Bob Wilhelmy writes the Dining Out column for The American Israelite.

An array of shortbread thumbprint cookies

With Passover in the rear-view mirror, Erika Hecht of kosher Sweet Butter Bakery reflected on the growth of her nearly one-woman show (within the bakery making products; she has help for a few hours each week, mostly on Sundays). “Passover was really good this year, better than last year (Passover of 2022), and that is good—we’re growing. Plus, we added four new accounts, and they are doing really well. And the summer markets are coming, so I’m working on getting ready for those,” she said.

A couple of the new accounts give a sense of how well Sweet Butter Bakery is doing in supplying well-received product to local retail outlets. One location is close by, the Wyoming Meat Market, where the deli there uses Hecht’s four ounce challah knots for deli sandwiches. “So, I do the challah knots and sprinkle the tops with Everything shake (a seasoning). This past weekend they did a roast beef sandwich with homemade pickle and mustard,” she said, adding that customers have given the challah knots rave revues.

“It’s a good account, and the woman there (who recently bought the meat market) is very supportive; buys local and tries to buy from women-owned businesses. That’s good for us.”

One of the other new accounts she discussed is in Covington, Kentucky, at Roebling Bridge. The backstory is that a place called Lil’s Bagels had to give up its lease when the landlord jacked the rent. Rather than fold, Lil’s moved to share space with Roebling Books (at the south end of the bridge). That space has a kitchen, but too small for bagel production, and so Lil’s needed bread products in the form of buns for sandwiches. The woman there called Sweet Butter Bakery and ordered one hundred rolls for the first week. A few days later, she called back and upped the order to four hundred per week.

“Those are good accounts! And there are more coming. There is a kosher grocery in the works just south of Dayton, and they want kosher baked goods. So, when that opens, that will be another outlet for our stuff,” she said. She speculated that business from a market the likes of that could become substantial, necessitating bringing on a full-time helper. A deli in such a store could see hundreds of customers each day.

While the south-of-Dayton market is an opportunity for growth, so too are the summer open-air markets that Hecht attends during the warm-weather months. The Northside Farmers Market is held on Wednesdays from 4-7 pm and opens on May 10. Reading Farmers Market is held on Fridays and opens a bit later, on May 19, running through October (we think, since the website does not provide that information). Hecht’s products will be at both.

“Those people (shopping at farmers markets) are looking for small stuff, so I make a lot of thumbprint cookies and sell them by the half dozen. These are new cheesecake thumbprints, plain and cherry,” she said, pointing to a separate batch. “I make the cheese filling with eggs, sugar and cream cheese and pipe it into the thumbprint, after the dough is rolled in graham cracker crumbs. Those will be new this year, and we’ll have the jam-filled ones (of the past as well). People love jam cookies. I have four kinds: cherry, raspberry, apricot, and orange. And then I’ll do the pink lemonade thumbprints again this summer, along with the lemon-crumb babka that I made last year,” she said.

The new cheesecake 
          variety that will be available at retail outlets and farmers markets

Confession time: though yours truly is not the Cookie Monster, he is a cookie monster for sure. We tried all the cookies pictured, and then some, and loved them all. A glass of milk, a cup of tea or coffee, and you’re set. If you enjoy a good cookie now and then, I’m betting you’ll love these kosher cookies from Sweet Butter.They are wonderful!

Hecht emphasized that none of her cookies have nuts or almond paste in them, which is important information for kids and adults with tree-nut allergies. For special occasions, she makes a more fanciful “flower” cookie, which is a shortbread cookie dipped in icing and then sprinkled with multi-colored nonpareils. Also, for special occasions, she makes chocolate chip cookies with two kinds of chocolate—bittersweet and a lighter variety.

The fanciful 
          flower cookies, iced and with nonpareils.  

Many of the cookies and other items such as rugelach are available at the JCC’s J Café, and at Marx Bagels. Hecht packages her thumbprint cookies and sells them by the half-dozen. Packages can be all one flavor or a mix of flavors, depending on where you buy them. 

Recently, we mentioned in the Dining Out column that Hecht wanted to explore bread-making on a larger scale. The effort is still in the exploratory stage, since buying a used triple or quadruple deck bread oven must be done with care if it is going to be converted to kosher bread production. Another stumbling block is adequate power, which is not available at present and will take a new power line run from the street to Sweet Butter Bakery. “Maybe we can work all that out, but right now, we’re still looking at it,” she said.

See you at the farmers markets and other locations where the Sweet Butter Bakery cookies and sweet/savory goods are available!