Robin Klebba loves to bake. You can see it on her face as she talks about watching people dig into one of her homemade products.
The 28-year-old took that passion and started Welcome Home about two and a half years ago. The home-based business sells nut butters and gluten-free baked goods, as well as custom orders for whatever Klebba feels she can take on.
“I’d really just been wanting to do something new,” Klebba said, adding that, around that time, she and her husband stopped at an area farmer’s market and, in talking to vendors, discovered nobody was selling gluten-free products there. “I was like, ‘that could be fun. I’ll give it a try.’ It was all very spontaneous.”
The idea to start baking gluten-free products stemmed from a family health issue. In January 2017, her husband was diagnosed with a non-celiac gluten allergy. The process to get to that diagnosis, however, involved starting a 60-day paleo diet, which eliminated grains, beans, refined sugars and dairy.
“My mind was blown,” Klebba said. “We had been married for six months and I was just finally getting the whole making meals thing down.
“The first time I went to Walmart to shop, I was crying in one of the aisles,” she added with a laugh, as she described trying to figure out how to cook within those restrictions. “Labels become your best friend and your worst enemy.”
Paleo baking is a challenge, to say the least, and that is what Klebba started with, as her husband has a sweet tooth and she wanted to provide him with some sweet treats that would fit his new diet. Through that process, she was able to come up with some paleo baked goods that she still sells through Welcome Home.
“That’s where I had to start baking,” Klebba said. “That really opened my eyes to a whole new world of people out there who are just like you and I, who die to have sweets, at proper times or at any time. … It was a challenge.”
As her husband’s diet became less restrictive and gluten was eventually pegged as the cause of his issues, Klebba was able to loosen the restrictions on her baking. But she didn’t forget the challenges she faced. And even with solely avoiding gluten, Klebba said she found some of the gluten-free products available to be less than tasty. Those experiences led her to think about how much it would mean for people with those types of dietary restrictions to find a delicious, homemade treat that’s not off limits.
“I knew that for my husband it was such a special thing, but as with anything, it’s kind of like is there the demand there,” Klebba explained. “That’s why I just started at that farmer’s market to see and there was a demand.”
The name Welcome Home denotes the feeling Klebba hopes her customers get when they find her products — a comforting feeling of being surrounded by loved ones. She said when she started thinking about what to name her business, she thought about how separate people feel when they have an allergy. Eating out can become an ordeal; even just going to a friend’s home for dinner can lead to a special meal that’s just for you, while the others eat the intended main dish. It can all combine to make you feel a little alone.
“The idea is that when you come home, it’s the space that you can breathe in and everyone gathers around the table to eat the same thing,” Klebba said of the name Welcome Home. “I wanted to be able to create something that everybody can eat together. … It’s that feeling of coming home and you’re welcomed in.”
That’s why she doesn’t only provide gluten-free products; she also tries to steer clear of some of the top allergens used in baking.
“Everything’s gluten free that I do, but I also try to take out dairy, because that’s one of the top eight allergens and a lot of people have that dual combo that they have to avoid,” Klebba said.
On a Monday night, Klebba welcomed myself and HER photographer Claire Hassler into the Capital City Christian Church commercial kitchen, where she bakes her commercially available items. Those sold in farmer’s markets face fewer health code restrictions and can be baked out of her home kitchen. Klebba began making batter for her banana nut bread, which is gluten and dairy free, as well as absent any refined sugar. In addition to using sweeteners like maple syrup or honey, she uses a mixture of brown rice flour and almond flour to substitute for all-purpose flour in this recipe.
When she first started baking, Klebba found a bread recipe on Pinterest and started tweaking from there. Though she does use some already established recipes, many of her goods are from recipes she has created through trial and error.
“With gluten-free stuff or with dairy-free stuff, there’s so much that goes into it with moisture or with rise, to get something to rise,” she said, describing how gluten helps ingredients stick together. “There’s all these different things that you learn.”
Most of her orders are through Facebook, where many of her customers find her. Klebba said the farmers markets and other referrals are how she gets the rest of her business. She’s also had some local shops carry her products — you can find Welcome Home goods at Three Story Coffee on Dunklin Street. She used to sell desserts at Prison Brews, where she used to waitress, and made breads for the Green Leaf Cafe, as well as another coffee shop in California, Missouri.
“I’m always trying to form new relationships,” Klebba said.
Klebba used to take samples of her baked goods to different stores as a way of trying to partner with different local businesses. But she stopped hitting the pavement while she was pregnant with her now 5-month-old son.
“He’s a really good baby,” Klebba said of her son. “He’s really good about chilling while I’m baking.”
For now, Klebba said she is taking things as they come in business. She said she never thought she would be running a business like this, not even just three years ago, so she’s going to see how things go and progress naturally.
“This thing all started on a whim,” Klebba said. “I’m open to whatever the future is.”
By the time we were wrapping up, both Claire and I starting to gather our things, Klebba’s banana nut bread was out of the oven, steaming as she took them out of their silicone molds. She took one loaf and sliced two thick pieces, one for each of us.
As I walked out of Capital City Christian into the cool, crisp evening air, I took a bite. It was as good as it smelled.
You can find Welcome Home at facebook.com/
-1 cup boiling water
-1 chai tea packet (I use Tazo brand)
-3 eggs (separated)
-2 tbl coconut oil (melted)
-1/2 cup pure maple syrup
-1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 and 1/2 cup brown rice flour
-1/2 cup almond flour
-2 tsp cardamom
-1 tsp pink salt
-1 tsp baking soda
1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.) Boil water and steep chai for 3 minutes.
3.) Separate egg whites from yolks, adding yolks to the steeped tea in a medium bowl. Froth egg whites and set aside.
4.) Combine remaining wet ingredients in medium bowl and mix well, adding in egg whites last.
5.) In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk together. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir to combine.
6.) Pour batter into a large loaf pan and bake for 35-45 minutes (depending on how heat efficient your oven is).
7.) Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan.