[This review was written by Annsley Klehr, owner of Gluten Freedoms, LLC, a gluten-free consulting company.]
Here I was, just checking my e-mail, when I stumbled upon one from a friend, tipping me off about a “new” business that makes certified organic, kosher, gluten-free, and vegan friendly snacks called Pure Sweets. Even though I’m gluten-free, it’s always hard for me to imagine something tasting good that also contains no egg or dairy in it. WOW was I surprised! The array of goodies, ranging from trail mixes and crispy bars to flourless cookies and mini macaroons, made my mouth water.
That e-mail prompted me to contact Andrea Kyan of Pure Sweets, and before I knew it, I was pulling up to the front door of an old stone church built in 1872, nestled in East Falls (Philadelphia) at the corner of Krail and Indian Queen Lane. I was breathless. The stained glass radiated on this sunny, spring day, and I felt a zing of adventure as I pulled open the heavy door and walked down a remodeled hallway to find Andrea herself and her amazing part-time employee stuffing boxes full of trail mix (that is also GLUTEN-FREE!) to send off.
Her warm, effervescent smile lured me in as she showed me around her small, organized, and efficient production space. Not only was I getting a glimpse of her kitchen, but a bit of her soul. Andrea is an energetic, driven, and creative young woman who has found her passion playing chemist in the kitchen instead of behind the closed doors of a lab.
Her journey to the kitchen is a winding one, beginning with her studies of Physiological Psychology and East Asian Studies at Smith College, to studying herbal medicines in China, to focusing on Buddhism in India. Then she took a job teaching English in Taiwan before embarking on a journey of silent meditation in Burma. Medicine was still in her blood, so she began a post-baccalaureate pre-med program at Bryn Mawr College, followed by work in HIV/AIDS research. The research refocused her awareness of food as medicine, and so began her latest venture as the owner and creative chef behind Pure Sweets.
I got to sample decadent cardamom and orange cookies. Like the movie Water for Chocolate, Andrea has the unique ability to infuse her passion into her baking. I could taste that passion with the subtle punch of this delicate cookie. It was AMAZING, and I’m not usually one for fruity, Indian spices for dessert.
Like the name claims, these “Pure Sweets” are made with the highest quality ingredients, which I can attest to, as Andrea let my fingers linger across her raw ingredients, reading labels which only had one ingredient in them, i.e. almonds, and telling me the processing story behind each ingredient, for example, how and where her cocoa is harvested. The base of her treats might also come from fruits and vegetables like beets, sweet potatoes, and berries, to nuts and seeds, to spices and sweeteners like lavender, dark chocolate, and maple syrup (just to list a few). Every ingredient that she showed me comes from as close to its origin as possible, and it is 100% gluten-free.
After giving Andrea a bottle of my homemade vanilla extract, and learning that she took a trip out to California to learn how to make fruit preserves, I promised to invite her fruit picking and preserving with me this summer. I let her return to filling boxes as I collected my samples to take on the road with me.
Once home, I was anxious to rip open my box of cookies, but I didn’t think it would be fun to sample them alone. Instead, I put them in my freezer as Andrea suggested, waiting for the perfect moment, which came almost a week later when the occupants of my household grew from me to a few friends, my parents, and a few kids. From the flourless cookie category we sample The Kitty, The Frog, The Dingo, The Ape, and The Panther. We also sampled mini macaroons called The Owl and The Poodle. We couldn’t get enough and were completely spoiling our dinner with a 5 o’clock snack.
Here are our top three favorites:
We thought of a few ways that these cookies could be used:
Pure Sweets are truly one-of-a-kind treats. They are a delicacy that I would bring over for dessert to someone’s house, serve at my own party, or freeze and sneak for midnight snacks. I want to thank Andrea for taking the time to share a part of herself, her insights, and her phenomenal sweets with me.
Pure Sweets are made to order and can be purchased directly by contacting email@example.com or going online to the website: www.puresweets.com. You can also find them in the Philadelphia area at Whole Foods Callowhill and South Street as well as One Shot Coffee and Ultimate Coffee. They are also being carried in New Jersey at the Natural Harvest Market in Mullica Hill.