Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ghalia Organic Desserts

I am a veteran of many “organic” “healthy” “sugar free” “lowfat” cookies. And I can tell you, on authority, that they taste like prunes and applesauce: also known as Yucky. With a capital “Y”. So imagine my surprise when, mid-bite into a chocolate chip cookie sample, I hear the words “it’s sugar free” applied to my tasty morsel! Ok, it did taste a little different than Toll House, but in a more gourmet way – not like health food. I had to investigate what made this possible, and with a name like “Ghalia Organic Desserts,” I figured the secret was not aspartame.

So, Nosy Parker that I am, I interviewed the owner--and not only discovered the secret of the sugar-free cookie, but learned how Ghalia came to be at my Farmers Markets in Downtown L.A.

The story begins with Khatija Dadabhoy, who had an abhorrence of crap, a yen for cooking, and then…had a daughter. Although she had worked as a school counselor for eleven years, she didn’t want to keep up an emotionally draining career and try to raise her kid at the same time. So, she decided to take the leap and leave her day job.

“I wanted to come up with something I could do for myself, and I was already doing a lot of cooking and making baby food. I didn’t want my daughter to eat all the junk that’s out there, and [the business] grew out of that. Then I got into baking and decided to do one thing and do it well.”

And her daughter’s name? Ghalia. “The business is named after my daughter; she was the reason for me wanting to do something like this. Her name means ‘precious’ which is what I feel about my business also.”

Ghalia Organic Desserts began as just organic versions of normal cookies, cakes and brownies. But Khatija was constantly looking for ways to make her treats more healthful, while maintaining the taste and feel of the original artery-clogging, teeth disintegrating, blood-sugar assaulting recipes. Even when the ingredient isn’t labeled organic, the decision to use it is based on whether it is truly the better alternative. For example, she uses non-organic Earthbalance instead of butter which has heart-healthy oils, including Omega 3s, and is vegan, but tastes and acts just like the “udder” butter. Many of Ghalia Organic desserts are sugar free, gluten free and vegan.

“We’ve done a lot of experimenting over the years to get our recipes just that much better. We use flax and tofu in our vegan brownies as an egg-replacer—we don’t tell people it’s vegan unless they ask. And when they taste them, they don’t care. They love it!”

Since Khatija doesn’t have a store front yet, she is using farmers markets to spread the word and as a way to meet her customers in person. She initially thought that she should keep the vegan/health-nut nature of her desserts on the downlow – “It’s funny, I thought we’d just have people who wanted dessert” – but vegans and other similar species of extremely picky eaters found her out. And now she gets fan mail.

The farmers markets get the word out, but what Khatija specializes in is custom orders. She has a web store and takes orders over the phone for cakes and gifts that are custom made to the client’s preferences. You want low-fat brownies? No problem. Sugar free? Got it right here. Sugar free, gluten free, vegan, and low fat cake? Well Happy Birthday to You, because she can do it. She wants customers to use her website as a jumping off point to create something unique. Prices for gifts start at $25.

And what is the secret to those addictive sugar-free Chocolate Chip Cookies?
Agave to add moisture; coconut/palm sugar to act like brown sugar; and the chocolate chips are sweetened with grain.

Mystery solved.

Ghalia Organic Desserts
Los Angeles, California
telephone: (310) 351.7870

No comments: