It was a surprise to discover that my lovely neighbor Joanna in Brooklyn owns Brooklyn Brittle, a cookie company. But the best part of this great discovery is that Joanna and her business partner Gemma's cookies are top notch quality and their philosophy goes hand in hand with my idea of Food with a capital F: freshly baked by local people, carefully made with selected and healthy ingredients, produce only in small batches to keep the cookie always fresh. You can't have more than that in one small bag!
These award-winning cookies come in 6 different variations:
- Lemon Pomegranate
- Pecan Chocolate Chip
- Cinnamon Walnut
- Espresso Chip
- Rosemary Parmesan
- Kalamate Olive
Needless to say each of them are mouth-watering in their own way, so you should seriously considering keeping a variety in your cabinet of your kitchen at any time. I personally love sweet and sour combinations and so for me the ones with bits of kalamata olives, pistachio nuts and coarse sea salt are a huge winner.
So, one day we got together and learned directly from them what make Brooklyn Brittle so great and so special.
You both have been friends since the age of 10-- what brought your paths together?
BB: We met in the fifth grade through our shared passion for baking and instantly became friends. After school, we would rush home to finish our homework so that we could experiment with baking, using our grandmothers' recipes as our inspiration. Our very first cooking adventure was homemade croutons!. On the weekends, we chose baking in the kitchen over going out with friends.
Explain more about your grandmother's influence behind your passion for baking:
BB: Whether we were making biscotti, pasta, or butter cookies, our grandmothers insisted on a few guiding principles: 1) to keep it simple and 2) to be on intimate terms with your food; you need to touch, feel, and smell it. It produces a superior product.
How did the idea behind Brooklyn Brittle come to be?
BB: Prior to exclusively making brittle, we ran a generic bakery, supplying cafes with all different types of baked goods. After several years, we began to ask ourselves, "Who are we?" and "What makes us different?" That's when we took our traditional brittle and moved forward, using it as landscape for imaginative flavor combinations. And since we’re both 3rd generation Brooklynites, it just made sense to call our product Brooklyn Brittle.
You both left your professional jobs to pursue your passion. What advice do you have for others wanting to do the same?
BB: Through college, business school, and beyond, we harbored the dream of starting our own business. But we didn’t get serious until we listened to an inspiring talk delivered by fellow Barnard College alumnae, Stella Grizont (Woopaah) and Bari Norman (Expert Admissions), on women talking their ideas to new heights. From there, we both decided to dive right in. It sure hasn't been easy! Many days are hectic, working around the clock, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Brooklyn Brittle is a true labor of love. We feel good about what we do, we believe in what we're doing, and we are fortunate enough to feel that. Because not only do we have a love of food, but we also have a love of craft. That means working with your hands and making that a rewarding experience. It is satisfaction in coming to work every day and doing the same things over and over. It's about finding yourself in your work and understanding that there’s meaning in finding yourself in your work. If you focus on this, the end result will come.
What goes into the thought process when creating flavors?
BB: We like to create an experience with each of our brittles, and we do this through careful selection of ingredients and ingredient combinations. For example, we want the Lemon Pomegranate variety to be so light and fresh, that consumers feel they’re transported to a backyard picnic or to the beach. We also attempt to create these experiences through careful attention to drink pairings. For example, the Lemon Pomegranate variety makes an especially appealing treat alongside an icy cold lemonade or iced tea on a hot day. In fact, add a citrusy cocktail and some fresh fruit and you’ve got a darn good dessert! The Rosemary Parmesan variety, like great cheese and dried salumi, is a natural pairing with wine. The Kalamata Olive variety, with its depth and personality, sits wonderfully on a fresh cheese platter with a smoky cocktail. Each variety is unique and exciting. We want to make sure we offer something for everyone, for every palette, for every experience.
How much thought do you put into sourcing the ingredients?
BB: We give considerable thought to the sourcing of our ingredients because we have an interest in being family friendly and community cooperative. Our cheese and olives are sourced from Caputo’s Fine Foods (Brooklyn) and Raffetto’s Pasta (NYC), and our herbs are purchased at Brooklyn greenmarkets. We believe in shopping locally because not only do we save the wear and tear on the environment from all the energy consumed in long-range transportation, but we also know where our food comes from, and that’s a reassuring feeling. The best part of shopping locally though? The food is as fresh as possible and that just tastes the best.
We also have a commitment to being natural and organic. Our product does not contain any preservatives or artificial colorings or flavorings. Our herbs are organic, our nuts are GMO free, our butter is free of artificial growth hormones, and even our packaging is reusable and recyclable!
We love the importance of how what's old is new again...how else do you incorporate that into your lives?
BB: We run BB with both a respect for tradition and appreciation for the contemporary. The dough is made by hand using old fashioned techniques, while the flavor combinations are bold and new. We can also bring a respect for tradition back into our modern lives in some very simple ways:
By pulling out the recipe book and taking the time to cook a meal;
By sitting around the table for a meal;
By recognizing the power of elders and taking advantage of all they know;
For all of us city dwellers … by growing a basil or rosemary plant on the window sill and using it to make a delicious pesto or brittle!
By shopping at the local farmers’ market;
By buying organic and reducing exposure to pesticides and other chemicals;
By cooking with your children.
What does it mean to you to be "Food Smart"?
BB: "Food Smart” is adult conversation. Being food smart is about more than just food; it’s about a lifestyle that connects our food consumption to the wider social, ethical, environmental, and spiritual elements around us. The food we eat should taste good, but it should also be produced in a clean way that does not harm our health, the environment, or animal welfare. Being Food Smart means recognizing the connections between the plate and the planet. It’s about taking the time needed to cook good food and recognizing that reliance on fast food damages our health, social fabric, and cultural food traditions.
What are some of your fondest memories at the dinner table?
BB: Being of Italian heritage, food was central to our culture and upbringing. Cooking a meal, sitting around the table to eat a meal, and holiday get-togethers were traditions that bound us together as a family. It was how we connected with each other, and everything seemed to happen around the dinner table -- the laughter, the stories, the arguments, the tears, the toasts.
We have fond memories of noon dismissal from school every Wednesday. That meant lunch at the grandparents’, which involved a 10-course meal with ingredients that were freshly made or picked from the backyard garden that day. We would be completely stuffed and then our parents would pick us up, only to go home to have dinner! We also loved Sunday meals, always ready to begin by 2pm ...we would wake up to the smell of tomato sauce cooking as early as 7am!
What fun things can Brooklyn Brittle expect in the future?
BB: We are exploring the possibility of using alternative ingredients in our products for those who have special dietary restrictions (gluten-free/allergies, etc), continuing to experiment with new and creative varieties to offer our customers, and to expanding our reach across the US and internationally.
Do you have any special people you would like to thank for helping you get to where you are today?
BB: Definitely. We want to thank our families for helping out with every aspect of starting and managing the business — baking, cleaning, shopping, packaging, brainstorming, designing, babysitting — you name it, they do it! We want to thank business owners, Frank Caputo, Andrew Raffetto, and Sarah Raffetto, who believed in us and who were willing to take a chance on the unknown. We would also like to thank One Girl Cookies (Dawn and Dave), who have been a constant source of inspiration and a joy to work with. Lastly, Jimmie Stone, for his enthusiasm for our concept and for his encouragement to take the plunge without having sorted out the details. We give you all our warmest thanks and appreciation.
Brooklyn Brittle is a small batch bakery in Brooklyn, NY specializing in the harmonization of old and new. All products are entirely handcrafted using old family recipes and artisanal techinques, but with an eye on innovation. The dough, made with just a few humble ingredients, embodies a back-to-basics classicism. Infused with an exciting combination of rich foods — rosemary, espresso, fresh fruit, olives, toasted nuts, sage, parmesan, dark chocolate — it becomes Brooklyn Brittle. A uniquely crunchy snack for any occasion. Proving that old ways can be made new again!
Joanne and Gemma love food, unadulterated food. They bake with all natural ingredients, free of preservatives, food colorings, artificial flavorings, and artificial growth hormones. The shorter the ingredient list, the better. And consistent with their homespun values, they are family-friendly and community-cooperative. Cheese, olives, and other quality ingredients are sourced from family-run businesses like Caputo's Fine Foods and Raffetto's Pasta. All organic herbs are sourced from local Brooklyn greenmarkets. Their mission is simple: use high-quality, fresh ingredients, and bake what they would proudly serve to family and friends.