Hi, I'm Sandra and I want to welcome you to my Sweetbites Blog.
As I begin my awesome new job as the owner of Sweetbites Cafe and Bakery, I think this is going to be one of my favorite parts. Talking about SWEETS, well for me, is right up there with tasting them. Now that I think about it, I've been talking, tasting and creating sweets for the better part of my existence. And who knew? I had actually embarked on a life's journey (though embellished with a 30-year career in Environmental Science, 2 amazing kids, a 10-year dessert catering business, and 5 years on a food truck!) that would eventually lead me to the opening of my very own bakery.
My love for being in the kitchen started very early in life. We took mealtime VERY seriously, as most Italian families do, and my mother was an excellent cook. She learned the art of cooking Italian food as a young girl growing up near Rome, Italy. Of course, it goes without saying that she created every meal from FRESH scratch ingredients. There was always an abundance of HOMEMADE pasta and sauces, fresh veggies, and hand-picked fruit taken right from a vast garden that my grandfather tended to daily. She and my grandmother fascinated me with their culinary skills, rolling out huge thin sheets of floured dough with long hand-made dowels, then folding and cutting the noodles to perfection with a sharp knife. Every summer they jarred freshly-picked eggplants and tomatoes, enough to last for a year's worth of sauce for the entire extended FAMILY. We could always find a SIMPLE cake with fennel seed and candied fruit, or a crostata di frutta to satisfy a sweet-craving. They boiled dried chestnuts for our snacks, introduced us to persimmons and prickly pears, and fed us rappini, squash flowers, fresh figs, pomegranates and polenta long before they were in vogue. I loved to be there close to all the action and EXCITEMENT, breathing in the aroma from large pots of tomatoes mixed with tender pork ribs, garlic and herbs always simmering on the stove. My favorite assignment was to immediately spoon sugar or honey onto our traditional spongey fried dough pulled from a pan of sizzling-hot oil and taste it for doneness! And then of course, once the bottles of my father's homemade vino were brought to the table, we sat together EATING the sensational meal they pulled together. They definitely showed their LOVE for us through food.
But to be frank, baking was just not their "thing". I mean they loved dessert, but they just didn't find the time to focus on it given the workload they had cooking and taking care of their families. And with both my ENORMOUS sweet tooth and my desire to help, they were happy to turn it over to me! But make no mistake, the pressure was on to please them and meet their standards of excellence. Dessert was always the grand finale. And I was up to the challenge!
The recipe for our Tiramisu Cake uses one of the original recipes that we used to create many of our holiday cakes when I was young. They were often layers of luscious vanilla cake soaked with rum or citrus, filled with rich custards, covered with whipped cream, topped with fresh fruit or chocolate, and studded with almonds or hazelnuts. Many recipes were from old Italian cooking magazines, all torn and stained from years of use. As I grew older and realized how precious these recipes were to me, I copied and saved them in my card box! I still use many of these treasured recipes today, and I love to add a twist or two to make them my own - - just like I did with this decadent Tiramisu Cake.
I sincerely hope you will enjoy our new cafe and bakery. It is born from a labor of love passed on through generations. Come by for some Italian illy-brand coffee and dessert or take a box of treats home to your loved-ones. If excellence in QUALITY matters to you, I think you'll find yourself coming back for more!
Sandra Panetta, Owner