Gluten-Free Baked Goods from Dia Delights and A Food Gal Giveaway

(Front to Back): Dia Delights' chocolate-raspberry cupcakes frosted with vegan cream cheese, raspberry frosting, and coconut frosting.

After moving to the United States a decade ago from Serbia, Sanja Pesich inexplicably found herself doubled over in pain anytime she ate bread.

Turns out she had developed a sensitivity to gluten.

As she educated herself about how to bake her favorite treats without gluten, an idea for a new business also came about.

The result is Dia Delights.

Pesich, a Santa Clara University business school graduate, put her studies to work, creating a business that specializes in vegan and gluten-free baked goods. She sells them at the Vallco farmers market in Cupertino on Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and at the Santa Teresa Boulevard (at Camino Verde) farmers market in San Jose on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Additionally, her treats are sold at Good Karma Deli in San Jose. She also does custom orders for weddings and parties.

After winning a California Entrepreneurship Program scholarship, she teamed up with her business partner, Tanja Vrcelj, who has a son with severe allergies to milk, dairy and peanuts.

Pesich says nothing is more satisfying to her than to bring her treats to a classroom and watch as every child, no matter their food allergies, are able to indulge. “For children with allergies, not being able to participate in celebrations can be very emotional,” she says.

Recently, I had a chance to sample some of her goodies. I’m lucky enough not to suffer from food allergies, but I’m always interested in trying products geared to those with dietary restrictions to see just how closely they can resemble the real deal.

Gluten-free pumpkin bread.

In Pesich’s case, she comes as close as one can. Her cookies and cakes are made with a flour mix that consists of garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, white sorghum flour, tapioca flour, and fava bean flour. Her products also make use of extra virgin coconut oil, cane sugar, soy protein, lactic acid (non-dairy and derived from sugar beets) and flaxseed meal. Her cakes and cookies often incorporate fruit to ensure they stay moist.

There’s a nice homemade quality to the products, as they are all created by hand in small batches. The double-chocolate chip cookie was soft and fudgy tasting, with just a hint of a beany note to it. The chocolate chip cookie was cakey in texture and the oatmeal cranberry cookie was none too sweet and full of heartiness from the gluten-free whole grain oatmeal.

The chocolate-raspberry cupcakes are moist with a muffin-like texture. You wouldn’t know the cream cheese frosting flavored with a touch of vanilla was vegan from just the taste, as it’s as thick, creamy and as satisfying as the familiar Philadelphia brand.

My favorites, though, just might be the pumpkin bread strewn with pumpkin seeds, and the pumpkin cinnamon cupcake. Both are super moist with plenty of warming spices. They taste as wonderful as what your mom used to make — but are safe for those who can’t tolerate gluten.

The cookies are priced from $12-$18 for a dozen. Cupcakes are $42 for a dozen. Individual loaves of pumpkin or banana bread are $7.50 each. And a 9-inch, three-layer cake is $65.

Vegan and gluten-free oatmeal cranberry, double chocolate chip and chocolate chip cookies.

CONTEST: One lucky Food Gal reader will win a $40 gift certificate to Dia Delights. The contest is open to those who reside within the continental United States. For those who live in the Bay Area and can pick up their treats from Dia Delights directly, the certificate is good for any product. For those who live outside the region, necessitating the need to ship the products, the gift certificate is good only for cookies and non-frosted items since they are less perishable. Entries will be accepted through midnight PST Feb. 9. Winner will be announced Feb. 11.

How to win?

You’ve already read why I like trying products like these even if I don’t suffer from food allergies. Just tell me why you most want to try these vegan and gluten-free baked goods. Best answer wins the gift certificate.

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  • While I have always been a skeptic about vegan food, my husband’s grandmother recently found out that she must adhere to a gluten-free diet. She’s well into her 80s and has ALWAYS been an avid baker and cook (and has a killer sweet tooth to boot), and the gluten-free thing really threw her for a loop. She lives in rural Oklahoma, where these is not a large selection of gluten-free treats, so we try to provide those as often as she can. This would be an amazing treat for her! I would use the gift certificate to choose some treats for her and send them in time for Valentine’s Day!

  • As someone who lives with someone with celiac disease, I found that it is nastier than I ever imagined. It’s a high sensitivity — just traces of wheat, barley, soy sauce (contains wheat) or other products triggers the problem. Food processed in factories that also handle wheat (Quaker oats, for instance) are off-limits. And when gluten is ingested, it damages the villi that line the intestines and takes many weeks to recover.

    What this means — and this is important — is that a celiac can’t cheat, not even a little. So imagine a life sentence of -never- having a sourdough baguette, a pizza, a doughnut from Stan’s, dinner at Chef Chu’s, real pasta. There are gluten-free products but for the most part, they are not the same.

    It’s hard on the loved ones, too, since the sensitivity is so profound, I’ve eliminated most flour-containing products from my cooking.

    So I am very eager to have Kathy try these because we are finding very few GF baked goods that are close to what she used to love so much.

  • While not the end of the world, finding out 4 years ago that I had celiac disease was tough, especially for someone with a sweet tooth. My mom also found out that she has celiac disease so we have made it our mission/hobby to find gluten free recipes and baked goods that taste as good as the flour versions…the quest continues. I look forward to trying Dia Delights with my mom.

  • I have no serious allergies to foods, but I do have some issues with processed foods and have found myself of late wanting to try other options. I love sweets, I eat them, bake them as well as share what I’ve made. But more and more friends and neighbors are looking into cutting back on gluten and I need to explore this . I want to taste excellent examples so that I may incorporate this option into my life.

  • I’m lucky that I don’t have food allergies myself. Seeing all the GF and vegan treats in the blogland, I used to wonder how they would taste like. I do have a girl friend who turned vegan not long ago and her fiance (also a vegan) and allergic to gluten. So, I created a few vegan and GF recipes so I can share my treats with them and I was surprised vegan food can actually tastes wonderful.

    If I won, I would send this as a care package to my girlfriend since I don’t live close by to her and she would need this more than I do! πŸ˜‰

  • I don’t have food allergies, to the best of my knowledge, but I would love to try these cupcakes or pumpkin bread! Primarily, because they look delish ;-). In general, I love trying new foods, not only the healthy ones. But of course, if I can convince myself that something is also good for me I feel that I have an even better excuse to indulge ;-).
    If I were lucky enough to win, I hope I could send these to a good friend who lives in the Bay Area. And then I would ask for a detailed description of what the goodies taste like.

  • Like you, I’m lucky to not suffer from any food allergies. I share the same curiosity in wanting to try vegan/GF baked goods to see how close they come to “original” versions, but also for inspiration. I went vegetarian nearly four years ago and would like to go vegan, except I like to bake so much that I’ve always said I can’t give up eggs, milk, etc. And as much as I love desserts, I think it’s a total shame what a nutritional wasteland most of them are, so I’m always looking for inspiration to make healthier baked goods and hopefully inspire others in the process.

    Does that sound totally cheesy? Also, if I won, I would feed these to my family so they’d stop turning their noses up at my vegan goods and realize they actually taste delicious!

  • Thankfully, i don’t suffer from any allergies but i admire people who have made changes to their diets and recipes so skilfully that they can still eat sweet treats and enjoy themselves.

    My cousin changed her lifestyle by choice and went vegan and she says the only thing she misses are all the sweet treats coz vegan ones are not appeaing to her. i am sure she would love this package. so, if i was to win, i would give her the gift certificate πŸ™‚

  • As I was reading your article and looking at those beautiful delights all I could think of was “Who wouldn’t want to try them!!” So as I set here salivating and trying to think of a reason I realized it’s just because they look and sound so wonderful. That’s my reason. πŸ™‚

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