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Feel-good food

Dionne Christian makes blueberry oat bars at the Revolution Bakery in the Design Center in Santa Fe on Tuesday. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

It’s a second revolution for Dionne Christian.

More than two years after her bakery closed, the Santa Fe entrepreneur has reopened her hub for gluten-free breads and sweets.

“It was like another expansion in my life,” Christian said about bringing Revolution Bakery back. “And the only thing that has always been in the back of my mind is to bake and serve people.”

Revolution opened at its new location last Saturday in the Design Center on Cerrillos Road near Montezuma Avenue. It is taking over the spot most recently home to The Kitchen Window restaurant, inheriting the indoor walk-in space and the drive-through window.

The original bakery, on San Felipe, was open from 2012 to 2016. It opened around the same time Christian sold another business she founded, The Teahouse, on Canyon Road.

She closed the first Revolution due to a personal medical problem. But now, with a clean bill of health, she says, she is ready to get back to the grind.

“Any thought I have is always about how I can perfect a muffin. How I can perfect a loaf of bread,” Christian said. She compared this to how multilingual people think or dream in their native languages.

“I dream bakery,” she said. “I’m constantly trying to re-create products in my head, flours in my head. It’s strange.”

Brownies and other baked goods, all gluten-free, at the Revolution Bakery in the Design Center in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Everything Christian and her team make is with her own gluten-free flours. The items are also organic, and many of them are vegan. The bread and pastries provide an option for people with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which people cannot eat gluten – the protein found in wheat and rye – as well as people whose doctors recommend going gluten-free to help with other diagnoses. But they also cater to the growing trend of people simply seeking to cut gluten out of their diets. Christian said those are people who don’t want the “fog or the bloat” that she said some can experience after eating wheat.

“There’s more people that have been (going gluten-free),” Christian said she’s noticed over the years. “It’s a big health wave, and it’s just like the plant-based health wave. I think people are really interested in and concerned about eating well and not feeling ill from products that make them sick.”

The first time around, Christian said, her customer base was a pretty even mix of locals and out-of-towners. She recalled an old customer from Washington, D.C., bringing an extra suitcase whenever she traveled to Santa Fe to take home extra bread to freeze for later use. Christian expects that same mix of clientele at this location, which she noted is within walking distance of both the Railyard and the downtown Plaza, and is near several office spaces.

While she was speaking with the Journal outside the new Revolution last week before its opening, several passersby stopped Christian to ask when it would be ready. She said tourists from places including Alaska, Texas and Louisiana had been coming in the past several days and peeking in to see if it was open for business.

She described her creations as different from the gluten-free breads or pastries one can buy in a supermarket, largely because of her flour mixes. Mass-produced gluten-free breads often use some kind of starch base, like a tapioca or a potato starch. When she started, Christian said she wanted her first ingredients to be something more healthy, such as a hearty grain or a protein. Her different doughs, she said, are based on gluten-free plants including teff, quinoa or sorghum.

“You want it to be something nutritious, that’s wholesome, that is easily going to break down in your body as you eat it,” she explained. “So why don’t you start off with something that has value?”

She also said all her different menu items are made from an individualized dough recipe, as opposed to using one dough to make several different products, which is something she says she sees often with gluten-free baking. This is especially important when trying to create something that will mimic the different tastes of gluten-based breads, Christian said. If the base dough was the same, everything would have a similar taste.

“I purposely blend different flours to achieve that, so they have their own characteristics, they’re individual tastes and flavors and consistency,” said Christian.

The menu is largely the same as that of the last Revolution. There’s an array of breads sold by the loaf sorted by gluten-free and gluten-free/vegan offerings. She offers more classic options, such as cinnamon raisin, multigrain, cornbread and rolls, as well as mock dark rye and pumpernickels and brioches. One of the popular offerings from the former Revolution that is also on this menu, she said, is her cardamom bread filled with figs.

She also makes doughnuts, pies, cookies, cakes and other sweets, and she offers a small “grab-and-go” breakfast and lunch menu.

Revolution also sells drinks made in-house. There’s a series of lavender, matcha, turmeric-carrot-orange and cayenne-maple lemonades, something Christian said complements the bakery’s mission of offering health-conscious refreshments.

“Even if you’re not coming here thinking you’re going to get completely healthy, we’re going to at least try to secretly make you feel better; you don’t even know that we’re doing it,” she said.

Although her products have stayed consistent, what Christian says has evolved for her is the recipes. She said that as she’s continued baking through the years, she’s been able to make improvements to her bread doughs through repetition.

She described many of the changes as “good accidents,” like one day using melted butter with honey added to it rather than the room-temperature butter. She recalled that small difference largely improved the consistency of one of her master doughs.

“I’m always perfecting something, I’m always doing that,” she said. “Maybe the water’s too warm today. There’s always something that I recognize that would make something better. I don’t keep a journal, but I’m definitely watching everything I do; the texture, the consistency, the temperatures of my oven. Everything affects the way the loaves are going to come out of my oven.”

Baking has always been a part of Christian’s life, but the Southern California native had other business ventures before Revolution. She moved to Santa Fe in 2003 to open the popular Teahouse restaurant. Before that, she had been working in Indonesia in product development and starting her own tea line.

While in Asia, she had not been eating wheat products. And after returning to the U.S. and the traditional foods here, the difference for her was noticeable.

“I was kind of fat face, fat belly, and I started to eliminate it,” she recalled. “I started eating my Asian food again here, or being more concerned about not digesting wheat.”

She started testing and selling her gluten-free bread recipes about a decade ago at The Teahouse, which she sold to its current owners in 2011.

Christian has not formally attended baking school, though she did work with officials at the San Francisco Baking Institute to test her products when she had the first Revolution. She worked with the institute after a major supermarket chain had approached her about selling her baked goods on a regional scale. But Christian said she decided it would have been too large of an undertaking.

Christian said she wants to grow her business, eventually hoping to secure a local flagship store to sell her products commercially; the bakery is also scouting distributors in Albuquerque, Los Alamos and Taos. She also mentioned goals of one day securing investors to expand either in the Rocky Mountain region or farther West.

But she wants any growth to be done right by still maintaining a manageable, high-quality operation.

“The integrity needs to be there, and the consistency,” she said. “Everything I love about what I do, I have to recognize it … when I wake up.”

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