From the kitchen

The Sweet Praxis experiments with classic baked goods

Hieu Nyguen | Staff Photographer

Jennifer Walls wanted to master the fundamentals of baking before starting to blend opposite flavors together.

Praxis is defined as the application of a theory, practice or custom — to put an idea into motion. To Jennifer Walls, it represents constant change and growth, and her idea behind The Sweet Praxis.

Walls and her business partner Natalie Hansen have been baking up sweet treats as co-owners of the baking company The Sweet Praxis since 2011, which has grown through their catering service and local market vending. Although they were able to get their unusual name out into the community through these methods, they desired something a little more permanent. They moved into a permanent storefront in November and are excited to continue their tradition of unconventional baking.

While working in the architecture industry, Walls and Hansen created The Sweet Praxis in an effort to take classic baked goods and revamp them. Getting things like the classic French croissant recipe just right was really important, said Walls. Once she perfected baking fundamentals, Walls felt more comfortable adding in more flavors to give products a spin without compromising the originals.

You won’t find a traditional chocolate chip cookie at The Sweet Praxis, but what you will discover is the ways in which classics can be enhanced in eccentric ways. Their Mexican chocolate chip cookie seems unassuming, but with a hint of cinnamon and a little kick of spice from cayenne powder it sneaks up on you in the most delicious way. Their self-titled “Bake Lab” is a place Walls feels thrives off experimentation.

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Hieu Nyguen | Staff Photographer

Over the past five years, Walls and Hansen have built up a strong following on Instagram as well as in-person with the people who would frequent their stalls at farmers markets and various pop-up locations. Although they found initial success at these temporary locations and through catering, the duo wanted to find a permanent place downtown where people could stop in any time of day for a scone and coffee.

Transitioning from temporary locations and catering to a full-fledged brick-and-mortar bakery is tough both conceptually and financially. With the help of a Kickstarter fund, Walls and Hansen were able to purchase specialty equipment in order to create high-quality baked goods such as bread and croissants — which require more than just an oven and a cookie sheet.

Walls credits the support of the Syracuse community, as well as her friends and family, with allowing her to create a space that compliments her products so well.

“Seeing those same faces, they’ve gown, it feels, with us and alongside us… because of their support we’ve been able to get to this point, without that support I don’t think we would have ever been inspired to keep growing,” she said.

In an effort to expand the downtown dining scene beyond Armory Square, Walls and Hansen found a space in the Grange Building at 203 E. Water St. The contemporary patisserie-styled bakery with its bright blue and crisp white walls and wooden accents feels clean and modern — with its large windows begging passersby to come in.

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Hieu Nyguen | Staff Photographer

Focused on high quality organic ingredients and locally sourced products, The Sweet Praxis is doing what a lot of the new age dining establishments have been doing here in Syracuse — keeping the food natural and local. The gluten-free and vegan options for breakfast and lunch, pastries included, shows the importance to Walls that people should have many options, to accommodate allergy or a dietary choices. Low sugar, no dyes and no picture or fondant cakes — The Sweet Praxis keeps it clean, simple and modern.

When it comes to the other bakeries downtown, it’s not about competition but complementation, Walls said.

“It’s about partnering with people that have integrity,” she said.

The new focus on the store hasn’t compromised their ability to cater just about any event, whether it be a wedding, birthday, brunch or an office event. The Sweet Praxis can put together an assortment of classic breakfast pastries like almond croissants and scones, a cookie platter of snickerdoodles, cornmeal thyme current cookies and French macarons, or a cake flavored with anything from lavender and vanilla to peanut butter cup. Almost everything is customizable — The Sweet Praxis encourages culinary exploration.

Open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturdays, Walls said The Sweet Praxis team hopes to become a regular spot in the downtown community.

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