Over the last decade, awareness of nutrition and wellness, particularly when it comes to the options one has when selecting ingredients for cooking and baking, has seen a dramatic increase.
Many people have realized that there are healthier alternatives to traditional ingredients including sugar and wheat flour. The professional baking community has also realized that synthetic flavorings and artificial dyes simply don’t cut it with today’s sophisticated palettes. A New York City based chef has tackled the challenge of working around the use of sugar as a core ingredient with desserts and baked goods.
Chef Elisa Lyew is proving that it can in fact be accomplished. She is now offering a tasty selection of desserts at her newly opened Elisa’s Love Bites Dessert Atelier in Manhattan’s East Village. The Panama-born toque aims to satisfy her customers’ sweet cravings in a healthier fashion, and without them incurring the usual side effects of feeling stuffed and guilty. ‘Gluten-free, guilt free,’ Lyew’s motto, is achieved through natural ingredients and low-glycemic sweeteners.
“There are very few dessert options that aren’t harmful to people’s health; most desserts are full of refined sugar, refined wheat flour, low-quality fats, artificial dyes, synthetic flavorings, and other questionable ingredients. I wanted to fill the void in the market for people who want to eat well all the time, including dessert,” stated Lyew. There has always been an unfilled niche for healthier desserts. Attempts made to fill this niche in the past have usually been quick to fail, due to the chalky textures and unpleasant aftertastes that result from trying to emulate the qualities of sugar and flour without actually utilizing these ingredients.
According to Lyew however, this is precisely the problem. “My recipes don’t try to emulate desserts made with wheat flour or white sugar,” she said. “I let my ingredients behave the way they behave rather than add a ton of additives to make them resemble gluten desserts.” Lyew used a few of the delectables she sells as examples, “My almond flour brownies are very different from those made with wheat flour. They have a nuttier flavor, with a superior texture and taste. My lemon squares taste like real lemon, not sugar. I let the ingredients do what they naturally do, and the results speak for themselves, they’re beautiful and tasty.”
Not only does Lyew take a unique approach to desserts, she does so with baking in general, “A lot of people like to follow recipes, and create new ones based on recipes that they already know. Although that’s a totally valid approach, I come up with new recipes and ingredient combinations by playing around with different elements. I enjoy experimenting with measurements to create new tastes. I like toying with my ingredients, seeing what happens when I mix this with that. I enjoy noting the results from whatever that was and finding out how it changes when I introduce a third element. I’m always looking to improve my food; how can I make this lighter or that airier. While I enjoy experimenting with different flavor combinations and measurements, there is of course a lot of trial and error that comes with it. But the final products (and the look of absolute delight on our patrons’ faces) are always worth it!”
Chef Lyew has come a long way from the young girl who watched and helped her Grandmother bake on their farm. Although Lyew has since worked as a pastry chef at a bevy of restaurants in New York City, her aspirations always extended beyond simply baking what she was instructed to bake.
“I have always been interested in healthy eating, but none of the restaurants I’ve worked for wanted to invest in the kind of desserts I really wanted to make,” Lyew said. “I started working on my own during my off-hours, and in 2014 decided to quit my job at the time and work full time on developing Elisa’s Love Bites.”
A year later, the first iteration of the health-oriented bakery opened for business. Now, Elisa’s Love Bites has not only reopened in a more favorable location in the East Village, Lyew has persisted against the challenge of doing so during the pandemic. This serves not only as a testament to her commitment, but even more so to her desire to share her passion for healthy baking with those around her.
Lyew knows dessert not only makes people feel good, it’s the capstone of every meal, and therefore will always be the first thing that comes to mind when people look back. Doing so while adding nutritional value into the mix makes it all a wonderful dining experience.
To learn more about Elisa’s Love Bites, visit the website.