Local Vendor Spotlight: Happiness Within Baklava
A baklava so fantastic, its dubbed as ‘better than baklava’
Photos and story by Heba Badran with input from Christine Thompson
Imagine biting into a delicate, sweet and delectable pastry made of 50 layers of paper-thin pastry sheets and a from-scratch syrup that is also layered with your choice of nuts (pistachios, walnuts or pecans).
This heavenly, baked-to-perfection dessert is called baklava, a Mediterranean dessert we’re excited to share with you as a result of our relationship with Heba Badran, one of our local vendors.
Heba, the creator of Happiness Within Baklava, was first taught how to make the dessert by her mother at age 10. She has since succeeded in improving the centuries-old Baklava dessert…not only wowing Baklava fans, but astounding everyone! Our bonus offer for you this week — an entire box (8 pieces total!) of freshly-prepared baklava — is guaranteed to generate some “Happiness Within.”
“I didn’t know baklava was supposed to taste this good,” said John Nava, specialty foods buyer for Sigona’s, after tasting a piece of Heba’s desserts. “I can see why she choose ‘better than baklava’ as her tagline. Heba’s is absolutely fantastic and you can taste the quality that is a result of the time and effort she puts into each batch.”
Among baklava lovers, her ‘Better than Baklava’ tagline often provokes the question, “what can be better than Baklava?” Heba says the difference is in the experience. When someone takes a bite, she sees “a look of happiness spread across their face that’s often followed by them saying, ‘this is the best Baklava I’ve ever had!’”
So exactly how can a baklava be better than baklava? The clues to this may lie in the path Heba took to ultimately open her Palo Alto-based company and where she makes Happiness Within Baklava.
Heba previously spent 10 years in a marketing position with Procter & Gamble, and had also obtained an MBA and did management consultancy with Price Waterhouse Coopers before she turned her energies to her lifelong passion: desserts!
Having learned at such a young age how to turn out a perfect batch, Heba said it disappointed her to see some baklava elsewhere that was too sweet, too dry, or just too heavy. “I’m blessed with a number of incredible cooks in my family, none of whom ever formally studied cooking, but I spent ages experimenting and learning from them. I wanted to create the very best baklava – something truly different – simply because eating a fantastic dessert makes me feel happy inside” she added with a smile.
Once she decided to make and sell her baklava, Heba knew she’d made the right decision. She tested the results of all this on dinner guests and says, “it’s safe to say that it caused much happiness inside [of them].”
With her biggest fans – her husband and young son – behind her, Heba tried her luck with the local Menlo Park Farmers’ Market. When the market management sampled her baklava “a look of happiness swept across their faces,” she recalls. It was there and then they approved her submission.
The buzz she created in the market encouraged her to approach Sigona’s, where John Nava immediately accepted her dessert, commenting, “I can really taste the goodness!” Heba also remembers – quite fondly – the way Nava described the Happiness Within gift-packaging as “more than impressive” as Heba had put much effort into its development. “It’s not enough for taste to cause happiness inside; I designed the packaging to also put a smile on your face.”
Finding success at the retail level didn’t stop Heba from continuing to challenge the norms of the baklava market. Taking inspiration from her mother-in-law, Heba now offers the only No Nuts variety in the baklava market (in addition to her three nut varieties). Heba believes the No Nuts variety to be the true test of quality and boldly uses it to demo Happiness Within with much success.
Heba says, “My dream is to spread happiness everywhere my baklava goes,” and now you can share in this dream this week by picking up your FREE large-size box (8 pieces) of Happiness Within Baklava (retail value is $8.00), when you bring in your e-news coupon Mar. 24-30, 2010. As we know you’ll love this baklava, and to help you spread the happiness farther, we’re offering $ 3 off the regular price of any large Happiness Within box of baklava during the same period.