Rising Hearts Bakery has been a trusted and delicious gluten-free bakery in the LA community before gluten-free became a catchphrase. Prior to being called Rising Hearts, the bakery used to be called The Sensitive Baker, and both names perfectly describe the care and diligence that goes into making this place such a paradise for those living with food intolerances, allergies and celiac disease. We sat down with head baker, recipe developer and bakery manager Ursula Siker to learn more about the bakery and how she got involved in the gluten-free baking business.
Driving by Rising Hearts Bakery on Washington Blvd in Culver City, you may miss it the first time around. The small storefront is understated, with just one set of table and chairs outside for customers to sit and enjoy their treats. Inside, although the space is small, it’s packed with baked goods that look and taste heavenly. Ursula herself has an understated air about her. She doesn’t have a fancy degree from culinary school, but chatting with her for just a few minutes, it becomes quickly apparent how much she loves what she does and how much knowledge she’s accumulated, all from first-hand experience.
Ursula isn’t gluten-free, although she is lactose-free. She says the fact that she isn’t gluten-free makes her a better judge of the quality of a gluten-free product, and we agree. Ursula’s introduction to gluten-free baking is an unusual and inspiring story. She went to school for religious studies and enjoyed baking at home. One day, she decided to have a “crazy baking day” and baked up a storm and posted the pictures on Instagram. Her current boss saw her pictures and invited her in for an interview for an entry level position. Ursula got the job and learned quickly, continuing her love of experimenting in the kitchen whenever she had the chance. She eventually worked her way up to where she is today at the helm of Rising Hearts. If you enjoy baking, especially gluten-free or vegan baking, then you know it’s just as much about creativity as it is about science (chemistry to be exact). All of Ursula’s science was learned on the job through experimentation and trial & error.
We did the ultimate taste test of feeding some of Rising Heart’s cookies, brownies, and breads to non-food-intolerance omnivores, and they couldn’t tell they were gluten or dairy-free! Rising Hearts is known for their amazing breads and their chocolate brownie, and it’s no wonder. Their bread and bagels have that perfect amount of crust on the outside and soft chewiness on the inside. Their brownie is a chocolate-lover’s heaven, so rich and fudgy it might just bring tears to your eyes. Their cookies are also pretty damn good and not overly sweet like many brands can be.
We’re not the only ones that love their goodies. Popular LA eateries like Mendocino Farms, Real Food Daily and Alcove all serve Rising Hearts’ bread, and they were recently named as Dessert Magazine’s Top 10 Bread Bakers in North America (not gluten-free bakers, all bakers!). They are growing their wholesale presence, so if you’re in the LA area, don’t be surprised if you see their name on more menus in the area.
Rising Hearts’ kitchen is entirely gluten-free and vegan, so there’s no chance for cross-contamination. Many of their products are soy-free as well (all of their breads). Their main flour blend is a combination of potato starch, tapioca starch and brown-rice flour, and they have a particular focus on using ethically-sourced ingredients. Rising Hearts is a member of the Follow Your Heart family (the owners of Rising Heart and inventors of Vegenaise and other natural ‘free-from’ products), so they are well-versed in the food allergy and ‘free-from’ world. The staff goes through mandatory allergy training, so they can answer almost any allergy-related question. And they do get lots of questions and gluten-free first-timers.
There is also lots of crying going on at the bakery when people taste gluten-free versions of old favorites that they haven’t been able to eat for years. Ursula’s favorite story is quintessential LA: one day a long black limo pulled up outside the bakery and a big bodyguard-looking fellow stepped out and into the bakery and bought a few baked goods. Apparently he was playing a little trick on his boss who was waiting in the limo, to see if he could tell that he was eating gluten-free. Turns out the boss in the limo was Stevie Wonder. Ursula doesn’t know if he could tell the difference, but I’d be willing to bet he couldn’t.
We’re super excited to be partnering with Rising Hearts to offer their goodies in our Treat Boxes and shop. Stay tuned and check out The Tasteful Pantry site for more!