Jeanette Harris of Gluten Free Goat Bakery

People looking for fresh baked vegan and gluten-free options sometimes have to hunt a little harder to find what they want, but the Gluten Free Goat Bakery and Café is making the search a bit easier.

The wholesale operation Jeanette Harris started two years ago is evolving with its first brick-and-mortar bakery and café, now open on Penn Ave. in Garfield. The bakery’s familiar doughnuts and brownies can be found along with a full counter service menu of brunch items, soups, salads and grab-and-go treats. There’s also Commonplace coffee and espresso, teas including a special blend from Tupelo Honey Teas available in the café, and dining space.

“We’re calling it brunch all week,” says Harris, referring to menu items that feature mostly breakfast and lunch options that will rotate weekly along with fresh items from the bakery. Both sweet and savory items are featured including Belgian Waffles made with real maple syrup and vegan butter, and the fun-sounding Falafel Waffles made with tabbouleh and tzatzikinot only delicious but also vegan friendly.

Gluten Free Goat Bakery and Café on Penn Ave. in Garfield.

Most items at Gluten Free Goat Bakery are vegan and some are vegetarian. A weekend-only menu features quiche, vegan benedict and veggie burgers. Salad options include fresh lentils with parsley and Mediterranean spices, and sesame noodles with green onions and toasted sesame seeds.

A pastry chef is on staff to handle special occasion cakes for weddings, birthdays and showers, all made right in the new commercial kitchen space.

“Our wholesale customers have been our bread and butter, and I’m so grateful they have helped me build my business to this point,” says Harris. The bakery has more than 20 customers that will continue to be serviced twice a week. The café and new kitchen space provides an opportunity for the baker to grow and expand from what she and her staff are already doing. 

Harris has always loved to bake and cook, frequently watching PBS cooking shows with her sister when she was a kid. “We were total food nerds” she says.

After learning she was suffering from Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where wheat affects a person’s ability to absorb nutrients properly, Harris had to learn how to bake all over again. “I had to start from scratch because it’s a whole new science baking with gluten free flour” she says noting, “It’s hard to get the texture and flavor right.”

Fresh baked apple cider doughnuts.

According to Harris, most gluten-free supermarket products are simply loaded with sugar and tapioca starch to try to emulate the flavor of wheat. “I try not to do that. I start with organic rice bran flour as a base and use evaporated cane juice instead of bleached sugars, and sometimes dates or agave for sweetness” she explains.

Recently, Harris has been collaborating with Reed & Co. on some of her baking projects. The recently opened juice and health food shop in Lawrenceville provides her with leftover fruit pulp which she in turns uses as a sweetening agent. “I recently made lemon-rosemary cookies using a pure carrot pulp and they were delicious,” she says adding, “I’m going to experiment with some of his combo flavors to look for nice flavor profiles.”

Harris is thrilled to be opening her first shop in Garfield. “The neighborhood is great. The community is wonderfully diverse and engaged,” says Harris adding, “I don’t want it to change too much; I like it the way it is and I hope to be an inclusive place that is affordable and welcoming.”

The new bakery and café is open Wednesday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and is closed on Monday and Tuesday. For more information on the bakery and café, see their website.

Tom O'Connor

Tom O'Connor is a photographer and writer currently based in Pittsburgh.