Banana Bread (Ridiculously Good)

 

Ohhhh, I may have eaten a whole loaf. In my defense, Chef Ben made two small loaves...so it wasn't that big.

In preparing for yet another snow day home with three kids today, my loving hubby asked me if there was anything I wanted him to make for me...meaning, something specifically gluten free/dairy free that would be extra enjoyable. I thought about it and had an overwhelming craving for either banana bread or pumpkin bread. I don't discriminate, I love all breads. Sweet breads, savory breads, seeded breads...banana, pumpkin, lemon and poppy seed. I can go on and on. I LOVE BREAD. But having to abandon gluten has left me with a frequent longing for all things bread-y. Today, it was specifically for that slightly sweet, spongy-textured, warm, fruit-or-veggie-infused-kinda-bread. So he obliged...cause he kinda loves me <3 

I don't know how he does it. But it was amazing...every slice. Baked to perfection. He has this way of creating flavors that are elusive. You can never quite pin point the flavors you experience, or the balance between them....you just know they're so very enjoyable and you want more. 

I hope you all enjoy it as much as we did. Yeah, our kids love it too. And those almost bad bananas were transformed into something wonderful instead of meeting a tragically wasteful fate in the garbage. 

 

 
 

Ridiculously Good Banana Bread (Gluten and Dairy Free)

Ingredients

  • 4oz - or 1 stick Softened Non-Dairy Butter (we use sticks of Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks*Can use regular unsalted butter if non-dairy is not a requirement for you.
  • 7 oz Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 4 Mashed Bananas (use very ripe bananas. You know, the ones your kids won't eat because they're 'almost bad'. We also find that organic bananas are creamier and better tasting)
  • 7 1/2 oz Gluten Free flour (while Chef Ben uses his own blend, it's base, and our recommendation for ready to use flour would be Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free Baking Flour, available most local grocery stores)
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract (while Chef Ben now makes his own vanilla extract, we prefer Nielsen Massey's Madagascar Vanilla for off the shelf vanilla - but any pure vanilla extract will work)
  • 2 tbs confectioner's sugar (set aside to dust final product)

Directions

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes on medium.

Add eggs one at a time while mixing on medium.

Add bananas and mix 20-30 seconds on medium.

Add dry ingredients slowly while mixing on medium/low until incorporated.

Add vanilla and mix only until the vanilla is combined into batter. 

Pour batter into loaf pan(s)

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes (until toothpick comes out clean from center)

Once completely cooled, use a strainer or sifter to dust top of loaf.

ENJOY!

 

Gluten and Dairy Free Cookies - Oh My!

Well, as promised, below is the recipe for Gluten Free / Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. This was Chef Ben's first go at the cookie so we were not sure how they would bake, feel or taste. I am pleased to say, they're a keeper!

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Now, I haven't had a cookie since we were still in Thailand. Had I of know it would be the last time I ate a traditional chocolate chip cookie, I would have savored it a little more. For many, 3 or 4 weeks without a particular cookie isn't a big deal...but a lot of you know that I started my work days with Chef Ben's House Cookies. Every morning as I set things up for the day, I had my cookie before I opened the shop. It's just what I did. So I haven't been able to do that now that I have to steer clear of gluten as well as dairy (and believe me, there's still been house cookies floating around our house, even though the shop is closed. It's not like the goodies went away as well). Oh the joy in my taste buds as these medallions of satisfaction came hot out of the oven looking just like the cookies I've grown so fond of! Great news...they are absolutely delicious too! 

 

Chef Ben's House Cookie (Gluten and Dairy Free)

Ingredients

  • 340 grams Gluten Free flour (while Chef Ben uses his own blend, it's base, and our recommendation for ready to use flour would be Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free Baking Flour, available most local grocery stores)
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 8oz Non-Dairy Butter (we use sticks of Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks) *Can use regular unsalted butter if non-dairy is not a requirement for you.
  • 160 grams Granulated Sugar
  • 160 grams Brown Sugar
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract (while Chef Ben now makes his own vanilla extract, we prefer Nielsen Massey's Madagascar Vanilla for off the shelf vanilla - but any pure vanilla extract will work)
  • 1 1/2 cups of non-dairy chocolate chips or chunks...2 cups if you like them extra chocolaty. Note: We recommend using bittersweet chocolate, but you can also use semi-sweet if you like your cookies extra sweet. (Callebaut is our recommended chocolate, but Guittard is a great non-dairy option that will be available at most stores)

Directions

*Note: It's going to seem like a long process because of the rest times, but it's worth it. Cookie dough freezes incredibly well, so you only have to make the dough once in a while!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 for convection) 

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt - set aside

Using stand mixer with paddle attachment, add both sugars and mix on low speed until incorporated (15-20 seconds)

Slice each stick of refrigerated butter into 8 pieces (total of 16) and add all butter to sugar mixture. Mix on medium speed until creamed and incorporated (approximately 1 minute). *Note: You should not be able to see and butter or sugar chunks once properly creamed

Add 1 egg, mix only until incorporated and then add second egg, mixing only until incorporated and then add the vanilla and mix for 5 seconds. 

Turn mixer down to low speed and add approximately 1/3 of flour mixture only until incorporated. Add another 1/3 of flour mixture until incorporated, and add final 1/3 of flour mixture until incorporated. *There will no longer be visible signs of flour once incorporated.

Stop mixer. Add chocolate chips and mix on low for 5-10 seconds. 

Remove dough and scrape bowl onto plastic wrap. Wrap securely (2-3 wraps) to ensure it's well wrapped and protected from air. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. 

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Once refrigerated, use ice cream scooper to dish cookie dough onto parchment paper. Average ice cream scooper will yield approximately 20 cookies (2.5 oz each). Fold parchment over dished dough, wrap in plastic and place in freezer for a minimum of 2 hours. *We recommend making a lot of dough so you can keep ready to bake cookies in your freezer for months at a time.

You will know your cookies are ready to bake when they are firm to the touch. *Note: If you bake your cookies before they are firm, they will spread more when baking and you will end up with a thinner, crispier cookie)

Line cookie sheet with parchment and place cookie dough evenly on sheet with 3 inches between each cookie. Bake for 7 minutes, rotate tray 180 degrees and bake an additional 6-7 minutes. 

Remove sheet pan and allow to cool for 10 minutes. 

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Using a spatula, move cookies to a wire cooling rack to complete cooling process. 

Note: You may enjoy warm gooey cookies which will make your cookies ready to eat after the initial cooling time. We recommend allowing the cookie to cool completely in order to fully enjoy the texture of Chef Ben's House Cookie. 

ENJOY!

Bittersweet...Not Just Chocolate

Hello Sweeties! We have some big, probably not so exciting news to share. There’s some important information scattered throughout so please read all we have to say.

This coming Wednesday, the 14th of February will be our final business day at House of Sweetness. I know I know, “but why?”… “I thought things were going well”… “where am I supposed to get my cupcake fix or weekend cinnamon rolls???” All very good questions. The truth is that our first year was amazing. You have all been very good to us and we’ve enjoyed it so much. Some of you know that the current ‘version’ of House of Sweetness is what we’ve been referring to as Phase 1, which was only supposed to be open for 9-12 months at the most, while we prepared for Phase 2 (a much larger shop with on-site kitchen, classroom, coffee service, seating and regular hours). Well, we simply aren’t ready for Phase 2. And through much prayer, our vision for Phase 2 is rapidly evolving into something much different than we originally imagined.

So why close? There are quite a few reasons, but we’ll list a couple of the key factors:

As mentioned above, this shop was never intended for long term business. It’s not the most efficient way to operate a bakery/cake shop. It limits our production capacity which limits our hours and menu. It’s not what our vision is and we would rather press pause for a bit to really focus on the next steps rather than forcing this to continue.

Obedience and faith. Not typically part of a business plan, we know. But we are striving to run our business differently. As we’ve come to realize that our desires in a business are different than what we’ve established, we’ve had to ask ourselves why stay open? Do we stay open to make money? Well we’ve been blessed with other means of financial provision, so that’s not a good enough reason. Do we stay open because common sense says don’t close the doors on one successful business until you’re ready to open the doors on the next? Well the Bible teaches us to not lean on our own understanding. So even though this doesn’t make much sense, we’ve been saturated in prayer for wisdom over the recent months and this is the conclusion we’ve come to…with a tremendous amount of joy and peace to boot! So yeah. God said close, even though we can’t see the next steps, so we will close and embrace the journey, because if you knew the details of our journey thus far...you would understand why we can walk boldly in faith in such a way.

What will Phase 2 be and why aren’t you ready? As our vision for the next step is changing, our purpose and mission statement is changing. We can’t possibly move forward with phase 2 if we don’t have a clear vision of what it will be. But we know that we love cooking and baking, we have discovered a love for teaching, we have found new motivation to explore healthier baking alternatives, we are passionate about serving Mango Tree Coffee one day, and we absolutely want Phase 2 to be a business structured around and for the purpose of glorifying God and ministering to the needs of others. So these are big steps from where we are now… just focusing on custom cakes and cupcakes while offering a feel good experience to our customers is good, but we desire something extraordinary, and we are discovering a new plan placed inside our hearts that is growing into just that.

 

What do you mean by healthier baking? We want to feel good about what we’re selling people, and having healthier options has become an important factor. And, in recent weeks, my body has decided that many of the food ingredients I’ve eaten my entire life are enemies and I have had to eliminate all nuts, gluten, and dairy from my diet. Perhaps one day this will go away as quickly as it came on; but in the meantime…it's motivating to find new recipes. Even though we once had a gluten free and dairy free menu, we have not had a facility safe for avoiding cross contamination. So we are taking this into consideration as we ponder a future menu and facility. We would love to offer delicious products that include organic ingredients, sugar free ingredients, and allergen free goodies. So stay tuned for posts and videos on new recipes and tips as we see what we can come up with along the way!

So you’re just going to close and that’s it? Yes and no. We are going to close our store, but our interaction with the community is one of the most important and most enjoyable parts about what we do. So we are working on ways to stay connected. Continue to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for videos and posts as mentioned above. We are working on different baking and decorating classes that we can host for kids and/or adults to attend. Who wouldn’t love to learn how to make our Saturday Morning Cinnamon Rolls? Or decorate fabulous cupcakes!

Big news! You definitely want to stay tuned in to our social media pages because we have some exciting news in store for this spring. Believe me, you won’t want to miss this announcement.

I gave someone a gift certificate, now what? If you or someone you know has a HOS gift certificate, please be sure to stop by in the next few days to use it. We don’t want anyone to miss out on enjoying that gift. Saturday 9am-4pm, Tuesday 12pm-4pm, and Wednesday 11am-7pm.

Why such short notice? A few things factored in to our announcement. One was that this is a huge decision and the obedience we mentioned earlier, doesn’t always come instantly. We’ve been wrestling with this decision for some time and the strength to take this step came shortly before we left on our trip to Thailand. Another factor is my heart…even the past two days have been heartbreaking to have people tell us how happy they are that we’re back and how they missed us and couldn’t wait until we reopened etc. My heart could not handle the interaction with all of you for a prolonged period of time after making this announcement (a little selfish, but necessary). So we decided that we would go out with a bang. Valentine’s day is a busy and happy day, and we’d like to end this chapter on a high note.

A message to you from Team Sweetness: Thank you for your incredible support Sweeties. We never could have imagined the warm embrace we have steadily received from our community over the past 15 months. You warm our hearts regularly, and this has been an incredible journey that we’ve enjoyed sharing with you. We have made mistakes, and we’ve learned so much from them. We’ve learned our limitations in many areas and we’ve exceeded our own expectations of what we could accomplish in other areas. We’ve learned what we love about this business and what we don’t. We’ve come to know many of you and your families and that’s a beautiful thing. Above all, we’ve learned to acknowledge each and every day that we’ve been able to sustain our little House of Sweetness because of God. He’s given us every gift and ability and opportunity that has been essential for running this shop. And we have faith that He will grow our gifts and abilities and prepare new opportunities to use them in even bigger ways, for an even bigger purpose.

Love,

Amber and Ben Cooper

Updates and Hours

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Hello Sweeties!
We saw that many of you made it out to the Yankee Doodle Parade, which was great.  The parade was a lot of fun and we loved having so many stop by for goodies.

We have some changes this week and moving forward…

SPECIAL HOURS THIS WEEK (September 26-30)
Chef Ben and I have some exciting business to tend to, which will keep us out of the kitchen this week. Because we are a small team, we are scaling back on our days and hours to ensure that Chef Sarah can provide you with a fresh and delicious variety each day.

TUESDAY/WEDNESDAY – Closed
THURSDAY - SATURDAY - 12pm-4pm
*If you already have a scheduled pick up outside of the days/hours listed above, not to worry, we will be there as promised!

CINNAMON ROLLS: We will not have cinnamon rolls this Saturday :( I know, I know…be sure to order yours for the following week!

PACKAGING: We are pleased to announce that we are finally getting rid of all of that prepackaging! That’s right. If you stopped by during Yankee Doodle, you got to see how lovely the cookies and cupcakes looked in the display case on trays rather than in containers. This also means that we will have the ability to fill and frost cupcakes to order if needed in larger quantities. While we always encourage ordering ahead, our ability to accommodate day before and even same day orders will significantly improve! Writing on cakes, special sprinkles for cupcakes, last minute fondant toppers (limited variety) etc... More improvements to come…stay tuned.
 
Have a sweet week,
-Team Sweetness

Baking In Thailand

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Talk about out of the comfort zone. Two not-so well traveled bakers heading to the Southern part of Thailand for 10 days to help teach teens how to bake...let's just run this to the top of the not-within-comfort-zone chart. But you know what...extending love to children, seeing the tangible efforts of MANNA Worldwide first hand (school, meals, activities), giving the teens an opportunity to learn a trade skill that can change their lives forever...well let's just run that to the top of the greatest-privilege-to-be-a-part-of chart and suddenly my comfort zone just doesn't really matter so much.
If you are not familiar with MANNA Worldwide, then you don't look around our shop a whole lot! If you did, you'd see the canvas on the wall of the sweet little Mongolian girl. That particular canvas holds dear to our hearts because Chef Ben and I have been supporting a project in the middle of the Gobi Desert through our church. To know that there's an entire orphanage of kids that is fed, clothed, educated, and given hope because of the efforts of one small New England congregation...well it's amazing to feel in some way a part of that. If you look around our shop, you would also find coffee bags! What New Englander doesn't drink coffee?? While we don't brew coffee (yet), we sell it for two reasons: We love a product we can stand behind, and not only is Mango Tree Coffee the only coffee we drink in our home, but it's also the coffee we use in our chocolate recipe. The other reason is that 100% of MTC proceeds are sent to MANNA Worldwide to feed children all around the world. Now that's a coffee worth drinking. In case you're wondering, we are not actually affiliated to MANNA or MTC in any way other than how we support them and try to share information about their efforts so that others can get on board and help change lives. If you stop by this week, you will also notice some tee shirts and coffee mugs! We just added those. Another fun fact about what we sell at our store...we charge what it costs us to purchase and ship the items in. That's it. We don't make any profit from selling MTC products. Our thought is that Mango Tree is already sending the proceeds to good work, so we just want to get the products out there.
 

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Now that you have a little insight on the connection between the products in our store and MANNA Worldwide, and between MANNA and us, back to Thailand. The project we will be heading to at the end of January 2018 currently ministers to about 240 Burmese children by providing two meals a day and an education. Because they are refugees who's parents work in Thailand, they are not able to attend the Thai schools. In addition to feeding and educating the Burmese children, this particular project is also providing 1 meal a day for approximately 80 Thai children. I believe sometime last year the facility received a donation to demo their previous kitchen and construct a commercial kitchen with the plan to teach baking as a trade skill. Well Chef Ben and I just so happened to share a meal with Ryan and Kim Jones who are MANNA missionaries to Asia, and while getting them caught up on our transition from military to bakery, Ryan connected the dots and invited us to join the team travelling to Thailand. I have to tell you how cool the timing was...Chef Ben and I literally had a conversation 24 hours prior about how we want to be able to support global efforts through our bakery, but that we don't have any skills to offer in the mission field so our support would have to be financial only. Well didn't our lunch conversation just knock our oven mitts right off! Go to Thailand to teach teens how to bake?

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 We couldn't be more excited or feel more privileged. 'Give a man a fish, feed him for a day...teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime'. So that's what we're going to do! As we have more details along the way we will post updates. When we travel, we will certainly document the experience and share with all of you.
 

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If feeding kids is something you are passionate about, I encourage you to explore MANNA Worldwide. One of the many things we love about this organization is that they are sending about 92 cents on the dollar to the kids. Because they work with so many missionaries who are supported by local congregations and fundraising, MANNA keeps their administrative costs down which allows more funds to get to the kids. If this project in Thailand is particularly interesting to you, I can tell you that they are in need of additional funding. The number of children they are reaching is growing which requires more funds for food. They are also hoping to add another meal for the kids each day. What would it take to lock in another meal for these kids? About 40 people committing to send $30/month or 80 committing $15/month...all commitments make a difference. I would love to get there in January and find out there's an extra meal to help with each day because suddenly people committed their support. If you would like to donate to this specific project, you can do so by entering MANNA Kitchen CDC (76250) in the Designating - Other section. We're not trying to pitch a hard sell or talk you into something.  Chef Ben and I are just really passionate about these efforts and want to use all of our resources to get people on board too. Perhaps you support other organizations..awesome! We just know that not a whole lot of people know about MANNA and the work they're doing. I will say that MANNA doesn't share your information with people, they don't hound you, and they are so good with updates and information. Ryan Jones has provided answers to countless questions I've had about the kids in Thailand, I love it. There are also ways to get involved hands on with the missions trips. 

Thanks for reading, 

-Team Sweetness

 

We Have A Winner!

 Key Lime Cupcake with Graham Cracker Bottom, Key Lime Curd Filling, Key Lime Cream Cheese Buttercream and Graham Cracker Crumbs!

Key Lime Cupcake with Graham Cracker Bottom, Key Lime Curd Filling, Key Lime Cream Cheese Buttercream and Graham Cracker Crumbs!

Congratulations to Susan McLay who's cupcake submission has be chosen as September's Flavor of the Month!  What flavor did she suggest? KEY LIME CUPCAKE! Chef Ben has made a key lime cupcake with graham cracker bottom. It's filled with key lime curd and topped with key lime cream cheese buttercream and graham cracker crumbles. Sound limey? It is! It's a perfect balance of zest and sweet, and it's the perfect way to hang on to summer as we ease into fall in the coming weeks. There will be plenty available starting TODAY! I know Susan will be enjoying her complimentary dozen this weekend. 
 


Here's to a great summer!

-Teamsweetness  

How We Do Cinnamon Rolls

 
 

Warm, delicious cinnamon rolls don't just happen you know. There's a process that has to take place: ingredients...timing...love. And Chef Ben loves making cinnamon rolls

It all starts with fresh eggs, sugar, Chef's flour blend (using King Arthur flour), some fresh yeast and perfectly heated milk.

Into the mixer it goes on Friday afternoons, to prepare the dough! It's done mixing when you can see through it when stretched.
 

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After the dough is created, it gets separated and kneaded (strong hands required!). Those modest sized dough lumps rest in their own bowls until expanded.

How does Chef Ben know when they're ready? Well, I've noticed that when they're bursting upwards and protruding above the bowl rim...he usually says it's time to 'punch them down'...as in...time to punch the dough right in the center, re-knead and let rest yet again. 

When the lazy dough is done resting...again...one ball of dough at a time, they are rolled out into massive sheets of dough, brushed with butter, and sprinkled with cinnamon & brown sugar (sometimes pecans).
 

They are then carefully rolled into logs and sliced to the perfect thickness.

These unbaked cinnamon rolls sleep overnight in refrigeration and are brought out to proof in the early early morning, every Saturday! They slowly rise and expand as they come to the optimum temperature for softness. Into the oven they go!

Right out of the oven, they go on a rack while the frosting is prepared (traditional or maple). Chef Ben pipes that sweet goodness all over the hot cinnamon rolls and then smooths the frosting over every inch to ensure proper coverage in every bite! Voila! Cinnamon Rolls.
 

 

From oven to our 9am store opening is usually just under 1 hour. Doesn't get much fresher than that! The boxes are still warm when we open! But some Saturdays, they do sell fast, so always best to pre-order your box(es)!

 

ENJOY!

-Team Sweetness

Sweet Deals

FLAVOR OF THE MONTH

Have you been dreaming of a cupcake with your own creation of flavors? Well we want to know what you'd like to try. Stop by and place your suggestion in the jar (no purchase required).

We will be collecting suggestions through August 26th, and  will announce the winner on September 1st when we add the new flavor to our menu!

What does the winner get? You mean other than the thrill of creating a fantastic new flavor? How about a dozen of their newly created signature cupcakes! 


MANGO TREE COFFEE GIVEAWAY

Enter to win with any online or in-store purchase! Just select e-receipt at checkout.
What are we giving away? A Mango Tree Coffee (MTC) Tee Shirt, Bag of whole bean or ground MTC Cafe Roast coffee, box of Callebaut Chocolate Bits House Cookies and a Variety Pack of Six Signature Cupcakes(Over $65 Value!)


FLASH SALE

Did you know we've had a 1 hour flash sale two Saturdays in a row? Didn't get the coupon? Here's how to get in on the sweet savings!

Step 1: Be sure you are subscriber to our weekly newsletter.

Step 2: Don't forget to follow us on TwitterInstagram and/or Facebook to be sure you find out what time our Flash Sale will be.

We've had people in each Saturday stocking up on sweet treats at 50% off their entire purchase...don't miss out! 

Have a sweet week! 

-Team Sweetness