By Carol Deptolla of the Journal Sentinel

Years of restrictions on her diet led Susan Goulet to experiment in the kitchen, to focus on what she could eat instead of what she couldn't. That's now led to Blooming Lotus, a grain-free and dairy-free bakery due to open this month at 2215 E. North Ave.

While the Milwaukee area has gluten-free bakeries, this appears to be the only one to avoid grains altogether along with dairy, eggs and cane sugar.

Dave Schmidt, CEO of the Wisconsin Bakers Association, said some bakeries are gluten-free or reducing gluten, some are baking with alternative sweeteners, and some avoid dairy and eggs, but he’s not aware of any in Wisconsin that have embraced all those aspects at once.

Blooming Lotus may have found a niche, Schmidt said.

Goulet, who also operates the Milwaukee Yoga Center on N. Oakland Ave. in Shorewood, was always making crepes and souffles for dinner — her then-husband was half French — but that became impossible after her diagnosis of Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammation of the intestines, she said. 

She cut out grains, cane sugar and dairy to ease her symptoms and set about finding dishes that she still could serve at dinner parties, foods that everyone could enjoy.

Goulet had grown up with a sister whose diet was severely restricted because of food allergies. Her father died at 27 of complications from treating Crohn's, before medications to control the intestinal disease were available, and her sister and brother also were diagnosed with the condition.

Making breads and muffins without grains was a particular challenge.

"That became a kind of a quest for me," Goulet said. "How can I make something that has some texture to it, that isn't a brick."

She developed recipes for sweets, made crepes with bean flour. Goulet would bring baked goods to her yoga studo to share.

"People have been saying for a while now, 'Why don't you start a bakery?' " she said.

With about 9% of Americans suffering from diabetes, increased diagnosis in the U.S. of celiac disease and with more people eating fewer carbohydrates for general health reasons, the time was right to open Blooming Lotus, Goulet said.

The space that formerly was Love Handle sandwich shop has been redecorated, with a new tile floor, lighting, wainscoting and paint in a warm yellow.

Goulet said Blooming Lotus will open early for the convenience of employees at nearby Columbia St. Mary's Hospital: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. It could open around June 20, if all goes as planned.

Many of the items in the bakery case will be vegan, aside from honey seed cookies and the fresh lemonade. Blooming Lotus uses no dairy, eggs or cane or other processed sugar, making its own chocolate chunks from cocoa, cocoa butter and maple syrup; its flours are derived from nuts and seeds.

Goulet expects to have items such as muffins in pumpkin, banana and blueberry, biscotti such as fig-pistachio, chocolate brownie cupcakes with chocolate frosting, scones including apricot and dried cherry, rolls that have the texture of biscuits, focaccia and Irish soda breads, cookies including hazelnut sandies and chocolate chunk cherry, savory cookies it calls cocktail crisps, and truffles made from cocoa and dates. 

Prices will range from $1 for a cookie to $9 for quick-bread loaves; most muffins will be $2.50, rolls $1.75. Blooming Lotus will sell coffee and tea, hot or iced, in addition to lemonade; it will have a few tables for customers.

The bakery's number is 414-212-8010.