Last year my friend Lesley and I were introduced to Hot Blondies Bakery (HBB) at the Grub Street Food Fair. My fave is the peanut butter chocolate chunk blondie. A moist, dense block of brown sugar, chocolate, peanut butter goodness. In this blondie nothing overwhelms. It is a fine balance, which is definitely a delicate thing to accomplish in baking. My husband, a purist at heart, very much enjoyed HBB's classic blondie. After tasting said confection I Googled HBB in the hopes that I could visit them for more blondie goodness and found that they're an online bakery based in New York City specializing in blondies and brunettes (aka brownies). Blondies have fast become a go-to baking item for me and a fave. As a fan and emerging baker I decided to reach out to HBB founders Laura (marketing guru) and Lorin (brains behind the baking) for an interview. Laura was extremely gracious and kind (and excited!) to grant me an interview during one of their busiest fall seasons, which says a lot for the delectable treats that Hot Blondies Bakery has to offer.
JBH: In terms of branding I have to say I love the signature blonde baking. It seems to take a fun jab at the dated “housewife” idea that women can’t be adept in the kitchen and be attractive, or shouldn’t be in the eyes of a conservative society. If I may ask, who came up with the branding and was it easy or was it a sudden epiphany?
HBB: It was really a collaborative effort. We [Laura and Lorin] are both creative people and we wanted to start a bakery that stood apart from all the rest. In our opinion there are too many cutesy, pink, grandmother-like bakeries specializing in cupcakes out there. Hot Blondies Bakery is not your average, traditional bakery. Our vibe is edgy, yet fun. From the conception, we knew we wanted to establish Hot Blondies Bakery as a unique, luxury baked goods brand.
JBH: Hot Blondies Bakery (HBB) is an online bakery. What was the impetus for having Hot Blondies available online mainly and not having a storefront where people could pop in anytime they please? Also, how long has Hot Blondies been around?
HBB: The start of HBB kind of happened organically. We didn’t have a huge amount of money to invest at the beginning and we were both working full-time office jobs, so starting with an online shop seemed to make the most sense. Once our business started to take off we realized it was time to move from renting commercial kitchens to building out our own. We started HBB a little over 3 years ago and feel that a retail shop is the next step in growing our business. Stay tuned for more details…
JBH: Hot Blondies doesn’t just offer blondies and brunettes, but also cereal bar treats, tarts, as well as gluten-free items and other bars. Is Hot Blondies strictly for us bar lovers or would you consider offering other varieties of baked goods? Or do you think that may take away from the appeal and branding of Hot Blondies?
HBB: At the beginning we wanted to focus on just blondies and brunettes. We’ve slowly expanded our menu to include other baked-goods and our customers really love the new additions. Shipping perishable, delicate items can be a challenge, so it’s something we’ve always had to be mindful of before adding a new item to our website. But when it comes to our baked goods we try to innovate everything, or it just gets very stale very quickly (no pun intended). We can’t wait to offer other varieties of baked goods and when we open up our retail store we’ll definitely be adding more to the HBB menu!
JBH: And since I’ve brought up gluten-free. A few months ago I did all gluten-free baking. It was an eye-opening experience. When you started developing gluten-free goods did you find that there was a lot of experimentation involved, as there is in baking naturally? As gluten-free items can be just as tasty yet it seems that mainly the texture, depending on the flour(s) you’re using, is the difference.
HBB: Yes, definitely. We have experimented with our gluten-free brunette recipe quite a bit. The recipe we use now is not the one we originally started with. Not that our original recipe was bad. But you evolve, and the one we have now is even better. Since the need for gluten-free products seems to be on the rise we’re continuing to educate ourselves and explore this new trend in baking.
JBH: Are there flavors that you would completely rule out using in one of your blondie or brunette recipes? For instance I’ve heard many times over that my two loves, lemon and chocolate, just do not go together but I think if one found the right recipe....
HBB: We’re open to everything! We’ve noticed in our baking classes that people love to go crazy mixing the most random ingredients together when customizing their blondies. And they actually end up tasting quite delicious. We’re also fairly adventurous eaters so we’re not scared to experiment.
JBH: Speaking of, I see Hot Blondies offers classes, most recently in decorating and Passover brunette baking, what other classes have you offered or intend to offer those interested in trying their hand at baking? In your classes do you seek to show that baking shouldn't be a nerve-racking experience? Many of my friends fear their ovens, really.
HBB: We usually tie our group baking classes into specific holidays/seasons. We also offer private baking classes for bachelorette parties, team building/corporate events, children’s birthday parties, or just for people that want to have a fun evening with friends. Our baking classes usually involve a little bit of alcohol (not the kids ones!), which helps people relax. By the end of the class they all realize it’s not nearly as intimidating as it looks.
JBH: After enjoying Hot Blondies at the Grub Street Food Fair last fall I was hooked, and inspired! I had a blondie versus brunette competition for my 30th birthday where friends made (or purchased) blondies or brunettes and we enjoyed both in harmony. I think it helped people realize that there’s a lot of variety in bar form. Is showing variety something you sought or seek to do with Hot Blondies? Especially with the blondie of the month club (the latest flavors are Candy Corn Blondies and Pumpkin Patch Brunettes)? And when developing new flavors/recipes do you find that you try to make new flavors by the season or whatever inspiration you may have at the moment?
HBB: Thank you for the compliments! Lorin has a real talent for coming up with new recipes for our blondies and brunettes. The seasons definitely play a role in what recipe we develop and we’re always open to ideas and suggestions from clients/customers. Our brand is influenced by contemporary culture– film, music, fashion, etc. We’re lucky to live in a city like New York; we find inspiration everywhere.
JBH: Hot Blondies was a staple at Madison Square Eats over the past few weeks. (Yay!) And I’m happy to see a list of eateries that offer your delicious treats on your ‘News’ page. But where else will we be able to find Hot Blondies? Do you frequent places like Brooklyn Flea or Chelsea Market or various street fairs that pop up around NYC? Do you have staples that you appear at annually or monthly? Were you at this year’s Hester Street Fair?
HBB: We’re very selective about the food festivals/events that we’re involved with. We only choose those that have a very well-edited group of artisan food vendors. We’re very proud to have been a part of the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg since the beginning. We now take a hiatus from doing them during the warmer months because our product melts in the heat, but we’ll be back this winter. Sadly, we had to stop doing the Hester Street Fair for that same reason. And we love being a part of Mad. Sq. Eats and the Grub Street Food Festival each year and are already looking forward to the next ones! And of course people can place orders any time they want with same day delivery in Manhattan through our website: http://shop.hotblondiesbakery.com/
I want to thank Laura again for taking the time out of her very busy schedule to do an interview and to her and Lorin for creating some delicious baked goodies in a different way for us New Yorkers.
Hot Blondies can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and their website where you can make orders, check for classes & HBB appearances, and join their mailing list to get first dibs on the new blondie of the month and receive special discounts!