Alexa Lemley has friends in holy places.
It's the monks of The Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky, who inspired 240Sweet's newest offerings: bourbon-barrel-aged sugar and vanilla extract.
Located in the heart of bourbon country, the abbey uses bourbon to make cheese, fruitcake and fudge. Six months ago, Lemley drove to Kentucky to get barrels from the monks--who provide her with pawpaws for marshmallows, too--then filled the barrels with demerara sugar, and with grain alcohol and vanilla beans.
Now, the Indiana company's barrel-aged products are available online, just in time for the year's frenzied baking season.
The barrels scent the sugar with gentle caramel and vanilla notes. Use dark, crunchy sugar grains ($10 for a half-pound jar) for sprinkling on cookies or garnishing anything frosted. Use the extract, made from whole and chopped Tahitian vanilla beans and grain alcohol macerated in barrels for six months ($10 for four ounces), for any and all baking.
Smoked sugar and sea salt, cold-smoked over hickory, are next on Lemley's list, as are November's new marshmallows: candied pecan-pumpkin, bacon-chocolate chip and maple-brown sugar, which is ideal for melting on sweet potatoes.