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Sunflower Power: Fairfield Baker Turns Cookie Passion Into Business

Sharon Early of Early's Edibles at the 2017 Greenwich Wine + Food Festival.
Sharon Early of Early's Edibles at the 2017 Greenwich Wine + Food Festival. Photo Credit: Jeanne Muchnick
Fairfield resident Sharon Early of Early's Edibles shows off her sunflower power at the 2017 Greenwich Wine + Food Festival.
Fairfield resident Sharon Early of Early's Edibles shows off her sunflower power at the 2017 Greenwich Wine + Food Festival. Photo Credit: Submitted

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- Baking helped Sharon Early de-stress from her job in the fashion industry -- and her long commute from Fairfield to NYC.

Now, it's her joy as she bakes for her three-year-old company, Early’s Edibles , a gluten and peanut-free cookie company.

The mom of two said her go-to recipe at the time was an easy four-ingredient "flourless" peanut butter cookie.

It wasn't until a vacation to Italy that she realized her baking hobby could turn into a full-time career. Seeing all the sunflowers in the Tuscan countryside, she started to think: Why not substitute the peanut butter with sunflower butter for a peanut and gluten-free cookie?

And so, once home, she began experimenting and researching gluten-free flour blends. That meant a lot of trips to Trader Joe's on Black Rock Turnpike (they were the only ones selling sunflower butter) as well as to King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT. Along with her newfound baking education - and the creation of hundreds, maybe even thousands of cookies, she knew keeping additives out was another part of her mission.

Finally, in 2014, she launched Early's Edibles , starting with a website and some local stores. She has three flavors: the “Original” which Early describes as "salty and sweet, crispy and creamy with a slightly familiar taste reminiscent of peanut butter;" the "Eclipse," "deliciously dark, made with sunflower seed butter, cocoa powder and just the right amount of mini chocolate chips," and, "Sunny Chips," the “Original” with mini chocolate chips.

The latter made its debut at The Greenwich Wine + Food Festival in September. Also making its debut at the Festival: 1.75 oz single serves which gives Early more accessibility into delis, restaurants, and popular lunch spots.

Customers can find her cookies throughout Fairfield County in Palmers Market in Darien, The Common Bond in Shelton, Chef’s Table in Fairfield, and Chamomille Natural Foods in Danbury. Early's Edibles are also sold in Vermont and NYC as well as online at www.earlysedibles.com .

Her goal, she said, is to work with distributors and get on more shelves. In the meantime, she's busy touting the health benefits of sunflower butter.

"We source a sunflower butter that comes from seeds grown in a region of the U.S. where peanuts are not grown and then processed in a peanut -free and tree-nut free facility," she said.

"In addition, we use high-end ingredients that come from peanut free and tree nut free facilities and also test every batch of our cookies for allergens in an accredited outside laboratory."

A fourth flavor is coming in 2018. Go to www.earlysedibles.com/ for more details.

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