Should you ever find yourself in Reno, NV—on business, pleasure, in transit or just because—make sure to carve out time to drop in at Haven on Earth. A cozy little bakery/lunch bistro that sits on the corner of Double R Blvd and Damonte Ranch Parkway, it is gluten free dedicated and will astound you with a wide assortment of baked goods that are whipped up from scratch daily.

cream puffs

The owners Kathy and Tim Johnston—a nutritionist and a chemist respectively (what a great combination of brains to put together over a business as finicky as baking gluten free at an altitude of almost 5000 feet above sea level!)—as well as their dedicated staff have been successfully making sweet and savory breads, pastries, cakes, pie and pizza crusts, and even tortillas for the last three and half years.  Some of the products are dairy and/or sugar free. And their granola is even grain free. 

mini cream puffs

I know, the word “free” is not exactly what most folks have in mind looking to order a wedding cake or a batch of cupcakes for a birthday party. Unless, of course, they are gluten-intolerant, dairy-sensitive or diabetic. Or . . . unless these folks are like me—curious to give a chance to the new wave of healthy grains, especially if they are incorporated into the same old favorites: cupcakes, doughnuts, brownies, blueberry muffins, chocolate chip cookies, and even éclairs. Whatever might be your case, you are in for a big palate and mind-pleasing surprise as all this free-of-something stuff tastes pretty much normal. You’ll soon frequent the place—happy to eat and feel normal. You’ll have found your Haven.  On earth.

cream puffs

recipe for custard

homemade custard

The best time to stop by is anytime, really; but personally for me, there’s quite nothing as comforting as walking into a bakeshop on a chilly day amidst a gorgeous fall season. Its nice and warm inside, and the scents of autumn spices are floating in the air . . .  Cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and cloves . . .  You think about apples, pumpkins, and the upcoming holidays. It is a good idea to preorder a couple pie crusts and some sugar cookie dough. But for now, try a maple-walnut doughnut, a piece of apple spice bread or a pumpkin muffin. Put your scarf back on and take your pastry and hot beverage outside where you can enjoy the mountainous vistas and a wealth of color on the nearby trees. Golden day . . . Deep blue skies . . . The autumn in Reno is brilliant and dry.

As you sit amidst this natural splendor and savor your gluten-free goodness, you might have even found a piece of Heaven. On earth.

gluten-free eclairs

uses for culinary lavender

gluten-free bakery

These beautiful October days, I am not sure which side of the counter lies my piece of heaven. I’ve been rather content in the back, learning temperaments and uses of many alternative flours and starches. I’ve been especially poring over a combo that produces one of the most-drooled over sweet culinary delights in the world—cream puffs and éclairs. Kathy’s taste as good as the rest of world’s and very special to me because I never thought I could ever get a grip on this gastronomical pet peeve. Gluten free at that!

The recipe below is a slight variation of Kathy’s—mostly in terms of size and filling. At the bakery, cream puffs and éclairs are filled either with whipped cream or Bavarian cream. A sprinkling of powdered sugar or a slather of chocolate glaze round them up. Beyond delectable. Honestly.

The day I made mine, I filled them with lavender-lemon custard that I’d dreamt up working on a batch of puffs and éclairs at the bakery.

the brilliance of fall

fall vistas

things to do in the fall

My bite-size puff shells turned out hollow and delicate. And mostly the same size! The custard—after three attempts—was smooth and thick enough to serve its purpose as a filler. If you are not too much of a purist, you can sprinkle finely-grated lemon zest on top of the custard as you fill your shells. It adds an instant brightness that is soon gone and settled into the floral flavor of the lavender. Gourmet dessert in the comfort of your own home.

Thank you, Kathy and Tim, for the recipe and the opportunity!

Forgot to tell you guys that I’ve been apprenticing at their bakery for the last two weeks or so. Fun! Fun! Fun!

Recipe for Mini Cream Puffs, adapted and published with permission of Kathy and Tim Johnston

Ingredients:

1. ¾ cup water

2. 5 tablespoons butter

3. 2 teaspoons sugar

4. ¼ teaspoon salt

5. ½ cup white rice flour

6. ¼ cup potato starch

7. 3 large eggs

Directions:

1. Coat a cookie sheet with no-stick cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  

2. Mix flours and set aside.

3. Combine water, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Immediately after the mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat and stir in the flour all at once.

4. With an electric mixer, beat in eggs, one at a time, until well combined.

5. Using a pastry bag with 1 ½-inch opening, pipe mounds of dough onto the cookie sheet. Each mound should measure approximately 1 ½ inches in diameter and ¾ of an inch to 1 inch in height. With wet finger, smooth out any points of dough that stick out.

6. Bake 20-23 minutes or until cream puffs are golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

7. When cool, split puff shells in half, using a serrated knife. Fill with desired filling. Sprinkle with powdered sugar for garnish.

Makes about 47-50 mini cream puffs

Recipe for Lavender-Lemon Custard

Ingredients:

1. 1 ½ cups milk

2. 1 ½ teaspoons dried lavender blossoms

3. 2 ½ teaspoons grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)

4. ¼ cup sugar

5. 2 large eggs, preferably farm fresh as they’ll give the custard a bright yellow color

6. 1/8 teaspoon salt

7. 2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

1. Place lavender blossoms and lemon zest in a medium-size saucepan with milk.

2. Place over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges of the saucepan.

3. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

4. Meanwhile, stir together sugar, eggs, and salt in a small bowl.

5. When at room temperature, strain the milk mixture through a fine sieve and discard the lavender and lemon zest. Return to the saucepan.

6. In another small bowl, combine a small amount of the milk mixture with cornstarch; whisk until smooth.

7. Stir the cornstarch mixture and the egg mixture back into the milk in saucepan. Over low heat, cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10-12 minutes.

8. Let cool slightly, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Makes about 2 cups