In mid-March, when the world started shutting down and ToniAnn Salvato and MC Dougherty were laid off from their jobs, the Nyack couple began brainstorming possible next steps from their living room couch.
At one point they considered a candle shop called the Butch, the Baker and the Candlestick Makers, but soon realized food was a better option considering their mutual dreams in hospitality.
Meanwhile, in Sparkill, British-born Charlotte Boyle, a fashion designer by trade, began baking — and tweaking — her mother and grandmother’s cake recipes, often FaceTiming them through the process.
The end result? Two new Rockland businesses born out of the coronavirus, one in June and the other in September, with both reaping sweet rewards (think cookies and cake). Here are their stories.
Boyle has always loved to bake. But it wasn’t until the pandemic that the freelance fashion designer turned to it full time. Formerly the global retail manager for Lulu Guinness, both in London and later in New York City, the mom of two has also worked for a variety of children’s wear companies.
She’s still designing — womenswear and layettes are her specialties — but these days she’s busier as the founder and chief baker behind Charlotte’s Home Kitchen, which churns out a variety of cakes, many of which are gluten-free and vegan and filled with vegetables grown in her own backyard. Along with her brother’s long-distance help, she’s also turned to sourdough bread.
It’s one way, she said, to cope during quarantine and to help her feel closer to her family members, the majority of whom are in England. (They FaceTime the cooking process.)
Pre-pandemic, she had just started doing in-home cooking classes as a way to feed her passion. She did one in January but then COVID-19 hit. “I was feeling defeated after that,” she said, “But then a conversation with Joe Serra of the Piermont Farmers Market got me thinking about selling my baked goods at the market.”
After all, she said, she suddenly had a lot more free time.
After getting her home baker’s license in late August, she started selling her goods on Sept. 6, both at the market and through her newly created website.
Fashion, however, continues to be her muse, with cakes artfully designed and sized according to dress lengths (think minis, midis and maxis). Flavors include chocolate (made with butternut squash and raw cacao), gingerbread (beets, ginger, cinnamon and clove, drizzled with a lemon and rose icing and decorated with fresh pomegranate seeds), lemon (olive oil and zucchini, finished with a lemon drizzle) and “Love,” (almond flour, pistachios, lemon, rose and raspberries).
“I love experimenting with flavors from my childhood and also try to find fun ways to make them look pretty,” she said.
Which brings us to “Love,” so far one of her most popular creations and the most asked about at the farmers market. Boyle created it from a Muhalbiyah dessert she made for an Indian meal she cooked for friends years ago, then jazzed it up with a lemon and rose drizzle decorated with roasted pistachios and dried raspberries.
All ideas are inspired from recipes passed on from her mother and grandmother and include vegetables from her garden where luckily, she said, her husband has a green thumb. What she doesn’t grow (or have enough of) she buys locally.
Along with the cakes, she’s perfecting — via FaceTime with her brother in England — a sourdough focaccia that she gets up at 4 a.m. to make. She bakes them fresh on the morning of the market so they’re still warm when she arrives. (Warning: They sell out fast.)
The cakes (and bread) not only make people happy, they make Boyle happy, as well. “I miss my family so deeply but through my baking we have many chats over FaceTime,” said Boyle. “My mum and I are always brainstorming different ideas and I also talk to my granny who just turned 100 in lockdown.
“She can’t make bread like she used to but she loves to watch me make it and to see it coming fresh out of the oven.”
Boyle is currently taking holiday orders. Information at homekitchenbycharlotte.com.
Having “nothing to do” during quarantine sparked Salvato and Dougherty to “get off the couch” and start their own cookie-delivery business.
“People were ordering savory food at a very high rate, so we thought it would be the perfect time to try to follow our dream,” said Salvato, a classically trained pastry chef and the former owner of Brooklyn Treat Shoppe, a specialty cake delivery company that closed in 2012.
Cooking out of a commercial kitchen space in Valley Cottage, Salvato, with the help of Dougherty — the two like to refer to themselves as “the Butch and the Baker” — started churning out the OG, a salted chocolate chip cookie that had been popular at Salvato’s bakery along with other creations. This despite the fact that Dougherty had zero baking experience. Prior to the pandemic, she had a career in criminal justice reform. Salvato, on the other hand, had more recently worked in high volume food manufacturing.
The goal for their “‘pandemic baby,” as Salvato calls the business, is to offer cookies that bring back a sense of nostalgia while also offering flavors that appeal to today’s adult palates.
“The flavors we build are meant to target the big kid in all of us,” she said. For added fun, cookies are delivered in pizza boxes with deli paper (for either nine or 18) with smaller side orders of two served in French fry boxes.
And they come fresh, that day, often still warm from the oven.
The menu is constantly rotating with new creations constantly being developed. Proving most popular along with the OG is “The Brookie,” a fudge filled brownie topped with the OG cookie dough; “Snack Attack,” chocolate caramel pretzel cookie; and the gluten-free “Jam Session,” a peanut butter and jelly creation.
The holiday season includes the roll-out of “the Pumpkin Ging,” a spicy gingerbread cookie infused with pumpkin and a touch of cream cheese; and the “Warm and Cozy,” spicy hot chocolate cookie with a kick of cayenne featuring handmade marshmallows from Beacon-based Hudson Valley Marshmallow Co.
They also do cookie pizzas and cookie towers.
The best part? You don’t have to get out of your PJs to get them. The two deliver to Rockland, Westchester, Bergen and Fairfield counties for a minimum order of $20. Deliveries are done Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (sometimes later). They also offer pick up in Nanuet for orders placed in advance.
Since starting in June, the two are doing so well, they’re looking for a larger commercial kitchen space and considering a possible storefront. And yes, they’re pleasantly surprised.
“You never know what to expect when you’re starting a new business,” said Salvato. “Especially since we started in the middle of a pandemic. We feel a stronger connection to the community each day and we’re honored to have been welcomed in to this food community so warmly.”
For more details, go to flow.page/sweetnsaltys