Imagine biting into a piece of chocolate so luscious that it melts in your mouth upon impact. As its creamy flavor dissolves in your mouth, you can’t help the impulsive eye roll of delight. It’s a divine experience, to be sure, but it’s also one that’s out of reach for the countless vegans and allergen-afflicted in the Hudson Valley. After all, with ingredients like milk, eggs, gluten, and nuts, so many desserts are not rated E for everyone.
But what if they were?
In the Hudson Valley, EmyD’s is the answer to one-size-fits-all sweets. Founded by Culinary Institute of America grad Emily Horta, the brand works to promote food allergy awareness and prove that desserts don’t need to be filled with allergy-causing ingredients to be delicious.
“I’m very passionate about this,” Horta admits. “I feel like everyone should be included.”
Originally from New Jersey, Horta attended a vocational high school for culinary arts before graduating from the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park in 2018 with an associate degree in baking and pastry art sand a bachelor’s degree in food business. Although she continued working part-time in one of the school’s allergy-free kitchens after commencement, she knew that her entrepreneurial spirit would find a way to manifest itself in one way or another. In her earlier years, she honed her skills through cake decorating classes and even sold her confections while in high school.
Yet it wasn’t until mid-2019 that Horta, who resides in Hyde Park, launched EmyD’s in the Hudson Valley. It was a gradual process, and one that she used as a testing phase to perfect her recipes, launch her website, and cultivate her brand’s identity. Although all of EmyD’s products are raw, vegan, and made without the top 10 allergens (including eggs, dairy, gluten, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, corn, sesame, and refined sugars), Horta did not want to label the brand as strictly vegan or gluten-free.
“I believe my products are great quality products that happen to be free of the top 10 major allergens,” she says. “I’m personally vegan and I’m also gluten-free, so I live and breathe this.”
In regard to how she comes up with her mouthwatering recipes, which run the gamut from brownie batter truffles to caramel-filled fudge cups, Horta says it’s all about the ingredients. She sweetens only with pure maple syrup and agave, relies upon dairy-free chocolate, and swaps in SunButter for traditional nut butters. She loves dried fruits, seeds, and flax meal as well.
Because many of the ingredients she uses are hard to find, much of her orders happen online and only after she’s personally called the companies to review potential cross-contamination. She refuses to purchase from brands that uses the same lines or that don’t maintain the strictest allergen standards to ensure that her creations are truly enjoyable – and edible – for all.
So which of her chocolates are fan favorites?
“The fudge cups,” Horta enthuses. “They’re not like traditional fudge. They’re not super sweet and use a very rich chocolate.”
One look at the bites, which resemble mini cupcakes, and it’s easy to see why they’re such a hit. Horta crafts them in four flavors: fudge oat, brownie batter, caramel, and chocolate SunButter. Throughout the year, she whips up specials, like her sold-out matcha fudge cups, as well.
Beyond the fudge cups, Horta has a treat for every sort of craving. Her chocolate oatmeal cookie dough truffles are ideal for cookie lovers, while her death by chocolate torte is a dream for chocoholics who worry about allergy-containing cakes. She accepts special orders, too, since they often allow her to challenge her creativity and come up with something one-of-a-kind.
Although she initially got the word out about EmyD’s through local events and festivals, she’s had to shift her focus entirely to her online business during the COVID-19 pandemic. To adapt to the times, she’s added a number of gift box sets for those who want to sample a few of her goodies at once, with an option for local delivery in the Poughkeepsie area. In the Hudson Valley, Mother Earth’s Storehouse in Poughkeepsie and Nature’s Pantry in New Windsor carry select EmyD’s products, although stock is currently limited due to the coronavirus crisis.
“I’m pleased to be able to do this and manage it, to be able to make a difference,” she says. To this end, she also seeks to be as sustainable as possible and uses plant-based containers and eco-friendly shipping materials as often as she can. She produces and packages her chocolates out of the Poughkeepsie kitchen she shares with North River Roasters, which she frequents every other day during the week. Because she’s working by herself, she’s a one-woman show when it comes to taking and editing photos, branding, shipping, and delivering. It’s a hustle, she admits, but she loves it.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own business,” she says, adding that she hopes to one day have a storefront of her own. “People that have allergies are always very happy to find options they can enjoy. If you love chocolate, you’ll love my chocolate.”