THE CHEF- Michelle Holtz

Owner and baker of Sweet Rewards Gluten-Free Bakery in Waukee

By Amber Williams

Chef headshot

How long have you been in business? I’ve been in business for two years — mostly at farmers markets — and I just moved to this store about a month ago.

What is your favorite thing to make that’s gluten-free? I make a lot of GF pasta dishes at home, but as far as baking goes, I love to make cupcakes. I’d have to say dessert bars are my weakness, though.

What got you into gluten-free baking? My husband Nick. He can’t have anything with gluten or dairy, and we were always buying a lot of pre-packaged, and I stopped baking my traditional recipes. Once in a while I’d make him something, and he’d go crazy over it. He encouraged me to take off with it, and it just snow-balled.

What is the biggest challenge baking gluten-free? Consistency. For example, bread. For it to turn out the same every time is really hard. One minute it’s perfect, and the next it’s flat. So it’s up and down, and I want to make sure that what I sell tastes like traditional expectations. Until it does, I won’t sell it.

Why do you like to bake gluten-free? It’s more of a challenge than traditional baking, and it’s more expensive, but it’s also more rewarding. When a mom cries because her little 3-year-old girl can pick out a cupcake for her birthday for the first time, or when a 75-year-old woman who has never had a princess party in her life suddenly has three different people throwing her one, and now she can have all the cupcakes just like everyone else, to me, that’s a cool thing.

What makes your business successful? Hopefully it’s because we do our best to accommodate everybody. Sometimes people just want to tell me their story, and no matter how busy I am, I make sure to take the time and listen.

What advice do you give about baking gluten-free? Use Bob’s Red Mill products. That’s what I use. Or browse the health-food section at the market, and use pre-packaged mixes. It’s easier and less expensive.

What do you want people to know about Sweet Rewards? A lot of people forget we’re also dairy-free, and we’re a dedicated facility, which means we serve nothing but gluten- and dairy-free products. RELISH

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