A Tasty Ray Of Sunshine

Fulks Run Bakery Takes Off

Posted: August 7, 2013

Donna May displays fresh “Cravin’ Raisin” wheat cookies Aug. 1 at her in-home kitchen in Fulks Run. (Photo by Michael Reilly/DN-R)
Donna May adds sea salt to cookie “O’Chocolate” cookie dough Aug. 1 in Fulks Run. (Photo by Michael Reilly/DN-R)
Part of what sets Donna May’s cookies apart is the baker’s dedication to producing a healthy-product, which includes replacing all-purpose flour with self-ground soft wheat berries (Photo by Michael Reilly/DN-R)
“I call this my ‘ray of sunshine kitchen,’ ” said Donna May as she walked down the stairs into her yellow-and-white second kitchen, complete with double convention ovens.

“I have to credit all of this to my husband,” she said, explaining that he renovated the space into a baking haven. “[He and my brother-in-law] even cut a hole through this …  concrete wall for me — which is an all-day job — just so I would have sunlight.”

A New Path

After spending more than 20 years in the corporate management world, health problems caused her to leave the field late last year.

“Life has really changed for me in 2013,” she said.

According to her business card, May’s new role is that of small business owner and baker of wholesome, good-for-you cookies.

May, 40, has been baking a variety of items for people for at least two decades — including huge wedding and other special-occasion cakes, cupcakes, cookies, breads, pies, you name it.

But now, May is devoted to healthier cookies, thanks to advice from the Harrisonburg-based Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center.

“This isn’t completely new to me,” May said. “Baking is a science, and I just chose to go down the healthier road to get ahead of the market in this area.”

She started marketing her business, Sweet as Nature Bakery, as just cookies in June. The next month, she became a vendor at the Bryce Resort Farmers Market; she took a space at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market for the first time July 30. She can be found at the former Wednesdays and the latter Tuesdays, except for this week, when she’s on an Appalachia Service Project mission trip with Grace Mennonite Fellowship.

She took part in the trip with a mission in mind, explaining, “[This year] has not been kind to me, so I have to realize that someone has it worse than I do.”

The Goodies

In addition to narrowing her list of offerings to one category, May’s keeps her menu simple. She offers only four types of cookies: Crazy Cranberry, Bouncing Blueberry, Cravin’ Raisin and O’Chocolate.

She’s tweaked her recipes over the course of about two years to enhance flavor while capturing all of the ingredients’ nutrients.

“I reduce the fat by half by incorporating non-fat Greek yogurt, and I freshly grind soft wheat berries, so that you receive all the nutrients from the berry,” May said in her Fulks Run kitchen last week, right before she started on a batch of O’Chocolate creations.

May replaces all-purpose flour with ground berries and much of her raw sugar with Stevia. For one batch of cookies, which makes about 65, she uses less than one-fourth of a cup of Stevia and less than one-eighth of a cup of raw sugar.

The incorporation of Greek yogurt also ups the level of proteins in her cookies, and she uses seven-grain oats to help reduce cholesterol and increase fiber.

“All of my cookies contain good, healthy carbs,” she said.

None of the cookies contain nuts, although they do have a slightly nutty flavor, thanks to the oats and berries.

May is in the process of getting official nutritional labels approved.

“If you use the word ‘healthy’ …  you have to back it up with nutritional labeling,” she said. “As long as I don’t use the word ‘healthy,’ I don’t have to back it up, but I’m going to use the word ‘healthy,’ because they are healthy.”

She also has a certified kitchen through the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as well as a ServSafe license through the National Restaurant Association. May uses safe-seal containers to ensure that no contaminants get into her cookies, which is especially helpful for shipping her products.

To try May’s cookies, visit her at one of the farmers markets. For more information on Sweet as Nature Bakery, find it on Facebook or call (540) 271-3622.

Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or csipos@dnronline.com

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