Superlatives 2012

Class Sweetheart

Celiac Disease, the autoimmune disorder that makes a person unable to process wheat, is a bigger part of the food conversation than ever before – which is why Jill Puleo’s gluten …

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Celiac Disease, the autoimmune disorder that makes a person unable to process wheat, is a bigger part of the food conversation than ever before – which is why Jill Puleo’s gluten free Sugarbird Bakery is such a welcome addition to the Providence culinary scene. “When I got diagnosed [with Celiac in 2001], things were much worse in terms of product availability, package labeling and information exchange in gluten-free land,” Jill says. “I remember standing in the aisles of a local supermarket and crying my eyes out because I couldn’t figure out what to buy. All of that whining left me feeling sorry for myself, but still pretty damned hungry.” So, she took her lifelong love of baking, and set out to make herself food that was not only safe to eat, but delicious. Ten years later, Jill decided to take what she was doing at home and turn it into a business. “I have been steadily hacking every conventional baking technique or recipe that I found interesting or worthwhile,” she says. “I break them down, tear them apart, and build them up again in a way that works without gluten, but not without staying loyal to the original integrity of the dish.” Sugarbird has a storefront in Johnston that’s open on Saturdays, but Jill is baking for special orders daily – making confections like the Ultra Cookie (with pretzels, M&M’s and potato chips), saffron shortbread and lemon olive oil cupcakes. “It has to be great,” Jill says, “gluten-free or not.” How sweet