Gluten-free and paleo bakeries have finally reached "flyover country." The Organic Cave (3323-1 Domain Street, St. Charles; 636-541-7321), located in St. Charles County, is a gluten-, grain-, GMO-, soy- and dairy/casein-free bakery that uses no processed sugars. Even without these items, the bakery is still able to craft a variety of delicious treats for its customers, with a menu featuring muffins, cookies, cakes and biscuits.
Owners and wives Nichole and Angel DiGiuseppi opened the Organic Cave just last month, on December 2. Nestled between farms and the cute condominium complex New Town, the Organic Cave is most certainly a destination bakery. The duo's endeavors into specialty baking are primarily health-based.
After a friendly visit to their doctor, the two found out that some of their health issues would decrease if they stopped eating processed foods. They tried the "30-Day Paleo Challenge," cutting out all foods that weren't available to cavemen during the Paleolithic age.
"I ate your standard American low-fat, high-carb diet," Nichole says. "I ate sugar all the time -- I was a total sugar addict, still am. The doctor told me to cut out all the processed sugar, and I thought there was no way I could do it. So we tried it and it worked; we felt great. I had migraines that bothered me all the time, and those cleared up. I had thyroid issues that I've always had, but noticed that my weight was stabilizing. Angel has dealt with asthma all her life -- her asthma definitely acts up if she eats wheat."
Nichole and Angel started experimenting with ingredients at home, substituting almond and coconut flour for rice flour. They began using eggs, bananas, apples and soy- and dairy-free chocolate chips, and sweetening with raw honey or Stevia instead of processed sugars. They traded vegetable and canola oil for coconut oil. Once they perfected their art, they fed their treats to family and friends, soon moving on to the farmer's market in Lake St. Louis.
Nichole and Angel found that renting time from another certified-kitchen was costly. As business picked up, they rapidly saw the financial benefit in renting their own space. At first, it was just going to be a kitchen, but their customers made them think otherwise.
"We were just going to bake out of our new space -- bake and then put our products in stores," Nichole says, "But we had so many customers from the farmer's market, people that had found us on Facebook and through our website -- they wanted to come to our bakery. We've had people come from U. City, Clayton, Illinois and Granite City. We never really expected to open a bakery here. We were just doing the farmer's market and thought we'd see how it went. It blew up faster than we ever imagined."
The name, the Organic Cave, derives from the Paleo diet, a diet that follows what cavemen ate during the Paleolithic period. Nichole observes, "Paleo's motto is, 'Eat like a caveman.' Basically, you eat what the cavemen, and women, would eat -- what was available to them. So that would have been meat, vegetables, some fruit, nuts, eggs; no dairy. [Since we use raw honey,] the Organic Cave's products fall into an 80-20 paleo diet -- really strict paleo dieters stay away from any kind sweeteners. However, it is acceptable in the paleo diet to eat raw honey and Stevia because the body can process them."
Customers can expect the same specialty ingredients that Nichole and Angel use in their own home baking. The Organic Cave bakes an assortment of goodies, including lemon vanilla poppy seed, chocolate chip and orange carrot walnut muffins, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate almond drew drops, the bakery's popular cake-in-a-jar and biscuits, scones and buns. The bakery is currently working on packaging pre-made cookie dough for its customers, so people can take home a tub and make their own cookies at home.
Nichole and Angel's ultimate goal is to get their products in more national chains - Dierbergs, Schnucks, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Nichole comments, "A lot of the time, people don't want to go too far to get stuff; our goal is to get it in grocery stores, which is convenient for everybody. Then people can go to the Dierbergs down the street, or Whole Foods. If we could have our products available in regular grocery stores that are right there on the corner, then it wouldn't be a huge deal that we don't necessarily have a bakery in St. Louis County."
The Organic Cave is closed Mondays, with regular business hours Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.. The bakery's products are also available at Local Harvest Grocery locations.