Embraced On The UWS, A Gluten-Free Bakery | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Embraced On The UWS, A Gluten-Free Bakery

Embraced On The UWS, A Gluten-Free Bakery

Coconut layer cake. Photo courtesy of Leslie Kahan/pixelpedler

By the Way Bakery is also dairy-free, certified kosher — and delicious.

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Upper West Siders, take note: The next time you head out for groceries at the Kosher Marketplace on Broadway—with a stop for bagels at Tal, of course — don’t neglect to check out the new bakery just a few doors down. It’s called By the Way and every single luscious pastry sold within is gluten-free, dairy-free, and certified kosher.

But don’t stop reading now — By the Way’s moist, rich, not-too-sweet cookies and cakes are exceptional: not exceptional for being gluten- and dairy-free, but exceptional, period. In a blind taste test, you’d never know that these sweets were anything but traditional bakery items. That’s where the store’s name comes from: as in, “These desserts are great, and oh yeah, by the way, they contain no gluten or milk.”

The Upper West Side location opened last month and is the second of owner Helene Godin’s two stores, the first of which she opened in her small Westchester town of Hastings-on-Hudson in 2011. Prior to becoming a full-time baker, Godin, 51, worked a high-profile job in media law. But a few years ago, she decided she had had enough.

"I wanted to do something completely different," said Godin of her decision to quit law. She knew she wanted to start her own business, and, surveying the landscape, she decided that the up-and-coming market of gluten-free foods could be a fertile—and maybe even lucrative—ground.

The only catch? Godin had barely any experience with baking, let along developing the kinds of truly-scrumptious gluten-free pastries she envisioned for her future bakery.

"I wasn't going to let that stop me,” she said. “So I taught myself."

In her home kitchen, Godin took those lawyering skills and brought them to bear on hundreds of variations of recipes, eventually settling on a mix of flours that brings lightness and texture her gluten-free desserts, a category that often suffers from heaviness, chalkiness or both. Godin’s blend includes brown and white rice and sorghum flours, plus potato starch and tapioca.

That mix makes its way into By the Way’s moist, towering layer cakes in flavors such as raspberry-vanilla and coconut; its crispy chocolate chip cookies; its individual, perfect-with-a-cup-of-tea mini-cakes, available in apple, double-chocolate and chocolate chip; and many more comforting, homey items.

Clearly, Godin has overcome the formidable obstacle of gluten-free. Why, then, did she feel the need to throw the extra headaches of dairy-free and kosher certification into the mix?

Coming to the Upper West Side, she explained, “I wanted to cast as wide a net as possible in terms of servicing people.”

Though there are a few Jews in her small town, in New York City “it’s a stricter, more observant community,” Godin said.

Plus, Godin’s broker in the sale of the bakery space told her as much.

“’You’re next to the Kosher Marketplace?’ he told me. “’You need kosher certification,’” she recalled.

On the close-knit Jewish Upper West Side, Godin said, it’s not just getting certified, but who does the certification. In the case of the bakery, that man is Rabbi Aaron Mehlman, the well-respected rabbi of Congregation Ohav Shalom on West 84th Street and the brains behind the website Make It Kosher. After Mehlman certified the store, Godin placed a sticker in the window advertising the rabbi’s seal of approval and immediately got the neighborhood talking, she recalled.

“Friends of the business started asking me, ‘Who’s this Mehlman guy? Everyone’s looking in your window and talking about Mehlman!’”

Godin said that locals with a sweet tooth have told her how pleased they are to welcome By the Way to the neighborhood.

“Half my customers are kosher, and they love the fact that it’s parve,” she said.

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