Step into Sweet Pea Bakery at One Buffalo St. in Hamburg and you’ll be overcome by an incredible smell of fresh baked goods with a sweet, sugary aroma.
It’s all thanks to the woman behind the apron, Audrey Zybala. She gave up a teaching career to follow a lifelong dream, inspired by her close-knit family, to own a bakery. The café serves breakfast and lunch, but over the past two years, Sweet Pea has become known for its gluten free and vegan baked goods.
Zybala stepped away from the oven to talk about baked goods, family and business.
Question: How do you perfect your gluten-free baking? Is it trial and error?
Zybala: Yes, it really is. It’s trying a recipe and realizing it completely didn’t work and going back to the drawing board. Some things work out super fast and accidentally almost – the doughnuts were like that – we have apple cider doughnuts. They were easy and they came to me and it wasn’t hard at all.
But the cinnamon rolls - doing those gluten free is difficult. You need elasticity of the wheat – I try to mimic that with other ingredients. We don’t use anything fake. It’s all from scratch, nothing from the box.
Q: Do you get business from people walking through the village?
A: We do for the café. People don’t realize we have breakfast and lunch. We have soup and sandwiches - everything is made from scratch. We do an egg on a bagel with sausage and pepperjack cheese – Saturday mornings are super busy. I didn’t want to be just in the kitchen baking. I like to work with the customers.
Q: Where else can people try your baked goods?
A: We’re in the Lexington Co-op in both locations – the Elmwood Village and the new store on Hertel – so they carry a bunch of our gluten-free and vegan items and they have custom orders every week.
Q: How did health concerns lead you to gluten free-baking?
A: I am gluten free or I try to be - I have to taste other things, but that’s how I got started. My mom is gluten free and has Celiac disease and I bought her something and it was horrible, so I started baking for her and my husband couldn’t tell the difference between gluten free and regular.
If you can eat it and not tell whether it’s gluten free or regular, it’s a success. If you can guess then I have some tweaking to do.
Q: How do you prevent cross contamination with the different baked goods?
A: Separate kitchens were really important to me from the beginning. The gluten-free kitchen now is small, and we are in the process of expanding. We are going to double the size of our kitchens.
Q: Why is the bakery named Sweet Pea?
A: I wanted some sort of nod to my family and I didn’t want my name on it. I’m me because of all the people around me. My grandma used to grow sweet peas in her yard when I was growing up. My mom now has the same plant in her garden and it makes me think of her and feel the way that only a grandma can make you feel, so Sweet Pea stuck out to me.
Q: Are you gearing up for the holidays?
A: Yes! Summer picked up. I was really surprised we had lots of parties and weddings. We did cakes and desserts, but Thanksgiving is our busiest holiday of the year – we do tons of pies, cinnamon rolls for Thanksgiving morning and dessert platters. Christmas will be busy too.