Kristine M. Kierzek
If Christina Mike wants to indulge in something, it has to be good. As a pastry chef, she created decadent desserts in fine dining restaurants. The bar was set high.
When she wanted to start her own business, DEVOUR gluten-free, she wasn’t willing to settle for anything less than truly delicious. She spent years developing her staple recipes and now sells her gluten-free flour mixes, cake and cookie mixes, mug cakes, frostings, bread and pizza crusts in hand-wrapped form.
Designed to be as simple as traditional canned mixes, its products are available at www.devourglutenfree.com, Pop’s Marketplace in Muskego, locally inspired in Port Washington. She will also be at Oak Creek Farmers Market the second and fourth Saturdays of the month (from May 14). On the first and third Saturdays of the month, she will be at Kenosha Public Market. Prices start at $2.
Mike lives in Oak Creek with her husband Jeff, daughter Cate and son Max.
I love to cook. When I was in high school, I cooked a lot for my family. I was going to school for something else. I had a teacher who told me that you love cooking so much, why don’t you go to cooking school? I went to one of the local community colleges for cooking (in Illinois).
I fell in love with pastry, bakery and science, not so much with cooking and restaurants. I want to follow a recipe and science. … I moved here in the early 1990s and worked in different bakeries. I ended up at Bartolotta’s when Lake Park Bistro opened, then moved to Potawatomi (Bingo Casino) and served as pastry chef at Dream Dance. Then I got married and had children. … Once they were old enough and back to school, OK now I’m bored. What do I do?
Switch to gluten-free
I had celiac friends. I started playing gluten free. Maybe I could do a bakery. No, I want something different. I started tasting gluten-free stuff. Everything was quite rude. I had come here from my pastry training. It must taste really good.
I came up with my own mix. I started thinking that I could create mixes that people could just buy and take home and make themselves. I make it super easy, so gluten-free baking is fun.
I had a mix of brownies perfected. Then I started making cake mixes. It took a few years. I needed a commercial kitchen. I’m in Oak Creek. Shared kitchen, 924 E. Rawson Ave., Oak Creek, opened in 2020. It’s right next to my house.
I know gluten free and cross contamination is a big issue. What’s great is that the owners make sure I’m there on my own and no one else mixes or does anything with regular flour. I use all my equipment. I also test my products.
Find your flour
When I started I bought all kinds of different flours to try. I spoke to gluten free people and asked what kind of flour do you use? I heard garbanzo was a favorite. Then sweet white rice, then brown rice, and this and that. I started trying different combinations.
OK, chickpeas don’t taste so good to me. It may be healthier, but it doesn’t taste like everything I want to keep eating. The white rice flours which I found very grainy. I came across brown rice flour. Now my flour is mostly brown rice. I find the texture to be much more like regular flour. It doesn’t impart that grit or unpleasant flavor.
Then I do something I’ve never seen done, I use potato starch and potato flour. It adds moisture. When you’re making muffins or cakes and you’re just using potato starch, a lot of gluten-free stuff can be great on day one, maybe day two, but day three is a trash. My stuff will still be really good a week later, if it’s still there.
Tasty takes time
I also make pizza dough. This and my bread dough recipe took a long time. My husband makes pizza every week and I’m happy to eat it every week.
If something is not good, I will not continue to eat it. I love making desserts that taste really good.
I don’t do anything with nuts, because it’s already so difficult to protect yourself from cross-contamination. I also don’t want to deal with cross-contamination of nuts.
I’m making a chocolate mug cake. I had many requests for a different flavor. OK, I’m going to take the basic chocolate recipe and take out the chocolate and make a vanilla. I have rock hard rubber bouncy balls. It was a failure. I dropped. I created a banana mug cake and found a winning combination. It worked!
My audience is anyone who wants to cook. My goal is simple. If you don’t have a lot of experience, you’re still able to do something that tastes like you’ve spent time doing it. I certainly have people coming to see me who don’t bake. It’s perfect. Cake mixes aren’t difficult. If you can make boxed cake mix, you can.
I also try to make sure I don’t have stuff sitting too long. Everything has a shelf life of about a year.
Bring the bread
Gluten-free bread is much easier than regular bread, in my opinion. There is no kneading, it’s super fast. My mix of breads and rolls, it’s not my biggest seller, but it’s so good.
I have been asked for icing several times. I have an icy snobbery. When it comes to frosting, I’m all about Italian meringue frosting, German buttercream, French buttercream. I didn’t want to create anything bad.
I came up with a powdered sugar, it has cornstarch in it, I found the right combination so it’s not that sticky but still super easy to make and tastes really good. It also works great with any of the dairy-free butters.
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