Maui Sugar Shop, with its glass-filled cases of whoopee pie, cream puffs, vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, lilikoi muffins and chocolate chip cookies will definitely make you feel like a kid. The bakery has pastel green walls, French boulangerie music, shabby chic tables and chairs and trendy, colorful chalkboard menus. But there is one thing that sets Maui Sugar Shop apart from regular bakeries: there’s no wheat flour anywhere, meaning everything is gluten-free.
“We are 100 percent wheat-free here,” says owner Zane Monteleone. “We use 30 different flours in the bakery for our gluten-free products. Celiacs can’t have any gluten at all. Wheat flour can go airborne so easily and taint the bakery. So it’s truly 100 percent gluten-free here.”
I take a seat at one of their white wooden tables under a painting of a huge cupcake. I overhear some customers walk in. “We heard there was a gluten free treat shop around here?” one of them asks Monteleone. He confirms that they’ve found the right place and goes on to tell them about the day’s specials and most popular item. Nearly everyone walks out with a gluten-free cream puff–understandable, since they taste as irresistible as they look.
“At first I thought gluten-free was a cross fit fad,” says Monteleone. “But my wife is a hardcore label reader and really into nutrition. And at Star Noodle I have definitely seen that more people are aware–they are definitely more conscious of their food. That got my brain tingling about this idea of opening a gluten-free bakery.”
Monteleone opened Maui Sugar Shop with his wife Cynthia in October. They bought Maui Specialty Bakery Products, an existing bakery in Lahaina that sits between Thai Chef and Sale Pepe. The initial plan was to continue doing some of the existing recipes and add a few gluten-free options. Instead, they went gluten-free from the start, and established their commercial accounts, providing products to Wyndam, Hyatt and Montage. Next, they dialed in their retail bakery offerings and they were off and running. Cynthia Monteleone develops all their gluten-free recipes.
“I was an athlete, I ran track in college,” she says about how she got started in gluten-free baking. “I had a strength coach who was about ‘living well.’ I’m not sure of another way to describe it. It wasn’t about getting buff. He started teaching me about the benefits of eating gluten free. He said try going a week without wheat and see how you feel. I did and of course I felt a million times better. I tried to go back to eating wheat and it didn’t work. He actually said that around 93 percent of people have a gluten sensitivity in one way or another.”
Cynthia says she loved baked goods, and was inspired to recreate sweets. She makes all her own ingredients.
“I wanted really cool sweets, in the way that I like to eat–organic, and no corn syrup,” says Cynthia. “I loved snowball cupcakes but there was no way I would go near one of those packaged treats. So I would make stuff inspired by those treats organic and gluten-free, and make my own marshmallow because I know you don’t need high fructose corn syrup in them (it’s just a filler). Even the colors of my baked goods are natural. I use beet juice, purple cabbage juice and they make beautiful colors.”
The bakery case is loaded with cupcakes, cookies, muffins, donuts and minis. They bake lemon, chocolate, vanilla and coconut flavors–check their Facebook page for specials. Everything in the case has a regular and mini size. They also serve coffees, teas and organic lemonade.
My visit was also the first time I’d ever seen a Pao de Quejo a Brazilian cheese muffin. It’s their only savory treat but might be the only one they need, it’s so good. It’s a Portuguese version of Yorkshire pudding, but with the delicious addition of cheese (without the wheat, of course).
Cynthia says the cream puffs are especially popular.
“The cream puffs were one of the first things that everyone loved,” says Cynthia. “Zane would take them to Star Noodle where he worked and everyone would love them. Since he had the food industry experience, he thought this might be something we should do. I really wanted to offer these to other families. There’s a demand for it because of the awareness on non-GMO, gluten-free and organic products. So we decided that (a) we have a passion for this and (b) it would be a viable business. That’s how it all came about.”
Zane says the lilikoi muffins are the next most popular items. The Honokowai Farmers Market is where you will find their gingerbread cookies. He gets the lilikoi fresh from Upcountry. Their hardest to find ingredient is organic butter. The bakery bakes bread on Sunday, its for sale on Monday, and sells out on Tuesday.
“I have a huge binder at home of notes, tears and my writing,” says Cynthia. “I have a new software program I’m using right now that I type the recipes in and then print them out to go into new recipe bibles here at the bakery. I have tons of recipes that I haven’t even utilized yet. I’m going in phases. We’re so lucky we have such great demand.”
Maui Sugar Shop in Lahaina is open 10am to 6pm.
MAUI SUGAR SHOP
878 Front St., Lahaina