Jennie Groff displays Stroopie’s cookie press, June 2012
This article first appeared in the August 2012 issue of TheBurg, greater Harrisburg’s community newspaper.
Hold on, biscotti. Take a back seat, pizzelle. And welcome a new international cookie, the stroopwafel, to central Pennsylvania’s confection scene.
A stroopwafel is a traditional Dutch cookie, literally meaning “syrup waffle.” The “stroopie” consists of gooey caramel syrup pressed between two pie-crust-thin, cinnamon-spiced waffles. Traditionally, the cookie rests on the rim of a hot cup of coffee for a few seconds before eating to soften the caramel—an ode to taking time to eat, to drink and to be.
“My customers keep saying, ‘Oh, they’re caramel! Oh, they’re Dutch!’” said Ambreen Esmail, owner of Café di Luna on N. 3rd Street in Midtown. Esmail has carried the cookies since late June to complement her array of small batch, independently made desserts and internationally inspired coffee beverages. “Not many people have heard of stroopwafels, but they’re delicious,” she said.
Domestically, Stroopwafels are made at Stroopies, a Lancaster-based company managed by a husband and wife team, Jonathan and Jennie Groff.
“We both grew up in small family businesses, and we wanted one of our own,” Jennie said, herself the daughter of a dairy farmer. Jonathan is the son of the founders of Groff’s Candies in Lancaster.
Owners Ed McManness and Dan Perryman founded Stroopies in 2008 to make cookies and provide jobs to underprivileged men and women. They operate a branch in, of all places, Moradabad, India, with six full-time workers. Jonathan and Jennie joined the company two years ago and wanted to market the cookies in Pennsylvania. Since then, laboring in the back room of Groff’s Candies, they have made every stroopwafel from scratch.
Four cookie-size balls of homemade dough are placed on an authentic Dutch stroopwafel griddle and pressed for 80 seconds. Each waffle is transferred to a cutting board, filleted in half and drizzled with house-made caramel syrup. The halves are then pressed back together, cooled and hand-packaged.
“Our very clean hands are all over the stroopwafels that you buy,” laughed Jennie.
In addition to traditional stroopies, the Groffs offer stroopwafels dipped in Wilbur’s dark chocolate from Lititz, PA. They are experimenting with gluten-free stroopwafels, fresh pecan stroopwafels and chocolate dipped stroopwafels that are sprinkled with locally roasted espresso from Lancaster’s Square One Coffee.
There’s a balance between keeping it simple and being creative, Jonathan said, “but I do think the espresso stroopwafels are out of this world.” The couple hopes to eventually introduce a new stroopie variety each year.
Like the India branch, the couple hopes Stroopies can provide employment opportunities to immigrants in central Pennsylvania. “Specifically, we see a need among refugees that the U.S. has welcomed,” Jonathan said. “Sometimes they have a hard time finding work. We love working with internationals, so to be able to provide work for people from other parts of the world would be an enjoyable privilege for us.”
That inspires Café di Luna’s Esmail. “I promote Stroopies’ cookies because they bring people together,” she said. “So much is lost these days with the way we rush. I believe we need to go back to our values, and I try to promote products that do the same.”
105 Old Dorwart Street
Lancaster, PA 17603
Café di Luna
1004 N. 3rd St.
Harrisburg, PA 17102