Gluten-free food is no longer the rarity it once was, but even today it can be hard to find gluten-free baked goods that taste, well, good. When it comes to sweets, we've struggled to find products made without wheat, barley, and rye that maintain the flavor we sugar addicts love.
For Monique Harris, owner and baker at Bear and the Honey, this problem meant an opportunity to create gluten-free desserts that “taste as they should.”
Harris, an Arizona native, started baking at a young age with her mom, who's also part of her baking team today. Harris began her professional baking journey in her own kitchen, then built on her experience with pastry classes at Rio Salado and working with Jared Porter of Clever Koi.
Her online bakery started in 2013 offering gluten-free and organic traditional pies for Thanksgiving, but as demand increased, she expanded her baked goods line to include vegan, paleo, and traditional options. Harris says it took tons of trial and error to develop recipes that didn’t taste like “cardboard” or “chalk.” She spent months developing and researching gluten-free, vegan, and paleo recipes and alternatives before she finally was able to create moist, decadent, and buttery desserts.
Since then, Harris has begun to cater to cafes, coffee shops, food trucks, and bars. “We love catering to weddings, special and corporate events," she says. “Our style is based off our love of nostalgic treats of our past, the cravings we had as kids for the guilty pleasures that Mom and Dad only let us have sparingly.”
One of her most popular creations is the Zona Tart, an Arizona-shaped pop tart. “[It's] not made with puff pastry,” Harris says, “Ours is made with real buttery and flaky pie dough and local jam.”
Among other specialties, the bakery offers doughnuts, pies (Harris’s favorite), and cinnamon rolls. The lineup also includes cookies, macarons, rice krispie treats, and cakes, including 6” or 8” smash cakes for weddings. These are among the bakery's most popular.
“We never make cakes larger than two tiers,” Harris says. According to the baker, guests hardly eat the cake and it’s a waste of money for the bride and groom. Instead, Bear and the Honey provides a full dessert table with assortment of pastries.
You might also be curious, as we were, about how the allergy-conscious and dietary lifestyle bakery got its name. Harris explains that monkier comes from a childhood nickname, Pooh Bear. “I put honey on everything, including a grilled cheese sandwich," she says.
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Regarding transitioning from an online to brick-and-mortar bakery, Harris says there are plans to have a space for cake tastings and consultations in the near future. In the meantime, you can find Bear and the Honey products at Luci's Healthy Marketplace and Luci's at the Orchard.