Baker goes gluten-free

Darla Black sought a business opportunity and decided to go gluten-free.


It started back in July 2012, after she’d given birth to her daughter.

“I really had a time tearing myself away from here going to work,” she said. “I started thinking about things I could do to stay home with her and this one of the options — starting a bakery.”

After researching online, she learned it would require the approval of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. She also found a few recipes for her new venture that would be gluten-free.

“I see a need for it around here,” she said. “You don’t see it a lot, and it’s been successful. Even people that aren’t gluten-free buy it, because it’s fresh-baked goods and they taste good.”

Gluten is a substance that is present in cereal grains, especially wheat. A mixture of two proteins, gluten is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. It is used in numerous staple foods in the Western diet.

But it can cause illness in people with gluten-sensitivity including celiac disease, a genetic, autoimmune disorder of the small intestine. Symptoms include bloating, abdominal discomfort or pain, diarrhea, muscular disturbance and bone or joint pain.

“Some people are very, very sensitive,” Black said. “They can’t even be in a room where there’s flour floating in the air.”

Black, who herself has celiac disease, started her venture, Darla’s Alternative Baked Goods, at the end of 2012 and has been baking in her NCDA-approved kitchen near Ocean Isle Beach ever since.

“I took the idea and kind of ran with it,” she said. “I went online and I looked at people’s favorite baked-goods recipes and picked from there. Of course, you have to convert everything to gluten-free, so that’s what I did.”

Black makes her own mixes.

“Instead of buying a baking mix, which is really expensive, I just use brown rice flour and xanthan gum,” she said. “A lot of people say that you’ve got to use tapioca starch and potato flour for consistency, but I’ve had such luck just using the brown rice flour that I stick with it.”

She bakes cookies, muffins and “maui wowie” bars. Her most popular-selling item is her apple bars.

Other popular sellers are her breakfast cookies made with brown rice flour, gluten-free oats, dried cranberries, vegan chocolate chips and coconut oil.

“I do other things that are healthy,” Black said. “I use butter because they’re just so good that way — butter and eggs.”

She also bakes vegan items, including cookies and brownies, using a blended oil as an alternative to vegetable oil.

Darla’s Alternative Baked Goods are available at Jumpin’ Java in Shallotte and Oak Island, Surf and Java in Ocean Isle Beach and Calabash Deli.

Black hopes to expand into more places.

“I work on consignment when I first open a new account, so that way nobody is missing anything,” she said. “I’m giving them my product and if they don’t sell it, there’s no loss to them. I take it as a loss. But I’m so confident that if there’s the demand for it, the right customer base, then I’m confident they’ll do fine.”

Darla’s Alternative Baked Goods can be found on Facebook. Black can also be reached by phone at (910) 232-0976 or by email at darlasalternativebakedgoods@yahoo.com or @gmail.com


Do you know of news in the food or restaurant realm in Brunswick County? If so, send it to Food for Thought at llewis@brunswickbeacon.com or call Laura Lewis at The Brunswick Beacon at (910) 754-6890.