David and Karen Oxford have opened their Hungarian Bakery at Oakhaven Farm off Browns Gap Turnpike, bringing a gluten-free style of baking to Crozet.
The Oxfords, the parents of four, had been living in Charlottesville until two years ago. Now their 12-acre parcel is home also to two Jersey cows, seven goats, some being milked, and 40 chickens, mainly Arauconas (known for their green eggs) and Buff Orpingtons (known for being the best). “We had been looking for a place for animals,” David explained. They did some renovations on the house as well as the conversion of the nearby barn.
They also discovered a family connection with the property. It turns out the dairy barn on the place had been built by one of Karen’s uncles in 1936. It has been renovated to serve as the bakery according to Karen’s design. She was once a line cook, too.
“It’s not big enough for the long-term,” said Karen. “We’re thinking of moving the gluten –free products to a location in downtown Crozet. I want to get them in a separate places to avoid cross-contamination. I suspect that the gluten-free products are going to be the bulk of the business.”
With both type of products being produced in the same kitchen, the clean up to ensure that gluten does not get into the non-gluten products is taxing. Everything has to be vacuumed and mopped between preparations of the different types. They also allow 24 hours between uses for flour to settle out from the air. “We have separate pans and utensils, but one oven. It’s doable, but it’s complicated,” Karen explained. “I’ve been a nurse. I’d rather throw something away than worry about contamination.”
The Oxfords bought the bakery from its former owners, Kati and Miklos Magyar, native Hungarians who moved back to Hungary in May to retire. They ran the bakery for 16 years in Earlysville and Kati also sold at the city market. “We’re not doing that,” noted Karen. She had been a customer of Kati’s at the market and saw the business posted for sale on Craig’s List. “Nine months later, we have a business,” Karen said.
Starting with the advantage that Hungarian style baking does not use much wheat flour in the first place, Kati refined her recipes over 16 years until she had developed gluten-free versions of her normal products that tasted the same.
Karen did an apprenticeship under Kati. “I learned all parts of the business: recipes, bookkeeping, marketing, the website, shipping.
“She baked insane hours. She’d get three hours sleep and go back at it. I’m planning on not having a Christmas.”
There are three similar Hungarian bakeries in the U.S., in Chicago, for example, that also serve customers over the Internet.
Gluten-free baking is a necessity for Celiac disease sufferers.
“Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease where the body recognizes wheat in the small intestines and attacks it there,” explained Karen. “It flattens out the bumps in your small intestine that absorb food. People usually look underweight. Cutting out gluten fixes it.”
Barley and rye can cause the same effect. The condition runs in families and is now recognized as a common genetic disorder. More than two million Americans have it, or about 1 in 133. If your parent, sibling or child has the disease, your chance of having it increases to 1 in 22.
“It’s under-diagnosed,” said Karen. “Now there’s a blood test for it.”
“We’re not evolved to handle as much gluten as we’re taking in,” summed up David. “Wheat has been bred to have high amounts of gluten because that’s what makes bread rise. People who have real wheat allergy can’t eat our stuff either.”
Their usual items are cakes and torts, which don’t use regular flour, or very little, but use nut flours instead.
“Our cakes use like 12 eggs and very little, if any, flour. Eggs replace the structure that wheat would give. The genius of the product is what Kati did. I do what she told me to do. The problem in gluten-free pastry is that they can be gritty. They also lack moisture. Not our stuff.”
“They are high protein,” added David. And that explains the flock of hens that supply the bakery’s egg needs. In mixing recipes, Karen said she weighs each egg to be used precisely in order to end up with the right amount.
“Hungarian baking uses lots of hazelnuts, walnuts and poppy seeds. It’s similar to Austrian tortes,” said Karen. “They use a yeast-raised pastry. They are a sweet dough, not crispy like a croissant, but more bready, with lots of butter.”
The bakery’s main line products are beigli, a walnut and poppy seed roll; kifli, a meat or cheese-filled roll, sometimes with cherry filling or sausage or ham; spiral cookies and cakes, such as an almond cake with vanilla butter cream, whipped cream and drunken raisins.
Their gluten-free line-up includes breads, rolls, hamburger and hot dog buns, pizza crust and cinnamon buns; Linzer sandwich cookies with jam, almond and walnut cookies and chocolate hazelnut cookies; eight types of cakes and torts; and dairy- and egg-free cakes in chocolate and orange vanilla flavors.
“We want to ramp up to a storefront in Crozet within the next 12 to 18 months,” said David. “I think it’s doable with our unique gluten-free products.” Oxford said they would like to offer more Scandinavian or Eastern European style products. “It hard to find those south of New Jersey,” said David.
To see their menu, go to www.hungarianbakery.com.
When I was a child, my mother would take me to a Hungarian Bakery in Detroit, Michigan (Delray area) and get the most delicious Hungarian Cheese cake. It was made with a sort of cottage cheese and had a cake-like crust. I have not been able to find anything like it since that littly bakery closed many years ago. Do you know of anybody who makes that particular chese cake?
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