Guncles Gluten Free Bakery
1252 Government St.
Mobile, AL 36604
Every now and then something comes along that you know will succeed. Maybe not at first, but when you realize they have their footing, you are certain success will — or at least should — follow. When I heard about Guncles Gluten Free Bakery I thought their chances for survival were closer to that of an earthworm on asphalt, but once they moved from a rented commercial kitchen on the outskirts of Spanish Fort to their own building in Midtown, I figured it was time to take these fellows seriously.
Every man worth his salt in the culinary world had his first experience cooking next to mom and grandma. John Edward McGee and Demetrius James are no different. The difference lies in John Edward’s rare condition of wheat-dependent, exercise-induced anaphylaxis. Whereas I would have simply cut out the exercise, McGee and James set out to open Mobile’s only totally gluten-free bakery.
You’ll understand their backstory is more than the few words I’ve given you, but I need room to talk product. When I set out to write about Guncles I was actually a bit worried. Scared they may be a little one dimensional, I figured this would be a short piece in need of some stretching. I’d only heard of a couple of products, chocolate ganache being the favored. But when I stepped into the remodeled Jonelli’s building on Government just east of Ann, I knew that was not going to be a problem.
Until today, the only Guncles product I’d had was a cookie graciously afforded me by one Kate Watkins after her mother, Lissa, celebrated a friend’s birthday luncheon. Spoils of the party are always appreciated, but the cookie was next-level enough for me to set aside time for a visit. There I stood, staring at a bag of those same cookies in good company with other baked goods. There was no printed menu, no chalkboard, just a countertop of confections with prices in front of each.
We were led through the selection by manager Tamica James, sister of Demetrius, who excitedly described everything in great detail, which may have been why I walked out the door with $50 worth of desserts. I might need her to come work for me. I hurriedly headed home and called Jef Funk, an expert on German chocolate cake, buttermilk pie and bourbon.
Funk rolls in with a pocketful of Jordan almonds and a smile. He couldn’t wait to get down to business. He, Katie and I started with a small snort of Dettling and the fig spice cake ($8). Wow. If you told me Mammaw made this, I wouldn’t second guess. A lot of gluten-free recipes and box meals have a gritty mouthfeel that can be off-putting, or at the very least different-tasting. Guncles uses brown rice flour, tapioca starch and potato starch with great results. This just tasted like cake. Really good cake that was wonderful with bourbon but could’ve accompanied spiced rum.
Banana bread ($6) was great, but if you do this same test be sure to eat this one first. The mildness of the small loaf was overshadowed by the fig cake, but I’d find later after the dust settled just how good this was.
Katie had eyed the raspberry-lemon friands ($6). This pack of two was the only thing we sampled that had almond flour added to the regular mix. Small, spongy cakes were maybe two bites big, but rich in flavor. The French call them financiers. You’ll want coffee or tea with this one.
If there is any one thing Guncles is known for, it’s the chocolate ganache. We were learning firsthand why. If you want a fine example of ganache, look no further. What I liked about it, and in fact all of these desserts, was that it wasn’t too sweet. “If this is their flagship,” said Jef, “I can see why.”
There are things that Katie didn’t intend to share with our bourbon-swilling, almond-toting friend. This was coming across as more of her review than mine, so I complied. Our dinner later that night was capped off by Luscious Lemon ($8). This is where my wife loses her mind. She’s fond of lemon donuts, lemon ice cream, lemon zest, etc. This lemon cake with lemon curd and lemon icing was meant for her. I agree, it was one of the best things we had that day, but who could choose?
We also withheld chocolate chip-toffee cookies ($8). What’s better than a free, after-school cookie from a student? A bag of three cookies with an 8 p.m. decaf a week later.
Everything was great, but let’s look at where Guncles is headed. With gourmet coffee and tea you’d think this would be a breakfast hotspot. It’s about to be. Tamika tells me they were rezoned to open as early as 7 a.m., and the possibility of alcohol is in the future. Their latest product line includes buttermilk biscuits, a glimpse into what will become their first stab at savory baking. Demetrius told me they are looking at different options and seeing what the organic farming world has to offer.
For now you’ll be drinking highfalutin pour-over coffee and eating incredible sweets.
You may already be eating Guncles at some of their retail partners. Mobile restaurants and retailers such as Noble South, Pour Baby, à la cork, The Cheese Cottage, Old Shell Market, Domke Market and Red or White are on board, as well as stores across the bay, where Locals, Fresh Healthy Café, Wahlburgers, Our Coffee, Peg Leg Pete’s and the Bodacious Shops spread the Guncles gospel from Spanish Fort to Pensacola Beach.
The fig spice was my favorite. I’m ordering a larger version for Thanksgiving. Lemon is a close second. That’s saying a mouthful when the ganache is that good. With new stuff on the verge of happening, it’s fun watching these guys enjoy a meteoric rise.
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