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A biophysics scholar-turned-baker is getting closer to opening her first shop. You’ll be able to see Nieshia Williams kneading dough through a display window when you walk past 441 Kennedy St. NW in Brightwood Park. Golden Flour aims to open in late June.
Williams named her bakery after her gluten-free flour blend made from cassava, arrowroot, and chickpeas. It’s more than gluten-free. It’s grain-free, nightshade-free, and corn-free too. “The chickpea flour gives it that chewiness that people crave,” she says. Williams, who has an undergraduate degree in chemistry, also experiments with other gluten-free flour blends for her treats, including one with brown rice and another with Ethiopian teff.
Leading up to inking a deal for her first food business, Williams says she sold baked goods at a farmers market in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria and at Sankofa Cafe just north of Howard University. She would take special requests from customers with allergies and aversions and never backed down from a challenge.
The Maryland native was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2016, which could have discouraged her baking dreams. It didn’t. “Of course with breads there’s nothing like wheat, OK?” she says. “I’m told my cinnamon rolls and chocolate croissants are really good.” Golden Flour will serve a mix of traditional baked goods alongside ones that are gluten- and grain-free.
Golden Flour plans to be open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays through Sundays from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Look forward to vegan sweet potato muffins, gluten-free and vegan blueberry scones, and a variety of breads from bagels to babkas, with smoothies on Friday mornings and Belgian waffles, sweet potato biscuits, beignets, and tofu scrambles on weekend mornings. When Golden Flour is only open in the afternoon, the speciality will be standard and gluten-free pizzas.
It was critical that there be something for everyone regardless of dietary restrictions because Williams is determined for her bakery to be a gathering place for the community where conversation flows. “I want to be that sanctuary where you’re allowed to just think,” she says.
Williams studied for a PhD in biophysics at Oxford University in England from 2002 to 2005. She fell for the salon-like atmosphere where students would mingle after class and talk about tough topics. “You hear about that utopia of higher learning,” she says. “That conversation was so refreshing. That raw conversation. I want to bring that element here with the community kitchen. I hope people come in.”
She plans to hold cooking and baking lessons for adults and children that she hopes unites the neighborhood. “Breaking bread breaks down barriers,” she says. “When people are from different races or cultures, unless they have something in common like the same school or the same job, America is pretty segregated.”
Don’t be surprised if she folds a little science into her lessons or if her space doubles as a place for kids in the neighborhood to head to if they’re seeking out tutoring. “My dream is to blend cooking, baking, and science because I started baking to alleviate stress while doing my graduate work,” Williams says. “Even if you don’t like science and math like me, you can see how it’s integrated into everything we do.”
The bakery will have a walk-up window, a first-floor production area, and a basement where customers can place orders and hang out at a few high-top tables. Williams says there will also be outdoor seating. She has access to the rooftop where she plans to grow ingredients for Golden Flour’s pizza.
Asked what she wants people to feel like when they’re in her space, Williams says: “Impossible is an illusion. When you come in, it’s always a wow.” That’s a lofty goal but Williams hopes her bakery can rise to the occasion.
Petworth News first broke the details about the bakery.
Golden Flour, 441 Kennedy St. NW; (202) 629-3148; goldenflourdc.com