Northland gets gluten-free bakehouse
Majora's Bakehouse offers vegan scones, cupcakes, cookies and more.
CULVER, Minn. — Majora Bengtson hadn’t planned on launching an at-home bakehouse.
“It was a last-minute thing, I was going to give it a shot,” they said.
Today, Majora’s Bakehouse is “a year strong” offering a mix of gluten-free, vegan goodies: blackberry and lime scones, Earl Grey cupcakes and chocolate orange shortbread cookies.
Baking gluten-free takes a lot of trial and error, and Bengtson goes as far to make their own baking powder and powdered sugar. They’ve made several pop-ups during the past year at the Hillside Market, Trans Joy Fest and will be at Engwall Flowers Fall Fest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 23-24.
Bengtson's motivation was to fill a spot where folks with allergies and food sensitivities could find quality baked goods. They released a new cinnamon roll cookie during Duluth Superior Pride.
They said their process involves a lot of trial and error — and taste-testing, “which my family doesn't seem to mind too much.”
Bengtson took time to talk about baking gluten-free, true crime podcasts and their secret ingredient.
Q: Tell me about your culinary background.
A: My grandparents used to own restaurants when I was younger, so I feel like I grew up in a kitchen. A lot of my cooking today is still influenced by the mom-and-pop style I was lucky to grow up with.
No one in my family was much of a baker. That's maybe why I decided to get into it. I wanted cake, and if I had to make it myself, then so be it!
When my family learned I liked baking, I became the go-to for birthday cakes and holiday desserts, and it has only grown from there.
Q: Name your go-to cooking scenario. (Time of day, music/podcast on, solo or with a helper, and what are you making?)
A: When it comes to baking, my ideal situation is sometime around midnight with music blasting. I'm a chaotic baker, so I prefer to bake alone, so I can really spread out wherever I want. This is my prime time to try out new recipes, so you never know what is going to come out of the oven.
Q: What’s your favorite dessert to eat? To make? To watch others enjoy?
A: Cake! It has so many different combinations to make, so it never gets old. I also really love to spend time on decorating. The perfect slice looks so pretty, and when it looks good and people love the taste, it doesn't get much better.
Q: Baking gluten- and dairy-free comes with its own challenges. How do you know when a recipe is right where you want it?
A: All of my recipes are my own, so they all go through several test batches before anyone even knows I'm working on it. Then, I usually just show up at a family gathering and make everyone try it. They know what kind of standards I'm working towards, so they give great feedback.
After that, I’ll finally bring it to an event. I take the responses and comments from folks to heart and will then apply that to the recipes. When someone excitedly says, “This is gluten free?” after trying it, I know I'm where I want it to be.
Q: Tips for others who want to learn to bake for food sensitivities?
A: There's no way around it, but be prepared to have a few disasters. It's OK! You'll get there, I promise.
There are so many allergen-friendly options these days, so try a few out to find your favorite. Everyone I know who does this kind of baking has their own favorite substitutes. An easier introduction is finding 1-to-1 replacements and using those in your favorite recipes.
If you can, try replacing in batches.
Start with flours, then egg replacement, then butter, and so on. It's easier to problem-solve one thing at a time instead of a whole group.
Q: What’s the most valuable takeaway baking has given you?
A: Baking has helped me practice being more patient. Along with that, selling my product has really helped me meet so many cool people I never would have otherwise. So many folks have been so kind and supportive, and it's been a really rewarding experience.
Q: What’s your secret ingredient?
A: From a romanticized standpoint, perseverance.
Practically, though, the secret ingredient for several things is vinegar. The reaction with baking soda helps keep things light and fluffy.
Q: What’s next for Majora’s Bakehouse?
A: I have huge dreams to open a location in town. That way I can provide allergen-friendly baked goods more reliably, and with a commercial space it opens the possibility of selling to local coffee shops and businesses. This dream is expensive, so until then, I'm trying new recipes to create a wider range of offerings and to get my name out there.