Four local entrepreneurs fulfill our growing desire for sweets.
by Mary Bailey
Romance inspired sisters Tammy and Alysia Lok to start handcrafting their own caramels. Tammy had tasted soft caramels on her honeymoon in Europe and, in one of those serendipitous moments, discovered that caramels were Alysia boyfriend’s favourite candy. Not just any caramel. We are talking hand-made caramels, soft not sticky, in several delicious flavours—butter, fleur de sel, Srirachi roasted almond (a sweet and spicy hit of flavour), smoked maple bacon and London Fog latte. I became a Caramia caramel addict after tasting the original butter and the Srirachi flavours.
The sisters aren’t kidding about the hand-made part. Anyone who has made caramel at home knows just how finicky it can be. The duo launched a Kickstarter campaign to help them purchase a candy-making machine dubbed Prince Charming Mix-a-Lot. This allows more control over the process for better batch consistency.
Where to find: the Downtown Farmers’ Market in City Hall, seasonal craft shows and at Swish Flowers. They do offer pre-orders (minimum 10 bags) at caramiacaramels.com and hope to have their online shopping set up soon.
Nougat, also called torrone or noutgatine, is a classic style of candy made with eggs, nuts and candied fruit, popular in southern France, Italy and Spain. Michelle Tobias developed a version of the old-school candy based on white, milk and dark chocolate and called it Newget. It’s handmade right here in Edmonton and there is nothing like it. Chewy, with bits of dried fruit and nuts in several flavours, it is terrific. Their number one seller is the salted caramel milk chocolate, followed closely by the Perfect Pear flavour (white chocolate, dried pear, pistachios) available during the holidays. I served both recently on a cheese board to a chorus of ‘more please!’
Where to find: Newget is available at the Downtown Farmers’ Market, at newget.ca, at seasonal craft shows and at several retailers: Bonton Bakery, Blush Lane, the Royal Alex and University Hospital gift shops.
Sugared & Spiced
Amy Nachtigall started selling her cookies at the Highlands Farmers’ Market. People loved them. Encouraged, Amy registered for the baking certificate program at NAIT, thinking maybe it would be possible to have a bakeshop, sometime. For three years Amy and her husband Jeff have offered their cookies, cakes and the popular Cake Club by special order online. Last year they made the plunge and participated in an ATB Alberta BoostR program to help fund 10 per cent of the cost of a storefront location. It was wildly oversubscribed. People love Amy’s baking.
The offerings are joyful and irreverent; her cakes completely suitable for a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. The cookies continue the fun with classic flavours such as chocolate chip and two over-the-top selections, the Man’s Man (peanut butter and bacon) and the Girl’s Night In—a sweet and salty concoction of caramel, chocolate, raspberry dessert wine with coarse salt.
Amy describes her baking as rustic. “Though we’re known for cakes, I never wanted to be a cake shop,” says Amy, “and we didn’t want to be a patissierie. We wanted to be a bakeshop. I want to do what I do and do it well.”
They will no longer have to share cramped rented kitchen space and will be able to offer more delicious things to eat—scones, danishes, macaron, more cookies and cupcakes and a bigger Cake Club. What won’t change is the small- batch, from-scratch baking.
The Nachtigalls are just signing off on a space near Whyte Avenue and hope to be open in late spring, sugaredandspiced.ca
Confetti Sweets started the local cookie revolution several years ago with a stand at the Sherwood Park Farmers’ Market. Cookie lovers couldn’t get enough of the jumbo soft cookie in the see-through bags with the clever handle, like a little purse. Soon Kathy Leskow had to create a commercial kitchen in the family’s basement to handle the demand. Then it was on to a production facility in Sherwood Park; now it’s three locations.
Kathy clearly understands the time she lives in. Confetti Sweets is on trend for the desire for quality and home-made tastes not necessarily made in your home by you, because you don’t have time.
“People are so busy, especially working moms, but they still want freshly-baked goods for their families. And we have 70-year-olds pop into the stores and say ‘you are doing my Christmas baking for me,’” says Kathy. “We pick locations in neighbourhoods with lots of young families, where people can just drive up with the kids.”
Confetti Sweets also did an ATB Alberta BoostR campaign late last year to help open the new store. “We ended up raising $30,000, which was much more than the original amount we had asked for. We did unique rewards: personalized stockings; Christmas catering trays; a cookie club. We had a lot of fun doing it, though halfway through it was so nerve-wracking I remember thinking ‘I hate this!’ But in the end I’m glad we did it.”
Cookie maven Kathy Leskow is not done growing yet. Confetti Sweets was one of 11 companies across the country chosen to be part of Arlene Dickinson’s business accelerator, District Ventures. “I’d like to have stores in Calgary in the next two or three years,” says Kathy. How about across the country? “That’s the dream.”
Where to find: Old Strathcona and Downtown Farmers’ Markets, 6861 170 Street, 14253 23 Avenue in Edmonton; #6, 41 Broadway Blvd, Sherwood Park, confettisweets.ca