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Stay Amazed~ Sandy Solmon

La Dolce Vita

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Luc CookieI like to imagine early man’s first discovery of sweetness. Perhaps he saw honey dripping from a comb, or maybe his arrow pierced a tree and out dripped a sticky, delectable sap. He tasted the stuff and – eureka! What a transcendentally delightful experience that must have been. HazdaLike primates the world over, we humans are attracted to the flavor of sweet things and find them delightful, sometimes even…necessary. Dessert is a pleasurable and deeply satisfying treat beloved by every culture on the planet.

Maple Sap2We come by our desire for sweets honestly, for a sweet taste means sugar and sugar means energy and energy — back in our hunter-gatherer days — meant the difference between life and death. Our earliest ancestors didn’t know where the next meal was coming from, so it made sense to chow down on energy-dense foods when one could.Bananas2

Sweetness is a joy and a biological imperative – a “deep, deep ancient craving,” according to Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman, (think mother’s milk). It’s no accident we prefer ripe to unripe fruits, because ripe fruits are sweeter and easier to digest. And their seeds are mature enough to survive the trip through our alimentary canal and back on out to the good earth where the cycle can begin again. It’s also no accident we prefer sweet to bitter tastes, because our taste buds are designed to help us distinguish between sweet ripe food and bitter, sometimes harmful, even poisonous alkaloids. Way back when, it would have been a smart strategy to avoid bitter plants, just in case.

After all these years in the business of creating wonderfully decadent desserts, it never ceases to amaze me how often I am asked “how can you stay so thin, when you make such irresistible treats?” I often respond by pairing a profoundly simple line from In Defense of Food with my own homemade wisdom:

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants…” – Michael Pollan

“Followed guiltlessly by a luscious dessert, lovingly crafted from pure ingredients, like ours.” – Sandy Solmon

These two seemingly opposing points of view are perfectly compatible with my outlook on life; together, they are the underpinning of my personal approach to food and diet. When we eat well, but what we want and take our time of it — savoring each bite — it satisfies our deep, deep cravings and makes us happy. The irony of course is that when we choose to indulge, we tend not to overindulge. Ah, the mind’s conundrum! Big Apple PieIf you find yourself at Expo Milano 2015 – or at any one of the thousand locations where Sweet Street desserts are sold – have yourself a piece of Our Big Apple Pie. It’s mostly plants (wink, wink), with mounds of tart fresh crisp apples, cinnamon’d apple cider, and crunchy granola’d crumbs. Savor it guiltlessly, with gusto and perhaps a caffè. It’s La Dolce Vita!

Stay amazed,

signature     Judi Harvest Artist Judi Harvest has a passion for all things honey and I am passionate about the beauty and philosophic perspective of her work. This piece is part of my personal art collection, and reminds me each day of how precious the natural balance of our world is. The sculptor-painter-environmentalist has been creating artworks inspired by honeybees since 2006 when she learned about Colony Collapse Disorder and the massive, worldwide loss of honeybees. She decided to link her honey bee-inspired artworks to another group facing extinction, the glassmakers of Murano, Venice. “DENATURED: Honeybees + Murano” – a 2013 exhibition on the Grand Canal, at Scola dei Battioro e Tiraoro, Campo San Stae – began with Ms. Harvest creating a permanent honeybee garden on the grounds of the Linea Ariana glass factory, planting it with trees and flowers and establishing colonies of imported bees. She collected their honey, and packaged and displayed it at the gallery along with honeycomb textured glass sculptures she made in Murano. The post La Dolce Vita appeared first on Sweet Street Blog.

American Desserts, American Women

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Back in 1979 when I started Sweet Street, women were streaming into the workforce and out of the kitchen. America began eating out, and with a sudden shortage of chefs, the country needed prepared foods. Talk about “being in the right place at the right time.” In reincarnating myself from photojournalist to baker I found surprising acceptance in this male-dominated industry of food. It was somehow more okay for an entrepreneurial woman like me to bake my way to success (like Mom!) than try my hand at savory foods. It still makes me chuckle to think that 35 years later I’ve achieved international leadership in an industry I entered through the back door. It’s been an amazing journey, and there have been times I felt as if I were navigating an uncharted course, unwittingly begun with my dog-eared copy of Irma Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking. I launched this blog in part to ground me in my own history, but the process is opening up much bigger stories about the web of relationships that make what I do possible. As I looked into the history of American desserts, I discovered a beautiful story of women who channeled their prodigious energy and talents into making sweet, welcoming treats for people to enjoy. I’m proud to be part of their tradition.  xo~Sandy
American desserts bear the stamp of influences unique to this nation – a mostly rural lifestyle, where people ate what they grew on the vast and fertile land, and where literate women in the kitchen by necessity made simple meals. With no pasticceria down the block, Mom made apple pie, and this homey tradition continues to set American desserts apart from their fine and fancy European counterparts.Amelia Simmons1 As the 19th century came to a close, American ingenuity was about to change this terrain. Cross country rail and industrialization made convenience products like flour, sugar and baking powder, readily available to the home cook – think automated flour milling from inventor Oliver Evans, and affordable refined sugar, thanks to monopolist Henry Havermayer. Creativity bloomed in an increasingly urbanized culture enriched by the tastes and techniques of immigrants from every corner of the earth – including the Ghirardelli family, whose San Francisco factory, launched 160 years ago, makes them America’s oldest continuously operating chocolate makers. Milan Product Group Shot (2) At Food Truck Nation, Sweet Street Desserts will offer Expo visitors a delectable, true-blue sampling of desserts with a quintessentially American blending of tradition and innovation– plus a certain something of my own. Let’s take a look at four iconic examples. The Brownie Legend has it that, on the eve of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Bertha Palmer – wife of Palmer hotel owner Potter Palmer and president of the Ladies Board for Managers for the Fair – was tasked with creating a dessert appropriate for the boxed lunches served at the Women’s Pavilion. The brownie-like result, though not called a “brownie,” stands alongside other Columbian Exposition firsts including Cracker Jack, Shredded Wheat, Pabst Blue Ribbon and the Ferris Wheel. The first printed chocolate brownie recipe appeared in the 1906 edition of the Boston Cooking School Cook Book, by Fannie Merritt Farmer. According to Michael Krondl in Sweet Invention, the powerhouse known as “the mother of level measurement” recognized that “the scientific approach is best suited to dessert making, for it is in baking that the domestic scientist most closely resembles the chemist.” Ms. Farmer might recognize Sweet Street’s Peruvian Chocolate Brownie as a distant heir to her original creation, but I’m sure she would be astonished by its chewy, fudgy sophistication, and the faintly bitter edge to its deep, dark, intensely fruity taste. Chemistry and innovation never tasted so good. New York Cheesecake The 1st century Roman historian Cato wrote about a honeyed ricotta cake made to honor household spirits, but 21st century New Yorkers know that only New York Cheesecake – made with pure cream cheese, cream, eggs, and sugar – is the genuine article. The first requirement is not ricotta, Neufchatel or cottage cheese, but cream cheese, which was invented in 1872 by New York dairyman William Lawrence. “Philadelphia” became its brand name, after the city considered at that time to be the center of top quality food. It was Arnold Reuben who history credits with inventing the first cheesecake made with Philadelphia cream cheese, not to mention the Reuben sandwich. (I can’t help but wonder about Mrs. Reuben’s influence.) In 1929, Reuben served the cheesecake at his legendary Turf Restaurant at 49th and Broadway in New York City, and the rest is delicious. In my kitchen, we don’t argue with history. We innovate. We mix cream cheese, eggs and cream; slow-bake it to perfection in a graham crust; and then (here’s the magic) we hand-fire the top, creating a thin, dazzling crust, like on a crème brulee, whose unique flavor depth comes not from the showy sugar topping but from scorching the cream. Voila! Sweet Street’s Big Cheese Brulee. Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies America’s most popular cookie was invented in 1937 by Ruth Graves Wakefield, a dietician and home economics teacher who, with her husband, Kenneth, ran the Toll House Restaurant south of Boston. Some accounts describe the cookie as an accident, bits of chocolate having fallen into the mixer by mistake – or that she ran out of baking chocolate and substituted semi-sweet, thinking it would disburse. But Ruth was a meticulous chef, famed for her desserts and well-schooled in the ways of chocolate, and such carelessness is unlikely. History couldn’t possibly have minimized the contributions of a woman, could it?Toll House4 In any event, Ms. Wakefield broke up a candy bar of Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate (chips wouldn’t be invented until 1941) and called her creation “Toll House Crunch Cookies” – the crunchy bits were walnuts. As the popularity of the cookie soared, so did sales of Nestlé’s chocolate. She and Andrew Nestle agreed: Nestle would print the Toll House Cookie recipe on its package, and Wakefield got a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate. Invention didn’t stop at the Toll House, or with chocolate chips. We Americans mix all kinds of things in our cookie dough! Sandy’s Amazing Chocolate Chunk is bursting with chocolate morsels and topped with coarse pretzel salt, jaunty chocolate coins, and chunks of bitter-sweet, semi-sweet and creamy milk chocolate. And my Salted Caramel Cookie combines sweet and salty in an all-butter caramelized cookie mixed milky white chocolate, crisp pretzel bites, and crunchy Heath® toffee pieces. Marshmallow Rice Krispies Treat In 1939, two more lady food scientists – Mildred Day and Malitta Jensen – invented the Rice Krispie Treat in the Kellogg test kitchen by adding melted marshmallows and butter to the company’s brand new breakfast cereal. A request by the Camp Fire Girls for ideas for a fundraiser prompted a market test, and Americans have been enjoying the crunchy, gooey treat ever since. My Gluten-Free Marshmallow Bar with brown butter and sea salt is, shall we say, a more sophisticated version, and every bit as fun. Here’s to ladies in the kitchen!

Stay Amazed,

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Welcome to Luscious

By About Sweet Street, blog, Stay Amazed~ Sandy Solmon Comments Off on Welcome to Luscious
[Editor’s note– We’ve been posting about our delectable desserts for ages, but it’s time we let you hear directly from our Founder and CEO, Sandy Solmon. Just as our products have long been distinctive in the world of desserts, Sandy is becoming a distinctive voice in the wider and wilder world of food. Stay tuned as Sandy shares her thoughts on flavor and taste, innovation, chocolate, sourcing, additives, and the secret of life.] Back in the tumultuous early 1970s, in the quiet morning hour before dashing off to an assignment as a photojournalist in Berkeley, CalifornPhoto 2 Sandys Sour Creamia, I found almost mystical solace in making and serving my cinnamon swirled sour cream coffee cake. It was a touchstone then as it is now. My friends and I were young, footloose adventurers, but when we came together in my kitchen for much needed conversation and coffee, it was as if I’d brought ‘home’ to the table. Everything about that cake was grounding for me – the baking process, the aromas, the buttery crumb, and the way it reminded everyone of their grandmothers, only better. A few years later, in 1979, I founded Sweet Street Cookie Co., baking giant sharable cookies in a 2-bay garage and selling them in my little shop out of big glass jars. For me, this was a profoundly satisfying way to share my passion for all things delicious, and I like to think we’ve been making the world a sweeter place ever since, with our products now served in restaurants, cafes and hotels in 65 countries across the globe. I believe the pleasure we all get from sweet, luscious food should be honored with well-crafted treats made with honest ingredients and shared with people we love. Whether I’m mixing up a batch of nostalgia or pushing the boundaries of innovation, I have learned that desserts open doors, hearts, and conversations. Show up at a friend’s house with one of my desserts in hand and you’ll see what I mean. SSD Logo Horizontal The doors keep opening. As soon as the snow melts, we’ll fire up the motor on our Mobile Art Kitchen™ (M.A.K.™), an amazing phenomenon some might call a “food truck,” but we call it a collaboration of artists, videographers, chefs and bakers bringing American food to the streets of Paris and … Milan. Hi Res Sandy Truck Web (7)Yes, Milan. I’ll tell you more about our M.A.K. truck in a future post – and more than a few fantastic innovations – but it the meantime, we have some very big news: Sweet Street is joining the James Beard Foundation and other culinary illuminati in the USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015, where our desserts will be offered at Food Truck Nation. The Mobile Art Kitchen will be stationed on the streets of Milan to delight the locals, tourists and Expo visitors from May through October. Buon appetito!

Stay amazed,

signature P.S. I was so proud of the coffee cake I put my own name on it. The post Welcome to Luscious appeared first on Sweet Street Blog.