Flour Chylde Bakery Bakes Gluten-Free Confections with Love
Savannah Kuang, CUESA Staff
June 14, 2019
If you have a sweet tooth, you may have a favorite treat that has “guilty pleasure” written all over it. However, for those with gluten sensitivities, it is often a challenge to find something that is decadent yet easy on the stomach. Fortunately, Catherine Bragg of Flour Chylde Bakery, a staple of Mission Community Market on Thursdays, is able to meet that need with her gluten-free pastries that use high-quality ingredients baked with thoughtfulness and care.
From Textiles to Tortes
Catherine didn’t know that making gluten-free treats would become her calling, but she always knew that baking was in her blood. “I baked since I was a little girl, based on my mother’s and grandmother’s teachings,” she recalls. “I was always the one making heart-shaped cakes on a Thursday night in the middle of December, just because I felt like doing it. People thought I was a goofy little kid for doing that.”
Catherine, who co-owns Flour Chylde Bakery with her husband, Dion Brennan, had previously worked as a successful textile and clothing designer at Levi Strauss & Co., which entailed constant business travels and many deadlines. After becoming a mother, she left her corporate job to stay closer to her family and community. “It was from that moment on that I embarked on a six-year journey to train and gain baking experience,” says Catherine.
Before opening her own bakery, she worked alongside owner Celine Underwood at Brickmaiden Breads in Point Reyes Station, earning her chops using a wood-fired brick oven. “It was the most glorious time of my baking journey,” Catherine remembers.
Baking Against the Grain
Catherine’s original idea was to open a bakery to support her family and be close to home, but she saw that in order to sustain the business, she needed to distinguish herself from her competition. “Coming from the corporate world, I knew I needed to set my products apart from other bakeries,” says Catherine. “Instead of making lemon bars, I’d have to do it differently and make key lime bars.”
Although she was striving for a different approach, the concept of going “gluten-free” didn’t occur to her until she started selling her baked goods at farmers markets.
“I remember bringing my Linzer torte, which is made with almond meal, fresh egg whites, and a hint of brown sugar, to the farmers market for the first time,” says Catherine. “Customers walked up to my booth and said, ‘Oh, this is gluten-free!’ From that point on, I knew I needed to learn more about gluten-free baking, and my customers really educated me on what ‘gluten-free’ was.” After doing tons of research on gluten-free baking, Flour Chylde was born.
The name “Flour Chyde” is a double entendre inspired by the 1960s hippie movement and Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th-century poetry. “The whole inception of Flour Chylde was to incorporate an ‘Old World’ way of baking by using very few ingredients that were not only close-by, but also recognizable,” says Catherine.
Catherine and Dion opened the bakery in 2006, but it took Catherine years to perfect her gluten-free recipes and transition to a fully gluten-free baking facility. Some of her most popular tortes such as pure chocolate, pumpkin, and lemon and coconut are either made with rice, almond, or sorghum flour that are sourced locally. She also uses gluten-free rolled oats in some of her pastries. “I did a lot of research and studying on my own and also decided to go gluten-free myself,” says Catherine. “Since then, I’ve seen my business flourish as a result of going gluten-free.”
A Taste for Community
With a brick-and-mortar bakery based in Novato, Catherine has been building a loyal customer base over the years with her gluten-free baking by listening to the community’s needs. “The customers are the ones who pulled me up, gave me a hand, and encouraged me to create the business as it is,” says Catherine.
And with that sense of community, Flour Chylde Bakery continues to have a presence in various Bay Area farmers markets, including Mission Community Market that takes place every Thursday evening. “We’re proud when we’re being selected at these farmers markets because we feel like we’re with the best of the best,” says Catherine. “We believe that what we do at farmers markets is what we also do at Flour Chylde Bakery—providing more for the community through gluten-free food.”
Find Flour Chylde Bakery at the Mission Community Market on Thursdays, 4 to 8 pm.
Photos of Catherine and tortes courtesy of Flour Chylde Bakery.