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Springs Salt Makes It Sweet and Savory

Mon, 04/10/2023 - 13:33
Ashley Cox, seen in her Springs kitchen, is amping up her new cottage baking business, Springs Salt, for the summer.

Something is cooking in Springs, or to be more accurate, baking. Ashley Cox's cottage bakery Springs Salt is a mere six weeks old as of this writing, but she is already making a splash at S&S Corner Shop and with home deliveries from Montauk to Southampton. 

With a group of well edited recipes designed with a sophisticated palate in mind, Ms. Cox whips up breads like spiced carrot, chocolate zucchini, and oats and cinnamon; cookies such as rye chocolate chip, chocolate sesame, and oatmeal ginger; mixed berry crisps, spicy flourless chocolate cake, and focaccia with flaky sea salt.

She likes sweets to also be savory. Her chocolate chip cookie is made with rye flour and browned butter, high quality chocolate in pieces, but not too much, and lots of salt. "I think that people appreciate that kind of added thought going into something as simple as a chocolate chip cookie," she said.

When making her products, she uses butter, sugar, oil, and flour. "I am very conscious of the fact that I'm making baked goods. They should taste really good. And I don't think that the place to kind of pull back the reins is in a cookie." Yet, if a baked good tastes too sweet, "I don't think you get the most out of it. That's just how my palate is and I do think that a lot of people feel like that." She describes her carrot bread as having "a subtle layered sweetness that comes from dark brown sugar and naturally through the carrot." If people eat food with whole ingredients that is "thoughtfully made, they'll feel really good about it no matter what it is that they're eating."

While many seem to be fleeing the South Fork for parts north of here, Ms. Cox had a different experience. She and her husband were going back and forth between Brooklyn and Hudson, N.Y., where her horse was boarded. But she found the Hudson Valley a little too peaceful and isolated. She got to know East Hampton when she began dating her husband in 2012. They would come out and visit his parents, who both had houses here. During the pandemic, they decided they would buy their own place here and move out full time. The horse is now in Mattituck and as happy as they are in their new surroundings, she said.

Her background is in tech, but she "never really loved it." Still, the competitive nature of the business kept her hooked. "I'm very goal-oriented and these new goals would pop up for me." She hopped from company to company until she landed at Spotify as a consultant. "It was the first time I was ever around a group of people that were so good at what they did and so clear on why they were doing it."

It made her realize she did not feel that way about her job. She concluded that she needed "to really dig in and find that energy and find that excitement and that passion for whatever it is I really want to do."

Always curious about cooking and baking as a career, she had shadowed some bakers in the city a few years back to see what it involved. "I love working with my hands. I've never been somebody who's very good at sitting at my computer all day."

While at Spotify, she started a food blog, which she named Springs Salt. The idea was to make recipes and post them on the blog and on Instagram. But she also wanted to highlight Springs and what it was like to live here year round. The reality of being part of the Springs community, walking her dog, meeting up with her neighbors, and swimming at the bay beaches versus many people's perceptions about what "the Hamptons" are, appealed to her as a theme.

Over six months it gained traction, but she found that her followers were mostly "from away" and she wanted to connect with more people here. The thought came to her that "maybe I should create some recipes that I can make and see if anybody would want to buy them." 

She began her focus on breakfast for a Saturday morning. She designed her breads to be flavorful and decadent but also nourishing and portable to take to the beach or somewhere else. "As soon as I launched it, I really started to get a lot of just incredible response from the local community . . .  so it's just been off to the races since then."

Working with S&S has been ideal, ever since the owners, Chris and Lindsay Grodzki, tried her first samples. "It's the perfect way I would have loved for this to go, being able to work with a local store that is so much about serving the community and open year round, which I really appreciate as someone who lives here all year."

Looking ahead to the summer, she has been in talks with local farm stands to sell her products. She also sees the breakfast loaves as a great way to expand her base of customers. She said some of her current clients are already enjoying having a loaf of her bread waiting for them on the doorstep on Friday night, so they don't have to get up first thing on Saturday morning and stand in line for breakfast.

She'll also be mixing up flavors and ingredients as the seasons shift, taking her lead from the farm stands when certain things are at their peak. Right now she's perfecting a lemon rhubarb bread and a cherry almond olive oil cake, with plans to have peach and plum crisp for summer. "As much as the menu is based on what I like and how I like things to taste, I really try to think about what people are looking for in a breakfast. What are they looking for in an easy dessert? Can I make something that will pair really well with something that they would serve for dinner?"

She is dedicated to the full-time resident, but "I want anybody down the street to be able to go to S&S and get a cookie in February, the same as someone who's visiting for the weekend and is leaving on Sunday. I want it to be accessible to everybody, no matter how you got here, or how long you're staying."

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