Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Vicky Dorvee

Baker finds satisfaction in doing small things well


December 28, 2017

Photo by Vicky Dorvee Niwot baker, Joan Grunzweig, creating her petite sweets in her kitchen.

Retiree Joan Grunzweig is doing a poor job, … a poor job of retiring that is. After closing the chapter on the traditional working life of an elementary school teacher in California, she’s reinvented herself as a fabulous, frenetic, full-time, self-employed baker. These days she can be found in Niwot being a churning ball of energy that’s measuring, mixing, baking and decorating.

Her Niwot-based business, Joan’s Petite Sweets, carries the tagline, “a few bites of confection perfection.” Why petite and why a “few bites?” Because it’s the tiniest bits of baked goodness that have Grunzweig most intrigued. So she’s immersed herself in creating the finest and prettiest of small treats.

Her expertise is in mini-tarts and mini-brownies, cupcakes, muffins, cookies and cake pops, as well as beautifully decorating each of them. And she’s even received some notoriety for making tiny homes – gingerbread houses that is. Good Housekeeping featured two of her gorgeous gingerbread houses in one of its spreads. She’s also in demand for her intricate ornamental cake toppers.

Part of Grunzweig’s and her husband’s plan was to leave their working life and California’s traffic headaches behind as they eased into retirement. So Joan and husband Ron moved to Niwot to be closer to their children and grandchildren. The couple became involved with the local community; Ron joined the Niwot Rotary Club and is volunteering for nonprofit organizations, and Joan jumped into the Niwot Historical Society and her baking business.

“I’ve always baked,” Joan said. “I can remember being ten years old and wanting to bake cakes for my family and friends. I just loved doing it.”

Having the bandwidth to recreate her life any way she wanted, she officially started a professional bakery in her home under the Colorado Cottage Food Act which, with training and through a permit process, allows for production of food items in personal kitchens.

For bakers, being a mile high turns tried and true sea level-produced recipes into tragedies until they’re properly tweaked. Grunzweig said because of the high altitude, it took her six months to perfect her recipes. She did it by researching so she completely understood the science behind each ingredient and their chemical reactions, and then thoroughly testing each recipe.

Customers of Grunzweig believe the flavors in her treats are taken to a new level too – richer, and not your typical chocolate or vanilla. That’s why the business grows primarily through word of mouth (pun intended).

Most customers are individuals who’ve either been told about how wonderful Grunzweig’s baking is, or have personally been served a Joan’s petite sweet. Local businesses are also a segment of her clientele. They order boxes of goodies for their consumption or to be given to their customers. Grunzweig offers a delivery service throughout Boulder County and some surrounding areas.

Grunzweig credits her ideas for skillfully and ingeniously decorated items to being inspired by daily things in her life.

“It’s amazing how I see one thing and a light goes on and that leads to another thing,” Grunzweig said.

Photo by Vicky Dorvee Joan Grunzweig works on some of her creations in her kitchen, making some of her popular treats.

When asked about her willingness to figure out new baking or decorating methods and to create exactly what she’s after visually, Grunzweig said, “I’m actually pretty fearless and not afraid to fail. When I have a new idea, I just try it.”

Aside from visits with her two children and their families, including three grandchildren, her community involvement and her love of traveling, Grunzweig says her days are filled with either baking or exploring new baking ideas.

“I’m busier now than before I was retired,” Grunzweig said. “I loved teaching and the kids, but baking has always been a big part of my life.”

To find out more about Joan’s Petite Sweets and to see photos of her creations, visit http://www.JoansPetiteSweets.com.


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