Choosing a dessert is usually an either/or sort of struggle. When faced with a sugar craving, do you go for the sinful sweet packed with tons of not-so-great ingredients or the healthy riff that’s good for you but a travesty for your taste buds?
Thanks to Sow Good Bakery owner Tess Beatrice, Hudson Valleyites don’t have to decide. As the Saugerties local makes clear, good-for-you food can be just as delicious as the unhealthy alternatives – if not more so.
“I make handcrafted treats that are health food, crafted with intention, and as nutrient-dense as possible,” she explains. Since 2012, she’s made it her mission to prove that gluten-free and refined sugar-free desserts can be seriously scrumptious, sans the allergy-inducing ingredients. Because she roots her brand in the philosophy of “letting food be thy medicine,” she relies upon only those ingredients that add to overall wellness, and none that detract from it.
It was this notion of food as medicine that first prompted Beatrice to conceptualize Sow Good. At the time, she had just graduated from Northeastern University and was on a trip to the west coast with her mother. As is the case with many a recent graduate, she found herself in the midst of more than a few existential musings about her place in the world.
At the time, she suffered from food sensitivities and health issues, so she was largely focused on crafting safe meals that she could enjoy. Realizing much of that enjoyment came from working with her hands, she decided to take a stab at selling her treats at farmers’ markets in the Hudson Valley. Not only did her tabling go well, but it also gave her the opportunity to connect with others who faced allergen concerns similar to her own.
“After talking to customers, I realized health concerns and food sensitivities were a definite issue and prevalent within the community,” she recalls. “This seemed like the way I could support the community using my skills and satisfying my interests and my desire to help others.”
Decision made, Beatrice dove headfirst into making treats that were not only gluten- and refined sugar-free, but often dairy-free, grain-free, paleo, or vegan as well. Through all her recipe testing, she never forgot that she needed her desserts to taste good, full stop. After all, just because she was whipping up healthy desserts didn’t mean she wanted to sacrifice flavor to do so.
With this in mind, Beatrice, who is also a natural health counselor and certified holistic nutritionist, opted to forgo traditional flavors in favor of more unconventional ones. She lives on a farm in the Hudson Valley, so she enjoys using the herbs, fruits, and vegetables that grow on her land to craft unusual pairings. She supplements those ingredients with organic ones from places like Z Natural Foods and Blue Mountain Organics to adhere to her health food goals.
When it comes time to sell her scrumptious desserts, Beatrice sets up shop at farmers’ markets across the Valley. During the summer season, she’s a Wednesday evening regular at the Woodstock Farm Festival and a Saturday morning staple at the Kingston Farmers’ Market. Around Saugerties, a select variety of her Sow Good treats are available at Olsen & Company and Josie’s Coffee Shoppe. For special requests and celebration cakes, she takes requests through her website.
As far as what she stocks at her farmers’ market tables, Beatrice has a go-to formula.
“I make a similar array of items each market, meaning there’s always a brownie, a blondie, a flourless chocolate cake, cupcakes, macaroons, and a few raw treats,” she explains, adding that this equation makes it easy to introduce new products and flavors. “Because I’ve formulated these basic recipes, it’s simple to integrate different spices, fruits, herbs, [and] teas into that preexisting recipe base to make seemingly a whole new product.”
So what does this mean for Sow Good Bakery supporters? There’s always something new to try, of course. One day might mean biting into a raw brownie with salted caramel and thyme, one of Beatrice’s all-time best sellers, while another could be devoted to the honey lavender coconut macaroons or maybe the dark chocolate brownie with walnuts and cacao nibs. More recently, the bakery’s copycat Snickers bar is a new menu staple, and for good reason.
“Some say it tastes better than a traditional Snickers and is leaps and bounds healthier,” Beatrice notes. “I sometimes even call it a breakfast treat.”
In truth, Sow Good Bakery desserts could be breakfast. Because they’re formulated with only whole foods and recognizable ingredients, they diverge from those traditional grocery store gluten-free sweets, many of which are filled with starch and “empty” ingredients. On top of that, their unique flavor profiles often function as a boost for flavor and nutrition. Case in point: instead of sticking with a traditional blondie, Beatrice throws in butternut squash for added vitamins and infuses it with sage and brown butter for a sweet and savory bar that sings of autumn in the Hudson Valley.
“I don’t like to make treats that are too normal,” she admits. Since part of the fun is switching things up, she’s not shy when it comes to testing everything from black truffle oil (in her chocolate truffles) to cayenne pepper (in her flourless chocolate cake with Mexican chocolate ganache).
If crazy flavor combinations are what make Sow Good different, they’re also what make it a Hudson Valley success. Even during the COVID-19 crisis, Beatrice has seen an uptick in sales as shoppers look to support small, local businesses and stick to outdoor shopping. To adapt to the times, she’s even started offering preorders as a way to make transactions easier and further establish a connection with her customers.
While Beatrice is taking business one step at a time for now, she envisions a day when Sow Good Bakery can have its very own storefront in the Hudson Valley.
“I envision it being a wonderful community space with lots of sweet offerings as well as fun tea and coffee drinks,” she enthuses, noting that she’d love to incorporate mindful meditation circles and live music as well. With everything she does, she draws inspiration from the fictional Vianne Rocher in the book Chocolat. “She is so full of joy and life and is so kind and attentive to each person she encounters. I thrive off of authentic human interaction and connection and uplifting those around me and my shop will ideally be a space for that.”
Plus, she adds, it’s hard not to be joyful when there’s a plate of delicious and nutritious sweets in front of you.
“Who doesn’t get happier eating a brownie?” she says. “Especially one made with lots of love.”