Amatullah Lewis had been climbing the career ladder as an HR professional until, like many, she got laid off during the recent recession. “I was having that little pity party, ‘Woe is me,'” she recalls. Until she realized she had a talent to share: baking bread, which she’d done for her family for years.
Sweet Spice & Honey Halal Baked Goods is Lewis’s collection of 10 breads, which come in creative flavors such as Yami-Yami–a round, rustic loaf containing roasted beets, squash, and yam–and Extra_Ordinary, a dense, chewy, and heavily seeded dinner bread. For treats that are healthy but not cloying or heavy, Lewis makes a banana bread, a carrot cake, a cherry and coconut loaf, and one laced with chipotle and cocoa dubbed Seattle Swirl, all of which taste not too sweet, and substantial rather than oily. Like a mother tricking her kids into ingesting vegetables, Lewis tucks the unexpected into these loaves: pineapple in the Seattle Swirl and flax seeds in the Extra_Ordinary. These are breads with real heft, the savory ones worthy of playing a big role in a meal, the sweet ones ideal as a nutritious yet satisfying snack.
The baker emphasizes that she uses local ingredients as much as possible, and shops at farm stands and an Amish market near her New Jersey home. “It helps to promote sustainability. It helps to promote local farming,” Lewis says of her approach. “Any time you buy local, you’re guaranteed it’s going to be fresh–you can smell it and you can taste it.”
She recently began sampling her breads at private events, and loaves currently may be purchased directly from her by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Large loaves are (a somewhat pricey) $18 to $21, and smaller ones go for $7 to $10.
In addition, the Brooklyn native will begin offering Sweet Spice & Honey at the
Bushwick Farmers Market when it starts around the end of May, where shoppers will also be able to buy individual slices. “It’s down-home basics,” Lewis says of her products. “Eggs, milk, butter, wheat, whole grains, whole fruit. These are natural ingredients from the Earth. Everybody needs to eat, but what we put into our systems usually hurts us. I know what I’m baking will not hurt you.”