Cookies That Do You Good

I recently discovered Sweet Loren’s, a brand of cookie dough available in most grocery stores. What caught my attention was that these were whole grain, dairy-fee, with no artificial flavors, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Finally, a cookie that won’t weigh you down and feels good to the tastebuds! What’s more unique is the story of Loren Brill, Founder & CEO of Sweet Loren’s, an enterprising young woman who herself survived cancer and wanted to make a change in how people eat. Read my interview with Brill below…

loren-with-package2What inspired you to start Sweet Loren’s?

I was inspired to start Sweet Loren’s after overcoming cancer at a young age, searching for ways to satisfy my sweet tooth with ingredients I felt good about. When I couldn’t find any delicious cookies in stores that had tasted great and had the ingredients I wanted, I realized I was going to have to make my own. So, I started to make my own recipes like a crazy scientist. Soon, my younger sister, who was my taste tester, agreed that these were the best cookies she’d ever had. Neighbors and friends started to order them, and that’s when I realized that the world was starving for better-for-you sweets and snacks. I knew we were in a different world than when I was a kid, a world where we are much more educated about how important food is to our health & well-being. I became inspired to find a way to share these recipes with as many people as possible, and making it easy for anyone to bake fresh cookies in their own homes. I started Sweet Loren’s with a mission to Change the Way America Bakes.

Did you have any background in baking/ food business?

I worked at Levain Bakery in NYC for several years and that is where I fell in love with baking and the way delicious baked goods make people feel. I was also a waitress for a long time to make money in the summers and that’s where I learned a lot about customer service. I attended classes at The Natural Gourmet Institute and completed The New School’s Master Class in Cooking before starting Sweet Loren’s. Mainly though, I just tweaked recipes until they tasted homemade and decadent, but were only made from real, whole food ingredients.

How did you start?

In 2010 I was managing a small restaurant in NYC, and was miserable. I knew I was an entrepreneur who wanted to change the world and make it better in some way. I entered a baking contest because my friends kept pushing me to and I had binders of recipes that I wanted people to try. I won the contest and the judge came up to me and said “You have to do something with this.” That’s when a light bulb went off in my head and I knew that I was meant to start Sweet Loren’s. So, I quit my job the next month. I lived at home at the age of 26 and emailed anyone and everyone I knew. I took a business writing course to figure out how I wanted to start Sweet Loren’s — a bakery? baking mix company? cookie dough? the possibilities were endless. A guy named Cory in my class worked at Whole Foods. He set me up with a meeting with the buyer before I had an actual packaged product. I took the meeting to understand the needs of Whole Foods, and they put in an order the next day for cookie dough. I remember crying on the call because that’s when I knew I had a real business. I immediately started calling factories nearby that could help me make the cookie dough so I could be the only one to sell it and run the rest of the business. I found the factory, and a month after launching in Whole Foods, I won a contest and the people’s choice award for The Next Big Small Brand for Culinary Genius. I got national press because of winning that contest and that’s when I started to get emails from people around the country, in every state, saying they were pressed for time but wanted homemade tasting, all natural, delicious cookies at home and would buy Sweet Loren’s if it was sold near them. That’s when I realized that I had a lot of work to do in order to make as many people happy with our products to make sure there was a natural option for them.

What are some of the challenges you faced?

How to get our story and product out there! We now are sold in over 4,000 supermarkets. This is very exciting but we are still small compared to the big brand names on the shelf. We need as many people as possible to be part of our community and help us figure out what other products they would like to see. Our goal is to unify as many people as possible that have a sweet tooth but want to have clean ingredients in their food. We want to keep you happy and healthy with our products!

Do you have a proud moment you want to share with our readers?

A proud moment was when Hoda Kotb of the Today Show picked Sweet Loren’s as one of her favorite things. She brought me on the show and interviewed me. Plus, she and Kathy couldn’t stop eating the cookies. It was so adorable and amazing that I almost had to catch myself from smiling too much. I feel very lucky that we’ve had support from amazing people – it has shown me that your wildest dreams can come true if you work hard and stay passionate.

How is Sweet Loren’s different from other cookies/ sweets found in health food stores?

Sweet Loren’s is very different than any other dough! It is the only better-for-you cookie dough on the shelf that is 100% whole grain, non-dairy, and made with no artificial flavors/colors, corn syrup or trans fat. We are award winning and have tons of delicious recipes on our website that you can make using our cookie dough too. Nothing is better than a warm cookie – and now you can make just one or two with our convenient place & bake packaging!

Where can consumers purchase Sweet Loren’s? 

Customers can find our products in supermarkets across the country in the refrigerated dairy aisle. We can be found in bright pink packaging in all Kroger’s, Publix, Harris Teeter, The Fresh Market, Wegman’s, Hannaford, Whole Foods (northeast and south pacific), and many more. Just put your zip code in our easy store locator on our website and you can find the closest store to you!

What advice would you give to someone who is an aspiring food entrepreneur?

The advice I would give is to find a need in the marketplace and then focus on creating a really great product to fill that need – make your product the best out there. Surround yourself with the best A players and advisors so that you have a team to help fight this fight with you. It is not easy! So, you need a smart business plan, pricing plan, and great factory to help you make the product. Sweet Loren’s is proof that the next generation is looking for higher quality products they feel great about eating themselves and feeding their kids. Passion, hard work, and focus have been keys to success. If you’re passionate about food, it’s hard to find something else that makes you as happy. Lots of opportunity to build a great business, make progress in the food industry, and make a lot of people happy with a brand they can trust.

Do you have an idea for a food product or just started a food related business? If yes, share your story below…

Thai Chili Mango Chocolate Torte

Chef Nicholas Walker,  Executive Chef at the Cobb Galleria Centre made these delicious petit fours for Go Eat Give’s one year anniversary party, held last week at Three Sheets Lounge.  He brought over a 100 pieces in three flavors – Thai Chili and Mango, Blackberry Mousse Cake and Smoked Sea Salt Ganache with Whipped Marshmallow. While each of them had a very distinctive flavor, the mango was the biggest hit with the attendees. The bitterness of the chocolate against the fresh light mango mousse and a kick of the chili at the end, all together created a tango in the mouth.

Chef Walker was kind enough to share his secret recipe with you. Mangoes are available in stores now, so you can even make your own mango puree. If you try it at home, make sure to leave your comments for the chef.

Thai Chili Mango Chocolate Torte  — Petit Four

(makes 35-40 squares)

Mango Mousse

  • 4 cups Mango Puree
  • 2 each Thai Chili, split
  • 1 cup  Sugar
  • 12  Gelatin Sheets
  • 2 qt Heavy Cream

Mango Gel

  • 1 ¾ cup Mango Puree
  • ¾ cup Water
  • ½ cup Sugar
  • 2 sheets Gelatin

Chocolate Cake

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup  Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and lightly flour 18×26 sheet pan. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat well, then the buttermilk and vanilla.  Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt together right into your wet ingredients. Stir together with a spoon until well blended but do not over mix. Scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack.

To form Petit Four

  1. Using a sheet pan extender, layer chocolate cake. Let cool.
  2. Layer mousse- about 1” inch thick and smooth out with rubber spatula.
  3. Pour room temperature gel. Make gel while cake is cooling so you can pour it over the mousse it a liquid state.
  4. Allow to set at least 2-4 hours. Best results if allowed to rest overnight.
  5. Cut to desired size.

~ Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Nicholas Walker

Low-fat sugar-free panna cotta with raspberry compote

In my earlier post I shared a recipe for a heavy cream based panna cotta topped with mango coulis. Now, I will show you how to make a healthier version of this delicious dessert. It is great for people on diets and those looking to avoid sugar. It is actually a diabetic friendly recipe too.

Panna Cotta with blackberry compote (Serves 4)

  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons Splenda (or sugar substitute)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 packets powdered gelatin
  • 5 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch

Heat the milk, heavy cream and Splenda in a saucepan on medium heat. Once the sugar is dissolved, stir in the vanilla extract and gelatin. Remove from heat and set aside. Lightly oil four custard cups with cooking spray. Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into 4 prepared cups. Refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours. 

In another saucepan, heat the blackberries, 2 tablespoon Splenda and lemon juice. Bring to boil, then simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes till the blackberries dissolve into a paste. Slowly whisk in the corn starch and cook for 1 more minute until just blended. Remove from heat and cool completely before serving.

Before serving, remove the panna cotta from the bowls and transfer to serving plates by turning the bowl upside down. Pour generous heaps of the blackberry compote over each panna cotta serving. Garnish with mint sprigs and fresh blackberries. Serve and enjoy!

If you like this recipe, consider making a small donation to our nonprofit organization, Go Eat Give.

Blueberry-Honey Gelato

With 2 gallons of blueberries from picking at Roland Farms over the weekend, I have been contemplating how to put them to the optimal use. Over the next few days, I will be posting totally original and finger licking recipes using my fresh picked, pesticide free, for a good cause blueberries.

The first one is a honey-blueberry gelato. I love the taste of homemade gelato as it’s fresh, creamy and you know what’s in it. The gelato recipe below is actually much healthier than any ice cream you will ever come across. It is made with mostly milk (as oppose to cream), does not have eggs, and uses fresh honey and a lot of blueberries.

Honey-Blueberry Gelato

Makes 2 Quarts

Total Time: 5 hours (Prep: 1 hour, Inactive: 4 hours)

Ingredients: 

4 cups whole milk

½ cup heavy cream

5 oz sugar

1.2 oz corn syrup

1 oz skim milk powder

3 cups fresh blueberries

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

¼ cup honey

Equipment: 

Heavy bottom saucepan

Cooking thermometer

Rubber or wooden spatula

Blender or hand mixer

Mesh strainer

Medium glass bowl

Ice cream maker

Air tight freezer safe container

Directions:

Combine the milk and heavy cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan and place on medium heat. Attach a cooking thermometer to the pan. Cook stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 170F. The milk should not form any skin.

Add the sugar, corn syrup and skim milk powder. Blend until mixed well. Cook the liquid base for five more minutes maintaining the temperature at 170F.

Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath placing a medium glass bowl in it. Strain the prepared liquid gelato base into the glass bowl. Let chill completely. Cover and refrigerate for four hours.

Puree the blueberries using in an electric blender. Add the lemon juice. Blend the chilled liquid base with the blueberry puree. Add the honey and mix well. Pour into the ice cream machine and let it churn for 25 minutes (or as directed by your particular machine).

Transfer to an air tight, freezer safe bowl. Freeze at least four hours or overnight.