Abstruse Pastry Co.
Where: 5516 Main St., Flowery Branch
Hours: 4-6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Starting July 9, Sunday brunch will be 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Products: whole-grain gluten-free goods, including breads, cookies, muffins and upside-down cupcakes
Contact: 678-828-9667 or abstrusepastrycompany.com
Newly opened Abstruse Pastry Co. in downtown Flowery Branch is more than a whole-grain, gluten-free bakery.
It’s also a refuge.
“It’s almost magical,” co-owner Pam Helton said. “To be a safe place for people who have food allergies, it’s an escape.”
“It’s a place to feel normal. It’s awesome,” co-owner and chef Holly Helton said.
The two opened Abstruse — a play on words using Holly’s maiden name, Abbey, and complex baking methods — on May 4 in a historic building at 5516 Main St.
From the get-go, the bakery has tried to set itself apart by promoting an all-natural image.
“We are proud to be gluten-free,” Pam said. “But the thing that’s most important to us is that we are a whole food provider. We don’t use anything that’s fake, artificial or processed.
“A second-grader can pronounce all our ingredients. There are no chemicals in them.”
Healthy is one thing, but taste also needs to be a factor. And people seeking both often are getting neither, Pam and Holly said.
“Gluten-free has earned such a bad reputation (for taste), justifiably,” Holly said. “That’s part of why we are here.”
To get the flavors they want, everything starts as whole grains. Holly grinds grains — millet, sorghum and five varieties of rice — into flour for every batch of whatever she’s making. Other ingredients are thrown in, such as butterscotch and chocolate, with products coming from local and organic sources.
“I was able to find a local provider for real cultured butter and buttermilk, which has revolutionized my biscuit recipes,” Holly said. “It’s amazing the difference these real foods make in the end result. And I’m very picky about what I put in.”
Then, according to Abstruse’s website, “after baking to perfection, we freeze our eats and treats to lock in freshness until you’re ready to enjoy.”
The business relies strictly on Holly’s recipes, which she honed in the kitchen.
It was a passion formed by childhood experiences.
“I grew up in the kitchen and always loved cooking and baking, playing around and making new things,” she said. “Mom would grind the wheat and bake the weekly breads, so that’s all I knew. We never ate anything store-bought growing up.”
As Holly grew up, she began exploring gluten-free options.
“Recipes kept insisting you couldn’t do whole grains, that you had to use refined powders and all these fillers,” she said. “Everything in me said I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t resign myself to making a refined flour version of anything.
“That launched several years of mad science in the kitchen. I took what I knew of the different characteristics of five different types of rice and millet, and I researched sorghum.”
Persistence paid off, and “I started to see the characteristics of how these grains interacted with each other and how they baked together. And so, these recipes came about.”
Pam and Holly bought the Flowery Branch building, which dates to 1910, nearly six years ago, then renovated and rented it out. When the lease was up on the last tenant, that’s when the pair decided to pursue the business.
They originally planned for Abstruse to be a store where people buy products, then leave.
“But the more we talked with people through renovations — people with allergies, people who (can’t tolerate gluten) — they felt so isolated,” Holly said. “They can’t go out and comfortably feel safe about eating.”
Pam and Holly ended up knocking out a wall and expanding seating.
“So many people are coming to us and looking for a place to go and enjoy these products,” Holly said.
Abstruse also set about expanding its operating hours, and plans to start a Sunday brunch July 9. The menu could feature such items as pancakes, waffles and quiche, rotating week to week.
“I’ve got some fun stuff planned,” Holly said.