Last week I got a visit from Sarah Thieben, owner of Sweet Nothings. She brought over a sampling of all of her sea salt toffees, as well as Platinum Brownies, Highlander Grogg Bundt Cake, and Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies. After chatting with Sarah, I realized her story may not be wildly different than a lot of folks who decide to go into business for themselves. She worked a regular 9 to 5 like most of us, found a new passion and pursued it. That said, her take on why she bakes the way she does stand out to me - putting an end to mediocrity. Sarah is a self-admitted perfectionist and texture fanatic, and has owned up to baking dozens of cakes until the texture and taste are nothing short of flawless. I love her theory: "If one is going to indulge, the experience should be so exquisite, the ingredients so good, that it eradicates later regret." After sampling her wares, I can verify that she is 100% not bullshitting about this.
I very rarely pat people on the back for being completely original, but this is one of those rare occasions. All of her baked goods tasted like nothing I'd ever had before. I was most excited about trying the Sea Salt Toffee. The Dark Chocolate Cashew was definitely my favorite.
Huge, whole cashews enveloped in this wonderfully sweet & salty toffee, then topped with a thin coating of dark chocolate. I know some of you are still skeptical about salt in your sweets, but here are two things to consider:
- unless you're baking at home, chances are, every baked good you've ever had has been made with a fair amount of salt.
- Why? Because salt brings out and emphasizes sweetness, dummy.
When you amp the salt up just a tiny bit, it really punches up all of the other flavors.
She also uses sea salt as a feature ingredient in the amazing Platinum Brownies. I'm a big brownie fan, but I'm pretty particular. I don't like them too fudgy or too cakey, and I always prefer the corner pieces. The Sweet Nothings website has a description of these treats that claims to end the eternal debate between fudgy and chewy - and it actually does. Each brownie is a perfect balance of texture, with deep, rich chocolate flavor, a reasonable slathering of buttercream icing in top, and just a hint of pink Himalayan sea salt. Sarah mentioned that she considers it a cardinal sin to make something that looks better than it tastes. So, they're not all tarted-up like a DLM Killer Brownie or those frosting-drowned monstrosities from Ele. They're simple, and they're delicious.
To me, those two were the stars of the show, but the cake and cookies were not to be outdone. The Highlander Grogg bundt cake captures the deep caramel notes and slight booziness of the coffee bean without being overpowering. I had a few bites with my morning coffee, but quickly learned it paired up a lot better with a glass of cold milk.
The Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies were almost too pretty to eat, which is something I've never uttered before. Every time I've heard someone say "That just looks too pretty to eat," I always look at them like they just said "That free money is just too fun to spend!" But, dude...
These cookies were the only item that even slightly hinted at something I've had before. Between the density given by the cream cheese and the touch of almond flavor, these are a little reminiscent of some short breads I've tasted. But, I've certainly never seen a short bread cookie all fancied up in poured fondant like these little beauties. And even as good as they look, they still taste even better than they look.
Sweet Nothings' prices are very reasonable for what you're getting. Sarah is incredibly passionate about supporting other area business and uses all locally sourced items in her baking - so yes, they're more than what you'd pay at Kroger. As far as sweets go, I've paid a lot more and gotten a lot less in terms of quality. I linked to her website above, but that's not the only place you can find her goods. She has a booth at the Webster Street Market most days of the week, and February 13-14, she'll be doing a pop-up bakery inside Get Dressed! Boutique on Far Hills in the Shops of Oakwood. You can even pre-order any items you want through the website and choose "pop up bakery" as the shipping method and she'll have them ready for you. She'll also have some unique items just for those two days.
When I get samples from big vendors, the FTC requires that I disclose that I received the items for free - so I'll do the same thing here. If I receive free product and don't like it, I'll make no concessions about telling you it sucked. Again, I don't get paid for any of this blog business, and free snacks aren't enough to make me mislead my readers. In the same vein, I also want you to know when certain products are well worth the money.
What I'm saying is, do yourself a favor and check out Sweet Nothings. And fellas, if you have a gal or a wife that isn't psychotically obsessed with calorie counting, any of the SN treats would make a great Valentine's Day gift. I'd choose them over flowers any day.