Gluten-free in the time of coronavirus

Outrageous Baking making things work with a truly ‘essential’ business for Boulder County


Fourteen years ago, Pamela Fletcher was in a position many parents of young children have found themselves in: something weird was happening with her child and she didn’t know what it was. Her daughter was covered in eczema, and not wanting to pump her full of medication, Fletcher started subtracting things from their diet (she was still nursing). 

Turns out, her daughter had an allergy to gluten and dairy, but when Fletcher looked online for recipes, “there was nothing much” to accommodate their new restrictions. She played around with banana bread and other baked goods, before stumbling upon a gluten- and dairy-free coffee cake from an aunt, and when she tried it in her home kitchen, “It turned out great.”

That’s when Fletcher turned her home kitchen innovations into a business — ”the mother of invention is necessity,” she says. Fletcher took her gluten-free quick breads, sliced on a plate, to several Boulder County coffee shops. 

“I brought it into Brewing Market, and the manager there was celiac and was like, ‘Oh my God, we need this,’” Fletcher says. 

Credit: Grace Long

Fletcher and her family were on food assistance and staying home (in an 800-square-foot space) with her daughter meant any extra revenue was welcome. So after word got out about her gluten-free baked goods, Fletcher launched Outrageous Baking, selling sweet breads and eventually brownies and flour mix, all made with gluten- and dairy-free folks (and vegans) in mind. 

Since, Outrageous Baking has expanded to 30 states, selling mostly in grocery stores, coffee shops, online and at the Boulder County Farmers Market. They’ve grown every year (except one), and Fletcher has done it mostly as a single mom.

“I’m really lucky Boulder supported me in a need for a product like this,” Fletcher says.

Take a bite of an Outrageous quick bread — chocolate zucchini, pumpkin, lemon poppyseed — and you realize why it’s been a success. The treats are moist, well-composed and flavor-forward, all feats for gluten- and dairy-free baked goods.

“My goal was always to make something everyone would love whether or not you’re gluten-free,” Fletcher says, adding that if her parents in Philadelphia “could like it, I knew it was something everyone could enjoy. I think that’s what led to our success, and we just have a great following of people who appreciate what we do and our commitment to pure ingredients.”

Fletcher says the coronavirus has cut her sales in half, but she’s offering delivery of prepared items, including gluten-free flour. She will also have her products available for pickup starting April 15 though BCFM. Providing such products, specifically the flour (made of fine-grained brown rice, sorghum, tapioca, potato starch and xanthan gum), is essential as those with dietary concerns are having a tough time finding ingredients to make food at home.

“The population who are allergen-compromised, maybe they are unaware of how to get stuff right now,” Fletcher says. “They can go to the store but a lot of people aren’t going to go to the store for something you might need for a comfort food.”

And isn’t comfort food what we need right now?   

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