Baker Hazel Lao’s culinary experimentation began in college and grew into a passion that’s endured for more than a decade. Two summers ago, while seven months pregnant, Lao moved from California to Sand Point so that her husband could pursue a Ph.D. program at the University of Washington. The two-month wait before giving birth gave Lao the opportunity to research the food business; in April 2011, she created Sweet Coconut Bakery (sweetcoconutbakery.com), its heart rooted firmly in her Filipino culture. (She was born in the Philippines and lived there until she was 12.)
Lao tweaks traditional Filipino-style candies and cookie recipes with locally sourced ingredients, adding, say, Caffé Vita beans or strawberries from Skagit Sun Berries to her pastillas de leche (“candy from milk”) for extra flavor. For another unique indulgence, try marshmallows prepared with honey instead of corn syrup, for a less cloyingly sweet taste; Lao’s personal favorite, the Northwest berry marshmallows, combine locally grown blackberries, blueberries and raspberries into a mouthful of fruity bliss.
This fall, these sweets can be purchased through Etsy at sweetcoconutbakery.etsy.com, or come spring, look for Lao herself at area farmers markets.