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Northland gets gluten-free bakehouse

Majora's Bakehouse offers vegan scones, cupcakes, cookies and more.

Baked goods for sale at festival
Majora Bengtson, owner of Majora’s Bakehouse, talks with customers during the Duluth Superior Pride Festival.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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CULVER, Minn. — Majora Bengtson hadn’t planned on launching an at-home bakehouse.

“It was a last-minute thing, I was going to give it a shot,” they said.

Today, Majora’s Bakehouse is “a year strong” offering a mix of gluten-free, vegan goodies: blackberry and lime scones, Earl Grey cupcakes and chocolate orange shortbread cookies.

Baked goods for sale at festival
A blackberry lime scone, lemon poppy seed scone, chocolate orange shortbread and a cinnamon roll cookie offered by Majora’s Bakehouse on Sept. 3 during the Duluth Superior Pride Festival.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Baking gluten-free takes a lot of trial and error, and Bengtson goes as far to make their own baking powder and powdered sugar. They’ve made several pop-ups during the past year at the Hillside Market, Trans Joy Fest and will be at Engwall Flowers Fall Fest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 23-24.

Bengtson's motivation was to fill a spot where folks with allergies and food sensitivities could find quality baked goods. They released a new cinnamon roll cookie during Duluth Superior Pride.

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They said their process involves a lot of trial and error — and taste-testing, “which my family doesn't seem to mind too much.”

Bengtson took time to talk about baking gluten-free, true crime podcasts and their secret ingredient.

Q: Tell me about your culinary background.

A: My grandparents used to own restaurants when I was younger, so I feel like I grew up in a kitchen. A lot of my cooking today is still influenced by the mom-and-pop style I was lucky to grow up with.

No one in my family was much of a baker. That's maybe why I decided to get into it. I wanted cake, and if I had to make it myself, then so be it!

When my family learned I liked baking, I became the go-to for birthday cakes and holiday desserts, and it has only grown from there.

Baked goods for sale at festival
Majora Bengtson, owner of Majora’s Bakehouse, smiles while interacting with customers.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Q: Name your go-to cooking scenario. (Time of day, music/podcast on, solo or with a helper, and what are you making?)

A: When it comes to baking, my ideal situation is sometime around midnight with music blasting. I'm a chaotic baker, so I prefer to bake alone, so I can really spread out wherever I want. This is my prime time to try out new recipes, so you never know what is going to come out of the oven.

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Q: What’s your favorite dessert to eat? To make? To watch others enjoy?

A: Cake! It has so many different combinations to make, so it never gets old. I also really love to spend time on decorating. The perfect slice looks so pretty, and when it looks good and people love the taste, it doesn't get much better.

Baked goods for sale at festival
Chocolate coconut cupcakes offered by Majora Bengtson, owner of Majora’s Bakehouse, during the Duluth Superior Pride Festival.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Q: Baking gluten- and dairy-free comes with its own challenges. How do you know when a recipe is right where you want it?

A: All of my recipes are my own, so they all go through several test batches before anyone even knows I'm working on it. Then, I usually just show up at a family gathering and make everyone try it. They know what kind of standards I'm working towards, so they give great feedback.

After that, I’ll finally bring it to an event. I take the responses and comments from folks to heart and will then apply that to the recipes. When someone excitedly says, “This is gluten free?” after trying it, I know I'm where I want it to be.

Q: Tips for others who want to learn to bake for food sensitivities?

A: There's no way around it, but be prepared to have a few disasters. It's OK! You'll get there, I promise.

There are so many allergen-friendly options these days, so try a few out to find your favorite. Everyone I know who does this kind of baking has their own favorite substitutes. An easier introduction is finding 1-to-1 replacements and using those in your favorite recipes.

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If you can, try replacing in batches.

Start with flours, then egg replacement, then butter, and so on. It's easier to problem-solve one thing at a time instead of a whole group.

Q: What’s the most valuable takeaway baking has given you?

A: Baking has helped me practice being more patient. Along with that, selling my product has really helped me meet so many cool people I never would have otherwise. So many folks have been so kind and supportive, and it's been a really rewarding experience.

Baked goods for sale at festival
Majora Bengtson talks with Heather Silsbee, of Minneapolis.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Q: What’s your secret ingredient?

A: From a romanticized standpoint, perseverance.

Practically, though, the secret ingredient for several things is vinegar. The reaction with baking soda helps keep things light and fluffy.

Q: What’s next for Majora’s Bakehouse?

A: I have huge dreams to open a location in town. That way I can provide allergen-friendly baked goods more reliably, and with a commercial space it opens the possibility of selling to local coffee shops and businesses. This dream is expensive, so until then, I'm trying new recipes to create a wider range of offerings and to get my name out there.

Find Majora's Bakehouse

MORE BY MELINDA LAVINE
“Not everyone wants to be a beekeeper," said Claire Lande, of Farm Lande. "There’s something a little more hardcore about it."

Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 16 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014, and today, she writes about the heartbeat of our community: the people.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346, mlavine@duluthnews.com.
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