Baker and pastry chef Hannah Simons wants to sweeten people’s days. With a heart-melting love story – turned business partnership, plus all the bread, cakes, cookies, and pastries to satisfy, our spirits and our bellies!
For Hannah, the path was clear. Her long-time creative promise and love of baking have led her to serve her community, one delicious goodie at a time.
Hannah shares a favorite recipe and dishes on life as a culinary creative:
Tell us about Sunflower Baking Co!
Parker Shea and I make up the two-person team at Sunflower Baking Co. We create pastries and sweet experiences for the Long Beach and South Bay areas. Here’s a little history: I’ve been baking since I can remember, but I really caught the baking bug in high school. It became a form of therapy for me. After deciding to turn this newfound passion into a career and one day open my bakery, I went to the Hotel Administration School at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, and graduated with a degree in hospitality. Then, I went to baking school at the San Francisco Baking Institute before moving to Boston to work at my favorite bakery of all time: Flour Bakery and Cafe. There I met the most inspiring people!
Meanwhile, I was falling in love with Parker.
Eventually, we moved back to Southern California near my family. After working at many different jobs that weren’t as satisfying as Flour, I decided I would create the job I wanted. And then boom! Sunflower Baking Co. came to be. Now, we all know it isn’t that easy to start a small business. Most days, I wonder what I am thinking. And then I carry on, because, in the end, I love every crazy aspect.
I am lucky to have Parker as my partner because he has taken this passion of mine and found aspects of it that he is passionate about. And no, he isn’t just the taste-tester. Together, we have formed a pretty awesome team, and we are so excited to grow. We have big plans, which include opening a brick and mortar shop. We are psyched for the adventure ahead!
What is the best part about what you do?
I love that this doesn’t feel like a job to me. I love creating, making people happy and, brightening their days. This was my favorite part of baking when I was younger, and it still is.
How do you stay inspired + avoid creative ruts?
My husband, Parker, is a sugar nut. If I’m ever in a rut, I turn to him for inspiration. Even if I hate his ideas, it helps me start thinking about something different and new.
Favorite song(s) for boosting creativity?
“Run the World (Girls)” by Beyonce, “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes, and “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys
Tell us about one of your favorite recipes!
I introduced this the week of Mother’s Day this year. I had some leftover homemade strawberry jam from making my pop tarts and decided to make brioche spirals with the jam and chocolate chips. It was an immediate hit.
What are the ingredients & how do you assemble?
It’s brioche, strawberry jam and vanilla glaze, along with semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Brioche: All-Purpose Flour, Bread Flour, Active Dry Yeast, Sugar, Kosher Salt, Water, Eggs, Unsalted Butter
Strawberry Jam: Fresh Strawberries, Sugar, Cornstarch, Lemon Juice, Vanilla Extract
Vanilla Glaze: Confectioners sugar, milk, vanilla extract
- First, make the jam and refrigerate overnight. Then make the brioche dough and let proof in bulk overnight in the refrigerator. Once the dough has doubled in size, roll out into a rectangle.
- Spread jam all over the rolled out dough, then sprinkle semi-sweet chocolate chips generously. (when do you not sprinkle chocolate generously?)
- Next, start with one of the long sides of the rectangle, roll the dough into a tight spiral. Cut with a bread knife into 1.5″- 2″ slices. Place in 9″ x 13″ casserole dish with the spiral side facing up, cover with plastic wrap, and let proof until soft and fluffy. (When you poke the dough it should not bounce back).
- Finally, bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes (until golden brown and the spirals’ internal temperature is 195 degrees.)
- Let cool for 15 minutes. While cooling, mix up the vanilla glaze. Spread glaze generously over the spirals and Enjoy!
Where do you imagine people enjoying this recipe?
As part of the most important meal of the day: Breakfast! Enjoy it with coffee or tea at the kitchen table while looking at the daily newspaper, or with friends at a picnic. I hope it slows down the hustle and bustle of the day and makes people stop for a moment and properly savor the flavors.
What is your food manifesto?
Like a lot of Americans, I have always had a complicated relationship with food. Our food analysis- the calorie content, fat content, sugar content, etc. has made it more complex than it needs to be. Instead, I believe that people can stop analyzing everything and just eat what makes them feel good (inside and out). It can be that simple. Food can be balanced and healthy and indulgent and delicious all at the same time.
How do you infuse the art of cooking into your day to day life?
Cooking and baking are entirely different in my mind. You can be much less precise with cooking. Baking requires precision and science. Suppose you are knowledgeable about the ingredients and their purpose, the science behind combining these ingredients, and the different baking techniques. In that case, you can make something very delicious with a huge sense of control. This is how I integrate it into my life. I use it for that sense of control.
Tips for the aspiring home chef?
Don’t be afraid to mess up. If you cook with a fear of messing up, you will never create something new, exciting, or different.