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At Happy Belly Bakeshop, a way of life becomes a passion and a business

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Nora Pilar with some of the baked confections she makes at her E. Wakefield home. (Rochester Voice photo)

ROCHESTER - When Nora Pilar of East Wakefield was diagnosed with a gluten allergy at 16, she said she realized there were only two alternatives when it came to eating.

She could just stop eating bread, rolls, cookies and cakes all together, or suffer with gluten-free substitutes that were way too dense, crumbled in her hand or lacked any semblance of flavor and freshness.

Years later when her daughter started getting skin irritations, the rashes were determined to be a result of her being gluten-intolerant, too.

That upped her game, Pilar said on Tuesday behind her Happy Belly Bakeshop booth at the Rochester Farmer's Market on the Common.

"I started spending a lot of time trying to master gluten-free baking," she said.

Then as fate would have it, she lost her sales job with a tech company as a result of a merger on March 31, she recalled.

That's when, with her boyfriend's support, she decided to launch her own business specializing in delectable baked confections that she makes out of her East Wakefield home.

And they are delectable. We tried one of her Watergate Cupcakes, a pistachio cupcake with pineapple and walnuts covered with a marshmallow whipped topping and candied pineapple topper, and found it delightfully fresh and moist inside. The marshmallow topping was exquisite.

Pilar said since she started her business, she has also perfected an all-purpose gluten-free flour mix that can be used cup for cup like regular flour.

"I did research on absorbency rates, searched uses of starches and did a lot of experimenting to get the right weight and absorbency so they don't fall apart," she said. A 1.3 pound bag sells for $8.

Pilar maintains a business website at happybellybakeshop.com, but also sells at Farmers Markets every week in Somersworth, Wakefield and Rochester.

You can also find her delicacies at the Lovell Lake Food Center in Sanbornville and Butternuts Good Dishes in Wolfeboro.

Her prices aren't cheap, but not unreasonable either. Brownies range from $2 for a regular fudge brownie to $3 for her seven-layer brownie made with graham crust on the bottom and chocolate chips, coconut, walnuts, condensed milk and a butterscotch drizzle on top.

She said she invested quite a bit of money to start the business and has made back about a sixth of it.
"If all goes well I hope to be in the black next year," she said.

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