No gluten? No problem at Better Than Flours

Apr. 14—ASHLAND — If German chocolate cake, biscuits and snickerdoodles cause your belly to growl, and not in a good way, a local baker is providing options.

Better Than Flours Gluten-Free Bakery offers those items and others at 2538 Ky. 5. Owner Holly Ross said she learned to make gluten-free goodies after she discovered she was gluten intolerant.

"My health had not been great for several years and, in 2014, I was accepted into a program at Oxford and was in England for two weeks. We walked everywhere," Ross, 58, of Flatwoods, said.

After walking everywhere and eating healthy while across the pond, Ross was told by her doctor the issues were because of a lack of exercise.

"I knew something was not right," she said. "I was having headaches and I didn't have any ankles."

She and her daughter, Haileigh Ross, a physician, did some research and she decided to eliminate gluten from her diet.

"It was amazing. It was a game-changer," she said. "In the first couple months, I lost like 20 pounds ... I was sitting cross-legged one night and said, 'I can see my ankles!'"

She switched and found a doctor who believed her.

"She said I likely have celiac, but then you had to go back on gluten to have the test, and I wasn't willing to do that because I was so sick," she said. "When you look at the symptoms of celiac, I'm the poster child."

UK Healthcare calls celiac disease an abnormal immune system reaction to gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a wheat-rye cross). It damages the small intestine so it can't do a good job of absorbing nutrients from food. Symptoms include bone, joint pain or arthritis; depression or anxiety; tingling numbness in hands and feet; fatigue; chronic diarrhea or constipation; itchy skin; and sores in the mouth or tooth discoloration.

For the next four years, Ross worked on making gluten-free recipes for her and her family.

"My friends encouraged me to (sell gluten-free baked goods) because they couldn't tell when we had dinner that it was gluten free," Ross said. "I started out of the house in 2019, just to see how it would go and if it was even something worth doing."

It was. She sold individually packaged goods at the Greenup County Farmers Market and found customers loved her baking, even if they didn't seek out gluten-free items.

"People could try it and see what it was," she said. "Last year, we got too big for the house, there was so much going on in my little kitchen."

Some of her best sellers are her chocolate chip cookies and the cleverly named "break-up brownies," adapted from a non-gluten-free recipe she used to make when her daughter was in college.

She moved to the building on Ky. 5, where she bakes and her daughter helps when she's in town; other family members package and label her works.

The retired teacher, who taught social studies and history, said one aim of her work is to make recipes so good, you can't tell they're made for a specialty diet.

"The goal was, if you could tell it was gluten-free, it wasn't a good recipe," she said.

Most of her work is specialty orders, but she said she has freezer items, like biscuits and chocolate chip cookies, that can be purchased on-site.

"Gluten-free food has a really short shelf life, and you can't have a bunch of things left over," Ross explained. "When I do special orders and have leftovers, I usually sell out." She puts leftovers in the freezer alongside the regularly stocked items.

During the holidays, she adds dinner rolls and sweet potato casserole to her offerings, using her special mixtures — trade secrets — to make them indistinguishable from traditionally made items.

She is working for the frozen items, including biscuits, cookie dough and lasagna, to be available in area grocery stores. She has all the bar codes and nutrition labels ready to go.

For more information, visit Better Than Flours on Facebook or call (606) 922-2433.