Bake up a batch of Numeez cookie dough and pronunciation of the name becomes clear — num-eezzz (as in yummies). Served straight from the oven, warm and soft, these freshly baked cookies are as good as any I make from scratch. Plus, they're gluten-free and vegan, containing no eggs or dairy (the latter means I don't have to fret much about tasting the dough right off the spoon).
Numeez's founder, Fallon Vannelli, said she became interested in vegan baking 10 years ago when she and her husband, Mike Vannelli, lived in Stavanger, Norway, where he played professional hockey. Inspired by a friend and neighbor who was a strict vegan, Vannelli began making foods they could all enjoy together.
"It took a lot of trial and error and experimenting," she said. "When we returned to the States and began to have children, I was determined I was not going to be that mom who outlaws sweets. Yet at the same time, I didn't want to be feeding my kids heaping amounts of sugar, flour and butter. So I focused on making treats that are relatively healthful but still delicious."
Last April, Vannelli began making and freezing her cookie dough and brownie batter for family members and friends who were seeking vegan, gluten-free alternatives. Word spread quickly and as demand increased, she moved her baking out of her home kitchen in St. Paul to GIA Kitchen, a commercial facility in St. Paul.
"I decided to focus on the most familiar items — dark chocolate chip, salted dark cocoa, vanilla almond cookie dough and dark chocolate brownie batter," Vannelli said. The products are all made of almond flour and gluten-free oat flour, sweetened with maple syrup.
Vannelli credits her success to the supportive community of food entrepreneurs, including Pam Powell of Salad Girl. "She has been a wonderful mentor," Vannelli said. "She's helped me with a number of issues, including packaging, labels and distribution. We're lucky to have such a collaborative business climate."
The cookie and brownie dough comes frozen and can be easily thawed in the refrigerator overnight. The dough makes about two dozen cookies and the brownie batter, baked in an 8- by 8-inch pan, yields about 16 brownies. Once thawed, the dough may be stored in the refrigerator for about a week (which works well if you want to bake cookies a few at a time, on demand).
Numeez, priced at about $10 per 16 ounces, are available at the Wedge Co-op and Hy-Vee in Eagan and Oakdale, or can be ordered via e-mail for pickup in St. Paul (see online). numeezdesserts.com.