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Finnish baking trend: tastes same, no gluten

HANCOCK – The growing trend of gluten-free diets makes some traditional Finnish recipes off-limits.

Edith Maki offered a way around that Monday afternoon, showing how to make some gluten-free treats at Zion Lutheran Church as part of Heikinpaiva celebrations.

She started making gluten-free foods about 10 years ago, both because of family and because of customers at her former bakery, Spice of Life.

The class is a departure for Maki, who has usually taught a class in baking nisu, or Finnish bread.

“People said they wanted something new,” she said. “More and more people can’t handle the wheat – they’re looking for gluten-free things.”

She baked cardamom shortcakes and cardamom cookies, which used garbanzo flour and rice flour, respectively, instead of wheat.

The products are the biggest difference for Maki. The length of cooking isn’t different. If she can help it, the taste isn’t either.

“That’s the point, to make it so you can’t taste the difference,” she said.

Gluten-free cooking can be tougher to pull off well, said Meredith Rose Seppanen of Ishpeming, a former bakery owner herself. She’s been making gluten-free food at home for the past two years, since her husband was diagnosed with celiac disorder.

She compared gluten-free bread to “making a souffle.”

“You make this big frothy thing of eggs, and put enough starch in so it doesn’t collapse,” she said.

An interest in healthy recipes brought Joy Bylkas of Hancock, as well as her familiarity with Maki.

“She’s an excellent teacher,” she said. “When I heard she was teaching, I was like, ‘Well, I’ve got to come.'”

At the end, they got to sample Maki’s finished products, which included the cardamom cookies, as well as pie, bread and pecan tarts. It drew in people from adjoining workshops on knitting and Finnish folk music.

Both the food – “some of the best gluten-free bread I’ve had” – and Maki’s lesson appealed to Seppanen.

“You can tell she’s experimented with a lot of recipes, so I don’t have to,” she said.

For a full schedule of Heikinpaiva events, go to finnishamericanreporter.com/heikin_page/schedule.