.m. to prepare the breads and sweets for the day, Zimmerman now gets home around 8:30-9 a.m. to help her children, who are both distance-learning this year.
“She spent 20 years as a TV engineer and decided a few years ago to follow her passion and opened a bakery three years ago,” her husband Gary said.
“With COVID, we opted to keep our sons fully virtual this year, so her average day is getting up at 2 a.m. to go and prep the bakery for the day, then getting home by 8:30 a.m. to supervise our boys for school for the day. On the weekends, she puts in 12-hour days at the bakery. Plus, on top of all that, she’s VP of the Cherokee PTA. In my humble opinion, true ‘rock star mom’ status.”
So, what is involved in transforming decadent sweets into gluten-free concoctions that remain as luscious as the original?
Zimmerman replaces the wheat flour with either rice, almond, or coconut flour. Proprietary mixes are used in most of the sweets offered, and the photography and editorial department of the Suffolk County News can attest that their sweets are even better than the original, with staff photographer Craig Sweezey claiming, “The cookie was so good I wanted to live inside the cookie.”
Since the entire bakery is gluten-free, there is no risk of cross-contamination. Zimmerman even called the dairy farms where her milk is from (milk is naturally gluten-free) to confirm there was no presence of wheat in the processing facilities.
As this is a rarity, people come from as far as Manhattan and Montauk to sample Zimmerman’s beloved goods.
Once, a family flew in from California with No Gluten Kneaded mapped out as a destination point after learning about it online.
An absolute must-try of the bakery is the doughnuts. Not a traditional doughnut, as Zimmerman’s are baked and not fried; the gluten-free take on the breakfast staple is equal parts divine as it is inventive.
Delicately flavorful, it is more sophisticated than your average doughnut, with a palate-satisfying and elegant glaze, of which there are many flavors.
Zimmerman even engineered a way to fill her doughnuts (jelly or creme) without all the aeration of a traditional doughnut.
“Our sugar cookies are actually always vegan,” said Zimmerman, adding, “they are just that good.”
Swapping in unexpected ingredients like chickpea brine for eggs, Zimmerman is always looking for new ways to be inclusive of all diets as her customer base grows.
For holidays, she whips up on-point specials like the Irish soda bread that is available this March. For Thanksgiving pies, she uses a special rice flour blend to recreate the beloved crusts of grandma.
Savory meals are also available with Zimmerman’s “take and bake” dishes, which include some typically no-no foods for gluten-free eaters like Sicilian pizza. Zimmerman also sells wholesale, including bagels.
“I love baking,” said Zimmerman, “I love seeing the smiles on their faces.”