collage of baked goods with the short and sweet logo

Sustainable Innovation

collage of baked goods with the short and sweet logo

HILO, HI — Many people only dream of living full-time on Hawaii’s Big Island. For Maria Short, an accomplished pastry chef and owner of Short N Sweet Bakery & Cafe and Kipuka Mills in Hilo, HI, it’s been home for more than 20 years.

The bakery’s menu boasts a range of customs cakes, cookies and cupcakes in signature flavors, specialty desserts, pastries, sweet breads, cakewichs, focaccia bread, bagels and other baked goods.

The mill produces roasted macadamia nut (mac nut) flour, which Maria uses in gluten-friendly baked goods such as shortbread cookies, the bakery’s Hilo and Millionaire bars, and coffee cake. She also sells the flour at local retailers.

Sustainable solution

Adding flour miller to her resume was the furthest thing from Maria’s mind until a few years ago when a friend asked if she wanted the macadamia nut meal that resulted from his maca nut oil production process. The meal is a byproduct created when the nuts are pressed for oil. Typically, mac nut meal is either passed along as feed for livestock, composted or discarded.

“I couldn’t believe he was just throwing it out because macadamia nuts are not cheap,” she said of the abundant tree crop. “I’m 100% Filipino, first generation. I grew up with ‘waste not, want not.’ It was drilled into my head. I asked my friend if there was anything else in the meal, and he said it was just macadamia nuts. That’s how I came to think about how I could use the roasted mac nut meal. That was my first foray into this.”

Considering nearly 85% of Hawaii’s food supply is shipped from the US — including all the wheat and almond flour Short N Sweet uses — the sustainability aspect and the potential opportunity to upcycle the mac nut meal into a usable ingredient appealed to Maria.

“The sustainability piece is a part of pretty much everything that we do,” she said. “My husband and I were like, ‘How did we get to be so dependent on having everything shipped over? We have to figure out ways to use what we have.”

Maria agreed to take the mac nut meal, and she and her husband began figuring out how to mill it into flour.

“When I first started, I was just using it in the shop,” she said. “But my colleagues and pastry chef friends were just so excited about it.”

Innovating with macadamia nut flour

One of the first products Maria made with the mac nut flour was a version of marzipan-filled German stollen bread. Instead of marzipan, Maria fills her stollen with macapan and uses  dried and roasted pineapple instead of the candied fruits often found in the traditional German style.

“I really feel like macapan is my legacy for pastry and baking because I feel like there are a lot of new techniques and new tools that come out often, but not a lot of real new ingredients,” she said. “We have a patent pending on it.”

It wasn’t long before the Shorts realized they needed to increase their maca nut flour production. A series of events, including participation in Mana Up, a business accelerator, led them to start a local mill and purchase the equipment they needed.

In keeping with their commitment to sustainability, they made sure the equipment they brought from the mainland could be used to produce more than just mac nut flour.

The mill, which earned SQF certification earlier this year, also produces roasted macadamia nut butter, macadamia nut oil and Okinawan sweet potato flour, another upcycled ingredient Maria has started experimenting with in the bakery.

“I love that we use all of the nut, except for the shell,” Maria said. “We press, we sell the oil, we sell the butter. Nothing is wasted. Even the shells can be burned for fuel.”

Maria has a vision for her macadamia nut flour that extends beyond her bakery and the local market.

“I feel like we have something to offer,” she said. “I would love for the industry to get its hands on this, so we’re doing everything we can to get it to a mainland market.”

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