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Pastry cook mixes up tasty gluten-free treats (Photos)

Tuesday - 3/18/2014, 7:11am  ET

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Tori Kramer puts the finishing touches on gluten-free pastries she created for the Blue Duck Tavern in D.C. (WTOP/Paula Wolfson)
  • Gallery: (2 images)

WASHINGTON -- Tori Kramer grew to love baking as a child in her grandmother's kitchen. Over time, as she went from the University of Maryland to the L'Academie de Cuisine in Montgomery County, it became her passion and her career.

But a few years ago, she learned that her passion could kill her and her career.

Diagnosed with celiac disease, Kramer has fought for the job she loves and has turned her condition into an asset for a D.C. eatery and others with dietary restrictions by creating tasty gluten-free treats.

She was working in a small pie shop when she started to get sick.

"I was really tired all the time -- just lethargic; my stomach was upset all the time," she recalls.

A final diagnosis came in February 2013. Doctors told Kramer that she had celiac disease -- a disorder where gluten can inflame and damage the small intestine.

Doctors were unanimous in their prescribed treatment: Kramer says multiple doctors told her, "You have got to get out of the kitchen."

She did not give up, and began wearing gloves and a mask to work at the pie shop. But even those measures could not keep up with all the airborne gluten in the tiny, poorly ventilated kitchen.

Unsure what to do, Kramer reached out to a former employer at the Blue Duck Tavern, located at the Park Hyatt in D.C.

Executive Chef Sebastien Archambault was impressed with her determination and offered her a job.

The large, well-ventilated kitchen at the Hyatt made a big difference, and the staff offered both moral and logistical support.

Kramer began to rely on her other senses when baking treats and sweets -- judging the quality of dough by its touch and smell and leaving the tasting to others.

Archambault speaks of her in glowing terms, saying when someone has a passion for baking like Kramer does, it is vital to keep that passion alive.

He also says hiring Kramer has been "a big win-win" for the restaurant because, in addition to producing standard baked goods, she creates special gluten-free items for the menu.

And she is doing a lot of that creating in her own home kitchen and on her own time.

A self-professed "food nerd," Kramer says she began by studying textbooks and figuring out just how gluten works.

She created her own gluten-free flour from a mix of ingredients. While the process involves extra steps, the results are a far cry from the cardboard taste of so many products that replace gluten with extra fat and sugar.

Kramer says she didn't do it just for herself, but for anyone who struggles with a dietary restriction.

But her biggest accomplishment is personal, linked to all those afternoons in her grandmother's kitchen: She beams with pride when she says she figured out a way to make a gluten-free version of her grandma's bread.

Here is the recipe for another one of Kramer's favorite creations:

Gluten-Free Carrot Apple Muffins
Yield: 15 muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups Gluten Free Flour
1 tbsp Baking Powder
tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
tsp Ground Ginger
tsp Ground Cinnamon
tsp Ground Cloves
1 cup Unsweetened Applesauce
cup Granulated Sugar
cup Light Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs
1 cup Finely Shredded Carrots

Method:
Combine first seven ingredients and mix well. Cream applesauce and sugars together in mixing bowl with paddle. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time until blended. Add dry ingredients on low just until blended. Fold in carrots. Let sit for 40 minutes to overnight (in fridge). Scoop into greased/lined muffin tins, sprinkle top with streusel and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Ingredients for Pecan Streusel:
2 tbsp Gluten Free Flour
cup Light Brown Sugar
cup Chopped Pecans
tsp Cinnamon
1 tbsp Cold Butter, cut into small cubes
Method:
Mix all together until crumbly.

Ingredients for Gluten-Free Flour:
4 cups White Rice Flour
4 cups Brown Rice Flour
4 cups Corn Starch
2 cups Tapioca Flour
2 cups Potato Starch
2.5 tbsp Xanthan Gum
Method:
Mix all together well.

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