There’s something sweet in the kingdom of Jordan. It’s multi-colored, comes in pretty pastel packaging, and it has created quite the social media sugar-storm. There’s somebody behind the talk and she's making a sweet difference. For cupcakes, loafcakes (or any cakes), macarons or tarts, Sally’s is the word.
The newest boutique bakery in Amman, Sally’s (named for chef-owner Sally Husseini) has made a sweet seasonal difference in Ramadan with her ice-cream macarons. These novel variations on the original French macaron – that famous fancy meringue-shelled cookie with a gooey filling – were an instant hit with Amman’s trendy tribes.
But Sally is no novice. She has the culinary credentials that allow her to turn an international smash into a local sensation. French-schooled in the art of patisserie, it’s no coincidence that her store front sits tucked away on a 'Paris Street' in Amman’s bustling Swefiyeh. She brings a Parisienne je ne sais quoi to Jordan’s capital. Sally's prestigious pastry qualification from Lenôtre in Paris gave her a gourmet center, while business school in the US supported her entrepreneurial crust.
Keeping with her theme of international intersections, Sally's Ramadan offerings included a limited line of knafeh macarons stuffed with Arabic-styled ice cream, combining the almond crunch of the cookie with the smooth creamy stuffing of the traditional sweet cheese pastries. These sweet sandwiches made a cool splash in the hot summer month of fasting, and brought a refreshing touch to the classic set-pieces of the Ramadan iftar table.
From Paris to L.A., the macaron has been the must-have presentation dessert. But it turns out Sally is actually bringing the global goodie back to its roots. Food and kitchen historian Dominique Michelle traces the earliest records for the macaron recipe back to Syria and neighbors. And London, Kuwait-born sweet specialists Anges de Sucre, after noting their French character (now popularized by purveyors Ladurée and Pierre Hermé) corroborates this little known Mideast twist to the macaron myth:
“It is however most likely that the macaron originated closer to the home of its main ingredient, the almond, which is the Middle East. There are many references to many macaron like techniques being used in Middle Eastern cooking much earlier than 792”.
Gourmet macarons and cupcakes are on the up in the region and present subtle, slightly daintier alternatives to traditional Arabic baklava and other rich desserts.
Sally's offers two styles in one niche brand that “mixes the modern with the classic.” She pushes a fusion agenda of French and American classics, including Sally's staples like sablés, croissants, éclairs and mille-feuille ("my pièce de résistance," she says) alongside cupcakes, lemon meringue pie, muffins, Oreo cookie balls and red velvet cakes. “I like to mix it up and that way there’s something for everybody – whether you like old-school favorites, or modern popular. Sometimes I mix the two – like my mille-feuille in a cup or matcha green tea macarons”. She certainly hasn't put all her eggs in one specialty product.
What marks this purveyor of pastry from the rest? She’s still in her mid-20s and has the time, stamina and social media acumen to experiment with her craft. She’s flexible and ready to release new flavors and spin-off creations to match season or mood and keep the customer returning. She says that her hybrid focus reflects her versatile personality: She is the product of an international schooling between the Gulf and the US and grew up loving the classic croissant as much as a British shortbread or chocolate-chip cookie. "I used to plan my birthday cake a year ahead and obsess about all the details,” she recalls. She puts a lot of stock in the visual aspect of the final product and uses only the finest ingredients as the bedrock of all her creations.
"My baking-from-love philosophy is the vital ingredient that makes up my business – sharing and spreading the love of what I do: Making a sweet difference. Nothing makes me happier than to see happy customers. Delivering my sweet passion to others is what drives me to wake up in the mornings."
By Dina Dabbous
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