Gluten-Free is such a tough topic, and as a retail confectioner, it took my good friend Ruth to open my eyes to whether our caramels, truffles, soft centers, turtles, TorTush, and confections are truly gluten-free. And what does that mean?? Were they before - kinda (we sure thought so, but no), and are they now - YES!!! See our gluten-free options here.
There are so many phases of gluten intolerance, from slight skin irritation to Celiac disease, which has gut-wrenching pain and diarrhea. As someone who hasn't had that issue, I didn't know the difference or understand that to be truly gluten-free, we must address all processes including not cross-contaminating surfaces, handling, dipping, and the ingredients we use. Thank you, RUTH!!
Here's Ruth's story:
A corporate customer sent Ruth a nice little box of chocolates that were, in my mind, gluten-free. Ruth was so excited to receive her gift and to eat her candy. She sent me a photo of the box, asking what was gluten-free and safe for her to eat. I thought all of it - but Ruth knew better! She said that she couldn't have anything that had the possibility of touching a gluten-containing product. That it would make her sick, and at that moment, I knew in reality that the box of candy wasn't truly gluten-free - she couldn't eat ANYTHING except the wrapped caramel (since there was a chance we dipped a cookie or other items in that same chocolate). What a disappointment for her!!
I felt sick for her and realized that we truly weren't gluten-free even though most of our ingredients were. It was time to change, and boy did we!!! From that moment on, we changed our processes, dipping, handling, and storing of our gluten-free
Here are the steps we now take to avoid gluten contamination:
- Gluten-Free Ingredients. We start with the best gluten-free ingredients making sure the chocolate, nuts, caramel ingredients, cream center ingredients, and treats (gluten-free Oreos and other items) we dip in the chocolate are all gluten-free. Ruth educated us about hidden gluten (for example, nuts are often processed in factories that process cereal) and helped to teach us what to look for on packaging - the Gluten-Free seal.
- Clean and sanitized surfaces. We always clean all surfaces before starting a project, but we take special care for the gluten-free project and dipping days to ensure we hit ALL possible areas. Our pans are freshly washed even if they are already clean - we do it again! We empty our chocolate tempering melter and clean the bowl and all elements. We load fresh chocolate (already gluten-free) for melting and tape the lid down with a gluten-free sticker so no one accidentally uses it.
- Proper Labeling. We dip onto clean pans with parchment paper labeled gluten-free. The gluten-free chocolates are placed into white cups for color coding (usually, the cups are brown). They are then loaded into specially marked white storage boxes (usually, the storage boxes are brown), which are labeled Gluten-free.
- Glove Changes. We change our gloves before handling the gluten-free items knowing we can't touch our regular chocolates and then handle the gluten-free items. It seems harmless, but we would never want to handle a regular chocolate-covered oreo and then touch a gluten-free item. We need a glove change to keep the gluten-free candies safe!
- Different Displays. We display chocolates, caramels, soft centers, TorTush, and other treats differently. We put them "under the dome" so that they are protected from cross-contamination and keep them labeled as gluten-free. You can tell right away that there is something different about them by the white cups and the dome!!
- Packaged Right. When we box your chocolates up, we keep the gluten-free separate from your other candies. We label the gluten-free sweets with a special gluten-free sticker - that way, there is no doubt about what you are getting and that your treats are safe to enjoy.
- Online Order Differences. When your online order comes in, it is immediately labeled with a bright red gluten-free marker at the top. That way, we won't accidentally give you the wrong thing. We have someone double-check the order before packaging to confirm that all items are gluten-free.
When you come into Lillie Mae Chocolates, you can feel assured that you are getting a gluten-free treat, whatever your favorite is!! Ruth's favorites are the gluten-free Oreos right now, but my favorite - oh boy! Gluten-free Caramels, gluten-free Nut Clusters, gluten-free Chocolate-Covered Caramels, gluten-free Soft Center Creams, gluten-free Sea Salt Caramels, or gluten-free Chocolate-Covered Oreos - let's be real…I love all of them!! Thank you, Ruth, for all your help and support!!!
Have a sweet day! Aimee