At our bakery, people ask me all of the time why I started Karma Baker. Of course there were many inspirations; loving to bake for others, the increasing prevalence of food allergies, my own food allergies! But the story that most illustrates the Karma Baker mission, the story that never fails to inspire me again every time I tell it, is the Sofia Story.
In 2003, we moved in next door to Sofia. A little girl with so many allergies that if she ate any of 20+ everyday foods she would go into anaphylactic shock. Throat closing and possible death. Eating for her was really scary. And for all of us around her. Her mother was vigilant about what she ate and how it was prepared. Zero cross contamination. We went to many family and neighborhood events together. Events around food, sharing and love. Her mother would make her something special to eat that was “Sofia friendly”, that’s what we called it. Her mother Maria, tried very hard. Learned a bit about baking and cooking gluten-free, dairy-free and egg free. But it was often something boring, bland, hard, not exactly appetizing and frankly, kind of disgusting. The other kids did not want any part of it. Sofia was glad to have something to eat, but definitely felt left out. She could not partake in the fun and delicious foods that everyone else was enjoying. Naturally it was tough for her, but it was actually really hard for me too. I could feel her exclusion like it was my own. It was too much.
It became my quiet mission to bake something for Sofia, that was so good the other kids would want to eat it with her.
I wanted to bake her something that looked as delicious and tasted as delicious as everybody else’s… So that everybody else wanted what Sofia had too.
After some trial and lots of errors, I created brownies out of the few ingredients she could actually eat… they not only looked like “real” brownies, they actually tasted amazing. I couldn’t believe it. I brought them over to Sofia’s house in a pan and put them in the center of the kitchen table. I hadn’t yet said anything about them being special for Sophia when she came into the kitchen. She saw the brownies and I quickly saw her eyes shift away -knowing that these couldn’t possibly be “OK” for her. And when I saw that look… I said “Sofia, you can eat these! They are “Sofia-friendly”. And her eyes widened. She looked to me and then to her mom and she asked “really??” and her mom looked at me and she asked “really??”
And I got to answer yes.
It was an emotional moment for us. It was just a brownie, but it was so much more than that. It was relief from a little girl’s suffering! In that moment I realized that my baking obsession has always been about sharing joy, celebration and love. It’s about gathering and nourishing. And the smiles that being presented with a cupcake can bring. No one should ever be left out of that. Sophia had been left out and this brownie was making her feel included, it was actually healing her. That’s when the seeds of the Karma Baker mission were planted. If I could do this for Sofia, I’d like to do this for everyone.
In the short time Karma Baker has been baking there have been many great stories of children healing from exclusion, and each one is precious to us. From the little boy who came in for his first donut, to the groom whose first cake ever, was his wedding cake that we made for him and all of his guests. There are many people that rely on our bakery that have stories of their own, stories of feeling alone, being isolated in their own food journey. The isolation is real, whether it’s Celiac disease, food allergies, or to stand outside the norm and choose a food lifestyle life veganism. Above all, we are left out of the main stream diets of wheat, dairy, eggs and meat at every place-setting.
I’m sharing our current brownie recipe. Sofia’s original recipe was good but as with all artistry, baking is about tweaking until it’s perfect. This is the one we use at Karma Baker everyday. The perfect vegan and gluten free brownie. That’s what we hear over and over. This recipe has been scaled way down to make a “normal” amount of brownies… Not 280 like we’re use to making.
Use the best organic cocoa powder you can find. It’s worth the little extra expense.
Our recipes call for our premixed organic gluten-free Karma Baker flour, which I highly recommend for best results. It has the right amount of xanthan gum and salt already added in. But you can always use a GF flour blend of your choice. Just be sure there is xanthan gum added in. There are some good GF blends out there (just not organic or quite as good as ours).