As morning light filters through a large windowpane into Gwen Engle’s spotless commercial kitchen, she reaches for her custom blend of gluten free flour, pours it into a glass bowl, weighs it on the digital scale, then moves to her stainless steel mixer to fold in a precise measure of other ingredients. Engle’s passion for baking is stamped into her DNA and she has her mother, another inspired baker, to thank for that. In 2008, Engle named her new business, Marjorie June’s Gluten-Free Kitchen, after her mom.
Engle started her catering business in 1982, Gwen Engle Catering, as a small enterprise that focused mostly on friends who had fallen in love with her cooking and creative presentations. Through word-of-mouth, Engle’s business grew quickly, as did the catering requests for some of the Treasure and Big Wood Valley’s most prominent residents and companies, putting her on the fast track to success in a competitive industry.
Shortly after retiring, Engle began struggling with health issues that lasted for more than two years, eventually resulting in a diagnosis of gluten sensitivity. As many as one in 133 people have celiac disease, a genetic condition resulting in intestinal damage whenever gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, is ingested. As many as 20 million people or 7% of the US population can experience gluten sensitivity. Engle’s gluten intolerances prompted her to begin experimenting with tried-and-true recipes, substituting organic, gluten-free flour blends for the regular flours she’d used in the past.
Engle has created pastries that consistently hold their shape and flavor through every dunk into a dense cappuccino
“I wanted to create baked goods that taste better than the packaged gluten free products on the market,” Engle said. “I tried many products that tasted like cardboard and lacked any nutrition, so I decided to create a gluten free baking flour blend that gives my customers options for baking their own delicious and safe treats, as well as producing a variety of products that taste every bit as good as products with gluten.”
At Marjorie June’s Gluten-Free Kitchen, Engle has created lemon and orange-essence scones and biscotti that taste as delicious as, dare I say it, biscotti I’ve savored in Italy, pastries that consistently hold their shape and flavor through every dunk into a dense cappuccino. Engle’s love of holiday and seasonal treats continually inspire her to create unique desserts like handmade chocolate truffles, rich brownies, lemon rosemary pound cakes and bread puddings. She has also created a line of savory gluten free sauces, blueberry catsup and sweet-hot tomato chutney that are sold at a variety of Treasure Valley stores and restaurants.
Engle’s passion for feeding those she loves seems to be all the motivation she needs to continue creating, baking and putting smiles on the faces of gluten free eaters throughout southern Idaho—including children.
“I’m very happy when parents stop by my booth (at the Capital City Market) and share their excitement,” says Engle, “because there was something delicious and safe their young child could eat in a sea of no-no foods.”
When discussing her contributions to the community she shyly continues, “I’ve never been the prettiest nor the smartest gal in town, but I pride myself on being one of the healthiest and fairly skilled in the kitchen. To me, aging well means you can never stop learning about your food or your environment.”
Marjorie June’s organic and gluten-free baked goods, sauces and mixes, can be purchased through her website at www.marjoriejunes.com or visit Gwen Engle at the Capitol City Market in downtown Boise during market season.