If you live in a world filled with gluten, the opening of Mason Dixon Bakery last fall might have escaped you. A bakery devoted entirely to those intolerant of gluten and other allergens (dairy, soy, etc) can be easy to dismiss as niche player, some sort of “weird” health food craze. However, if you, like me, have friends or loved ones who are gluten-free, then you know that Mason Dixon made a BIG splash. And you probably heard the murmurings…that the items were not just gluten/allergen free, they were straight up delicious, no caveats required. That spouses and partners without dietary restrictions were gobbling up the treats as well.
Naturally, I was curious. And let’s be honest. I drink green smoothies for breakfast, I’ve made bread with applesauce instead of oil and brownies with zucchini*. I miss sprouts on my sandwiches. I’m not exactly a foreigner to the land of “weird” but delicious food. My husband on the other hand is a much warier explorer. Despite the rousing success of the zucchini brownies, when I announced I wanted to try black bean brownies he wanted to know if we couldn’t just make “regular” ones instead. When we cook at home he’s Mr. Follow A Recipe and I’m Mrs. Throw it All Together and Give it a Taste. I tell you this to put the rest of this post in context. I will seek out unusual ingredients and combinations, he prefers the tried and true. But we both demand a final result that tastes good, without compromise. I do not eat zucchini brownies because they are “healthy”, I eat them because they are delicious. Extra veggies are a happy bonus.
Which is a long wind up to saying that we finally made it into Mason Dixon to put their baked goods to the test. The storefront is simple but comfortably decorated in their signature colors of red and blue. Decorative curtains adorn the front windows and a few carefully placed chairs allow you to enjoy your treat on site if you so desire. Set back from the door is an L shaped counter holding the register and a few display cases for cupcakes, brownies, etc. Across from the register are refrigerated cases holding biscuits, rolls, and breads.
We selected a single Carrot Top cupcake, a flourless torte, and a bag of four refrigerated buttermilk biscuits. The owner was friendly and warm. The labels for the biscuits had not yet arrived, so she happily wrote out reheating instructions on a post it. (Freeze or refrigerate until use. If frozen, thaw with 30 seconds in the microwave. Once thawed, either microwave or wrap in foil and bake 5-8 minutes at 400 degrees.) The biscuits are prebaked so this step is just to warm them.
Upon arriving home, we popped the cupcake and torte in the fridge and the biscuits into the freezer. Refrigeration is our standard practice with purchased baked goods and since I prefer my cakes cold, it works.
About 4 hours later, we sampled the Carrot Top cupcake (shown at the top of the post). It smelled heavenly, the absolute essence of carrot cake aroma. The single orange colored candy provided a bit of pizzazz and a small crunch. The cake itself featured a moist crumb, a cinnamon-y flavor and bits of walnuts. If someone had handed this to me and said “eat it”, I would not have known it was anything other than a carrot cupcake. The only “tell” was that it was a little bit drier and just a hint gummier than a typical carrot cake. You’d have to be looking for it to notice though.
My favorite part of any cupcake though, is the frosting. Instead of a traditional cream cheese frosting, this cupcake was topped with a goat cheese blend. Tangy, followed by sweet, it was a pitch perfect substitute for the cream cheese. I actually found myself debating whether all carrot cake should have goat cheese frosting. One especially nice touch was that the plastic box for transporting the cupcake had perfect finger notches which allowed for the cupcake to be removed easily and cleanly. Hooray for good design!
On the second day after our trip to the bakery, we pulled out both the biscuits and the torte. The torte had been wrapped in a clingy plastic bag and sealed, so I removed the plastic wrap and set it on a plate to warm up a little bit while we made dinner. The biscuits we microwaved for 30 seconds and then baked for 6 minutes. Wrapping them in foil makes it difficult to see if they are browning so we went for the “pull them out and see approach”. They had browned slightly but were still cool in the center, so we microwaved again.
The biscuits smelled buttery and perfect. With a light, tight crumb, they had a texture similar to drop biscuits with the round shape of cut biscuits. These biscuits would be perfect smothered in sausage gravy, topped with jam or honey, or slathered with butter. For purely scientific purposes, we sampled them plain. The buttery scent was stronger than the flavor, but it was detectable. My only small quibble was that they had a slightly dry after-effect. They were not dry while taking a bite, but immediately after left me with a slightly dusty taste. However, since most people do not eat their biscuits plain, I doubt it would be noticeable.
I’ve saved the best for last though. Folks, this torte was perfect. Rich. Chocolately. Dense. Dreamy. Coated with a layer of ganache, this was a dessert to rival those found in fine dining establishments. I dare say it would top many. The hubby and I split the small torte, which was a very reasonable sort of portioning, but I could have happily finished off one of my own. The luxuriousness of the chocolate has a way of pulling me back in after I’ve set my fork down. Stunningly well done, this is a perfect option to finish a romantic dinner at home or mark a small celebration. Plate with some strawberries for a pop of color. (The plastic wrap did smudge the ganache which marred the presentation, so keep that in mind if you are envisioning a picture perfect unveiling.)
Mason Dixon Bakery will challenge your notions of what “allergen free” foods taste like. If you blindfolded passerby and handed them treats to identify, I doubt you would get even one responder who would question the substitutions. Even my hubby–ever suspicious of such modifications–enjoyed all of our selections. These are delicious baked goods, full stop. The chocolate torte is going down as one of my all time favorite chocolate desserts. Stop in and give them a try. And next time you have a picnic or corporate event? Consider getting baked goods here and avoiding potential allergy issues upfront.
Total: $15.53 (included 1 cupcake, 1 flourless chocolate torte, and 4 buttermilk biscuits)
View Larger Map
*Side note. When your husband tells everyone there is a secret ingredient in the brownies, and it’s green? People do NOT assume zucchini. Just FYI.