The Sweet Life

Photographs by Julie Bidwell
Above left: Sweet nostalgia: At By the Way Bakery the cookies are sized just right for making homemade ice cream sandwiches. Right: Owner Helene Godin

Everything about By the Way Bakery feels nostalgic in a comforting way: the scent of the almond cookies, the buttercream-colored cabinets, the light fixture made from Mason jars and the French rolling pin used as a door handle. The bakery, with its design that’s part grandma’s kitchen and part modern sweets shop, is big on samples, so before you’ve even sized up the pretty cakes and treats, someone is likely to offer you a taste of the madeleines or sour-cherry coffee cake. But one thing about By the Way stands out as being decidedly 2017— all the cakes, cookies, challah bread and other treats in the shop are gluten-free, dairy-free and kosher.

Here, visitors instantly feel welcome

When Helene Godin opened her first By the Way in Hastings on Hudson, New York, five years ago, it wasn’t because she or anyone in her family needed to cut gluten from their diets, but simply because it made sense to the former lawyer from a business point of view. “Four days after I quit my job, I announced to my family, ‘I’m going to open a bakery,’ and my sons and husband looked at me and said, ‘But you don’t know how to bake!’” Helene recalls with a laugh. “I said, no problem, because I’m going to open a gluten-free bakery and no one knows how to do that well. I won’t be constrained by old habits.” She dove into the idea and went to a vegan baking boot camp at the Natural Gourmet Institute. Though today she doesn’t do any baking herself—instead she hired a strong team—those early days helped her develop treasured recipes and learn how to trick rice into thinking that it’s wheat. And for her chocolate chip cookies, she tinkered with her recipe “sixty-two times, easy,” before being satisfied.

Her perfectionist approach paid off, with baked goods so tasty that many customers were driving far out of their way for the gluten-free, kosher treats from the Hastings shop. Soon, she opened a location in Manhattan and expanded the business to include custom cakes. You can also buy packages of her cookies and treats in eighteen Whole Foods stores. Everything is mixed and baked by hand in a 7,000-square-foot commercial kitchen in Pleasantville. Each week the team churns out 1,500 pounds of flour (a mix of white rice, brown rice, sorghum, potato starch and tapioca) and all kinds of layer cakes, from black-and-white to red velvet. Brides can order custom wedding cakes that they can enjoy with their guests, who won’t taste any difference—telling them, “By the way,” it’s gluten-free. Says Helene: “I love the idea of baking for inclusion, bringing people together. The thing that makes me happiest is when I get a note from a mom about how she served a birthday cake and all the kids ate it and her kid didn’t feel different.”

DON’T MISS TREATS

1. THE COCONUT CLOUD
“It’s my dinner party go-to,” says Helene. This pretty, fluffy white cake is made with a coconut flavored cake and a cream cheese-like frosting (“customers can’t believe it’s dairy free”) and coconut chips.

2. ORANGE-ALMOND CAKE
“I think of it like a little black dress because it’s perfect for a brunch but it also works for a dinner with an espresso or glass of port at the end of the meal.”

3. CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
These luscious cookies are sized just right for making homemade ice cream sandwiches, which you can make with vegan ice cream or sorbet for those who stick to a dairy-free diet.

19 East Putnam Avenue, 203-489-3610; btwbakery.com

 

 

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