MEDFORD — Out of a modest kitchen in a VFW hall here, sisters Bridget Collins and Jannine Fisk bake desserts and breakfast treats for their two-year-old business, JannaBee’s. The name is a contraction of their nicknames.
Their brownies are elaborate creations. The outsize fudgy squares, deep and chocolaty, might be layered with a thin cookie, spread with Nutella, and capped with slices of a Milky Way bar; another is thickly covered with peanut butter cream, chocolate ganache, and a mound of chopped chocolate peanut butter cups. Other indulgences are not as rich. Tangy Key lime bars are powdered with a buttery, shortbread crumble. Apple pies are hefty and domed; each round starts with 8 pounds of fruit. Jumbo oatmeal cookies are made with Heath Bar bits and pecans, then topped with the candy and nuts for extra crunch. Scones are stuffed with savory fillings, like pesto, Parmesan, and spinach. One version tastes like grilled cheese with bacon and tomato.
The sisters develop their recipes together, then take them to the shared kitchen space and sell the confections to shops and by special order. Fisk, 45, is often the idea person. Collins, 51, a graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, has the training to know how ingredients
interact. “We take something simple and put our spin on it to make it more interesting,” says Fisk.
Before they started their business, Fisk always had a steady stream of recipe ideas. She competed in many cooking contests, winning more than 200 blue ribbons at the Topsfield Fair, and getting 50 other honors for competitions sponsored by magazines, food companies, websites, and even local pie baking challenges, like one held by “TV Diner.” Two years ago, Fisk became one of 100 finalists in the 44th annual Pillsbury Bake-Off for her Bourbon Street Muffuletta Braid, a twist on a salami and ham sandwich. “I think of ideas when I’m lying in bed,” Fisk says, “I keep a notepad next to me.”
Raised in Revere, the sisters learned the love of baking as young girls from their Sicilian grandmother. “The best memories we have are spending afternoons with our grandmother baking,” says Fisk. Their mother also had the two girls working with her in the kitchen. So the seeds for their business were planted early, but their careers initially took divergent paths.
Collins started as a graphic designer but went to cooking school, and for years worked as a pastry chef at Fidelity Investments dining room in Boston. She left to work as a school nutrition counselor, but wanted to get back in the kitchen. Fisk was a credit manager for a seafood company. “Baking for me was a way to unwind from a stressful job,” she says. Her co-workers were the guinea pigs for recipes she was testing for contests. After 25 years, she was ready for a change.
On a recent morning, Fisk is piping buttercream rosettes on a birthday cake. Collins, who has artistic handwriting, will later script Happy Birthday on top. People warned the two that starting a business with a sibling can be risky. But for these sisters, running JannaBee’s has actually brought them closer. Says Fisk, “The most serious disagreement we ever had was whether or not to put caramel or chocolate chips into an item.
“If that’s our worst problem, then I think we are doing just fine.”
JannaBee’s products are available at Dave’s Fresh Pasta, 81 Holland St., Somerville, 617-623-0867; Bestsellers Cafe; 24 High St., Medford, 781-391-7171; Jitters Cafe,
12 Main St., Melrose, 781-605-2578; Lynnfield Meat & Deli, 445 Broadway, Lynnfield, 781-593-6860; The Meat House, 15 Enon St., Beverly, 978-564-3200 or go to www.jannabees.com.
Ann Trieger Kurland can be reached at email@example.com.