Food and Drink: New options for vegans with a sweet tooth

November 16, 2007
By

NATALIE ZARRELLI

It’s now a weekly tradition for Helen Matthews to set up shop at Fiore’s Bakery.

The Jamaica Plain resident methodically opens plastic totes, unloads extracts and slowly sifts flour and mixes of flavors into her homemade vegan frosting.

Matthews’ from-scratch all-vegan baking has caught the attention of local hungry stomachs. For JP’s vegan community, the presence of vegan baking is a literal slice of heaven. There are only five all-vegan restaurants in Boston, and none of them are focused on dessert.

Why is Fiore’s Bakery, a traditional Italian pastry shop, taking on vegan baking? The first morning Fiore’s advertised vegan pastries in its front window, a woman doubled back to walk in, exclaiming, “That’s just the sign I was looking for!”

Matthews, who goes by the name “Homefries,” said she can relate to the excitement. “As a longtime vegan, in my obsessive search for vegan pastries, there’s been basically nothing in Boston,” she said.

This is changing, slowly but surely. Each day more people enter Fiore’s to see what kinds of vegan goods will be available, whether they’re leading vegan lifestyles, dealing with lactose or gluten allergies, or simply focused on cutting out hormones and chemical additives often found in dairy products.

The lack of vegan products in Boston has propelled Matthews’ love of vegan baking to a new level. She said the tradition of using eggs and milk in certain types of baked goods is really more of a habit than a necessity, stemming from the limited ingredients available to bakers from old Europe.

“Actually,” Matthews explains, “the right proportion of flour, leavening and oils will replicate what the traditional cake is like.”

Matthews also revealed that there’s a double philosophy behind the foods she creates. “Most people know me as the girl frantically bicycling up and down Centre Street, going from one thing to another,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to put a name to the pastries. I’ve talked about using ‘The Bicycling Baker.’

“To me, bicycling is the flipside of pastries—the pastries being a caloric input and bicycling a caloric output,” she said. “I’d like my pastries be a way to encourage bicycling, too. This is fuel for biking around the city instead of driving around the city. Driving while eating sugar will make you burn out, but eat a cupcake before biking around town and it’ll make you hit 15 miles per hour.”

In addition to cupcakes, Homefries bakes peanut butter cookies and other gluten-free pastries that are in high demand by those sensitive to allergens in wheat and other grains.

She said she’s psyched about the holidays, planning to make pumpkin, soy chocolate cream and other holiday pies; vegan triple layer mousse cakes; and vegan Boston cream pie cupcakes. Vegans eager to indulge are directed to Fiore’s Bakery at 55 South St. with a message from Matthews: Invest in a bicycle.

The writer works at Fiore’s.