One of the few shows my 7 year old daughter & I can can agree on is Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars.” We were both excited to watch the Executive Pastry Chef of Sweet Arleen’s in Los Angeles, Julia San Bartolome, whip up some winning treats that were also Gluten Free. I decided to talk with Julia about Sweet Arleen’s, Bread Pudding and going to war on TV armed with baked goods.
Tell me about Sweet Arleen’s! Sweet Arleen’s is a comfort boutique bakery in Westlake Village, just outside of Los Angeles. We bake fresh, each day, a wide selection of delicious cupcakes, cakes and bread puddings.
Everybody who tries your Gluten Free Red Velvet cupcakes has rave reviews. Yes, that is a popular one. We opened just over a year ago (November 2009) and have since launched a line of gluten free products. The red velvet is the most popular!
Are you planning to expand your Gluten Free options (we’re looking for bread pudding here, hint-hint)? We currently offer a gluten Free Cinnamon Apple bread pudding, with Cider custard sauce. All of our bread puddings are baked individually, and then paired with the perfect sauce on the side. We also offer Peanut Brittle which is a gluten free option. Do you offer choices for Dairy, Nut, & Egg Free or Vegetarian diners? Currently, the Gluten free items are the only specialty diet foods we are offering. I would like to eventually be able to offer a sugar free option, but for now we are focused on these.
How did you get started with baking & making Gluten Free products? There was such a high demand for gluten free items, even from before we opened Sweet Arleen’s. We were anxious to accommodate this growing need for our clients.
What are your biggest challenges for Gluten Free baking, and how do you get around them? The biggest challenge initially was to master the perfect recipe. We tried dozens of different ones, and just couldn’t seem to get it right. It took several attempts using some of our own methods to get it right. Gluten Free products often face the challenge of being heavy or dense, so we were not satisfied, until we formulated something that would be able to stand up to our regular cupcakes.
You & Arleen won Cupcake Wars on the Food Network! What was the competition like? The competition was fantastic – and it was a lot of work! Arleen is an expert tactful planner, and I am creative and we are both skilled in bakers, so together we made an excellent team. I was very proud of us that day.
Did you really make 1,000 cupcakes in one afternoon? We did 1,000 in one round! Like I said, it was a lot of work, but well worth the accomplishment!
What was it like at the shop after Cupcake Wars aired? Very Busy! There was excitement in the air. Our phone was ringing off the hook with hundreds of calls – people who just wanted to congratulate us, or who were anxious to try the snack attack pack. The outpour and continual support and enthusiasm from the Conejo Valley community is heartwarming and wonderful.
Got a food or beverage you can’t live without? Definitely Pizza! I usually have it at least twice a week. I am also a huge fan of chili beans. I make turkey chili often. Arleen is a fantastic cook, anything she has ever made me has been some of the best food I have ever had!
Can you give the G-Free home cooks a tip to get bakery-quality flavor? I always recommend bakers use real butter every chance you get. Margarine and shortening are less expensive, but that “melt-in-your-mouth” cookie or icing is best when treats are prepared with butter. Also, choose unsalted butter, so you can control the amount of salt that goes into it. For example; for icings, you don’t want any salt in it, but if you are making peanut butter cookies, you would want to add a good amount of salt.
If we opened your refrigerator at home, what would we find? Right now I have a pound of beans soaking for bean soup, but always fresh fruit, veggies, and non-fat milk for cereal. I am so embarrassed to admit that I am not an avid (or very good) cook. I do cook when I have to, only I prefer to bake.
If you had to eat the same item from your menu every day, what would you choose? I would go for the dulce de leche bread pudding. It is packed with delicious, yet subtle flavor, and paired with a yummy creamy caramel sauce. Warmed up, it is the perfect treat!