Skipping the Gluten

Appears in the March 2023 issue.

By Peter Gianopulos

St. Charles bakery offers up allergy-friendly treats

Pastries from Brown Butter Café & Bakery

Dawn Phillips, the owner/baker/resident miracle worker of the new Brown Butter Café & Bakery (311 N. Second St., St. Charles) doesn’t believe in keeping secrets. Should anyone want to know how she bakes gluten-free doughnuts that taste as decadent as anything that comes rolling off a Krispy Kreme conveyor belt, she’ll be glad to reveal her time-tested formula. “I don’t use nut flours,” says Phillips, who previously ran the Early Light Café in Batavia. “I prefer white and brown rice flours, which work well as long as you don’t overmix them. For gluten-free desserts, you want to create a lot of air so they’re not too dense.”

A self-taught baker, Phillips began “experimenting” with making gluten-free pastries years ago, when a group of local runners extolled the health benefits while simultaneously grousing about the lack of flavorful options around town. Always eager to accept a baking challenge, she established a makeshift test kitchen in her home, nominating her two (very lucky) boys to judge her creations. “All I can say is that they gave me extremely constructive criticism,” says Phillips, who credits her inclusion of brown butter as a key breakthrough.

Prior to the pandemic, Phillips had begun offering her gluten-free treats via online orders, which she hand-delivered to customers across the area. When transmission rates began to slow, two particularly avid fans, Jeff and Julie Martin, suggested they become business partners and launch a brick-and-mortar bakery, which opened in late November.

Brown Butter’s display case not only includes Phillips’ doughnuts—look for her signature OG brown butter offering—but other gluten-free delicacies as well, including cinnamon roll cakes, muffins, and savory cheddar jalapeño bread.

“I’ve had parents come in,” Phillips says, “and tell me that their child has a gluten allergy or a nut allergy and for the first time, they can eat a doughnut or bring sweets into school. That for me, has been the most rewarding thing of all.”


Photo courtesy of Brown Butter Café & Bakery