Friday, December 09, 2011

Dempsey Bakery from a gluten eater's standpoint...

323 South Cross Street, Little Rock

Bob Joe Circabellum, who will eat anything:

When my friend asked me if I had tried Dempsey Bakery I said no, even though it’s only a couple of blocks away from where I work all day. And I’m thinking maybe something about the “gluten free” designation had put me off. So when she said, “I’m gluten free, why don’t we go try it and write about it from the perspectives of gluten free versus non-gluten free diets,” I thought, that’s actually a pretty cool idea. Because, as she said, it’s either good or it’s not, right?

So we decided to have breakfast mid-morning today. Why not get a little bit of a few different things and see what we think.

First impression is how clean and bright it is as you come in. It’s a big room with red and white checkerboard tiled floors and red, white and stainless everywhere else. And it’s loud. If you’re a little over-the-hill and hard of hearing like me, that can be a problem. Not a very pleasant spot for a chat over coffee and pastries. They should probably soften some of the surfaces to alleviate that.

The baked items, though compared to rival bakeries are sparse, all looked wonderful. The breads have a beautiful brown crust, the cakes are cheerfully light looking and brilliantly iced. Baguettes, and rolls all appealingly lined up on their respective racks. But it strikes you as you stand to admire, there’s no overwhelming bakery smell. No aroma of yeast, no bread smell. And I guess maybe these breads just don’t smell the same, but even my gluten free friend suggested that maybe they bake a regular loaf each morning just to get the aroma.

“Have you been in before?” we were asked as we walked in. Let the sampling begin…
The proprietors seem eager to cut off small samples of any of the products, though the Mom cautioned us not to make a breakfast of them. So we tried bits of the monkey bread, the chocolate mint brownie, the baguette and the white bread. And we purchased a cupcake, a snickerdoodle cookie and a loaf of banana bread.

The chocolate mint brownie was as it should be. A somewhat chewy, chocolaty brownie with a refreshing mint icing. This would make a decent dessert, but not my idea of breakfast. The cake with citrus icing was quite good and I’d be tempted to take one of those to a party. The baguette was disappointing. It looked just like it should, but I guess you just can’t replicate the proper texture without gluten. Inside and out it looked perfect, but the texture was more like a crescent roll than a toothy French bread.

The cupcake was decent if just a little grainy, but the icings are top notch. The icing made the cake edible, but is so rich you just can’t have but a bite or two before you have to back away. The banana bread had the flavor down pat, but the texture was more like a gummy bear than a breakfast cake. Just too chewy. Not in a good way.

The bread, called everyone’s bread because they use that dough in all of the rolls, buns, specialty breads and who knows what else, is less than delightful. The crust has a good flavor, but inside is just not the flavor, texture or appearance of standard white sandwich bread. I could see Wonderbread Kids, nationwide, turning their noses up to this.

My gluten free friend and I agreed that the snickerdoodle cookie was the best thing we had there. Which begs the question, would I make this a regular stop? Despite the convenience, I’d have to say no. At sixteen dollars per loaf for bread, and nowhere near the quality I’d expect for that price, I think I’ll stick to Community Bakery and let the gluten-free folks keep this one.


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