“It tastes like cardboard,” or “I’ve heard it tastes like cardboard.”
Ask someone whether they’ve tried a gluten-free baked product, and you’ll probably hear one of the aforementioned refrains. Clearly, these people haven’t experienced Rumi’s Passion Bakery.
“I love this place,” said Katrina Bezak of Farmington Hills.
When I encountered Bezak, she was standing in line at the checkout, holding several packets of gluten-free gravy.
“My favorite thing is definitely the bread. I’ve never been able to find a gluten-free bread that stays soft for the whole week that you don’t have to freeze or refrigerate. Here, they’ve already got it done, it’s sliced … it’s just like normal bread,” she said.
Gluten free, normal and great-tasting. It’s a combination that Rumi’s Passion owner Steve Ciric has strove for since opening the bakery nine months ago.
Having worked with his family in the baking industry for 30 years, Ciric was quick to notice a change on the horizon about four years ago: an increased demand for gluten-free baked goods.
A person who adheres to a gluten-free diet abstains from eating gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, malts and triticale. Gluten is often used as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent.
Additionally, a gluten-free diet is the only medically accepted treatment for celiac disease—a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important to stay healthy.
Initially, Ciric planned to offer gluten-free products for wholesale only. But then the custom orders started pouring in—particularly specialty cakes for weddings and birthdays.
“When I was doing food fairs (Ciric doesn’t advertise), people started asking me for products that aren’t conducive to wholesale,” he said.
So Ciric reconsidered his plan, with those inquiries ultimately leading to the opening of Rumi’s Passion. Today, the bakery offers an impressive array of gluten-free breads and confections, in addition to regular baked goods that are whipped up by Janice and Cass Stawarz, the former owners of U Take the Cake. (Rumi’s Passion therefore houses two separate baking facilities to prevent cross-contamination.)
I encourage skeptics and believers alike to at least venture into Rumi’s Passion and try one of the samples. The day I visited, the staff offered pieces of their signature almond coffee cake. Admittedly, I’m a believer in gluten-free products, but I also know that not all gluten-free baked goods are created equal, so I was eager to try a piece. Before popping it into my mouth, I gave it the once-over. It looked downright scrumptious.
And then I learned that it tasted just as good as it looked. Generous portions of almond slivers, the right amount of sweetness and a moist texture made the coffee cake both fulfilling and pleasing to the palate.
I went on to sample a pretzel roll (nicely seasoned with salt), rosemary olive oil bread (ideal for dipping into olive oil) and plain white bread (slather on some peanut butter and jelly and the kids won’t know the difference).
Finally, I sampled what many chocolate cake lovers believe is the holy grail of confections: bumpy cake. Yes, Rumi’s Passion makes a gluten-free cupcake version ($1.75) that is sure to knock your socks off.
The takeaway is that, really, gluten free doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the tastes and textures we’ve become accustomed to. Nor does it mean that we’ll have less of a variety to choose from. Rumi’s Passion also bakes walnut raisin bread ($5.49), sour cream crunch coffee cake ($5.95), multigrain bread ($4.75) and even crust ($3.49) for pies, quiche and chicken pot pies.
So what’s next for Rumi’s Passion? Interestingly enough, Ciric told me that he’s looked to a 13th-century Persian poet, known simply as Rumi, after whom the bakery is named. Taking a cue from Rumi’s message of interconnectedness, Ciric dreams of one day offering gluten-free baking classes that also explore the meaning of life.
After speaking with Ciric, I get the impression that he is definitely an optimist, the kind of guy who appreciates both his triumphs and mistakes.
“The reason I’m able to produce good, quality products is because of the mistakes that I made,” Ciric explains. “It’s been trial and error. … After all, if you get irritated by every rub, how will you ever get polished?”
Now that’s a tasty lesson indeed.