I recently attended a talk on one of my favorite topics – Cookies! Mindy Segal, author of the recently published Cookie Love cookbook and owner of Chicago-based HotChocolate Restaurant and Dessert Bar, provided the “Cookie Scoop.”
Mindy is well qualified to discuss Cookies. She is a pastry chef by profession, has owned her restaurant for 10 years, and perhaps most importantly, is an ardent Cookie fan. As Mindy puts it “Cookies don’t save the world but they save the mood.”
While Mindy created plated desserts for several years she decided to “let the young kids do this” and instead focused on her craft. She baked Cookies every day and came up with a variety of different techniques. In fact, when she opened her restaurant, the pastry case was filled with mostly…. You guessed it, Cookies!
Her mind explodes with ideas for Cookies. Nutter Butter-type Cookies, Oatmeal Cookies, Milano-type Cookies, Thumbprint Cookies…….the list goes on and on. Mindy also likes creating “Dessert in a Sandwich Cookie.” How about a Banana Cream Cookie?
She’s a seasonal baker – in February she developed a number of Chocolate Desserts and her restaurant is now featuring a spring collection of nostalgic desserts.
These are a few of her Baking/Cookie tips:
— After you beat hot fudge with a mixer and it’s aerated, it makes a great frosting
— And continuing the hot fudge theme…..hot fudge and jam make a wonderful rugelach filling. When it bakes, the hot fudge will ooze out a bit, but that’s OK.
— Brown butter is a fantastic addition to desserts. At the restaurant, brown butter is prepared in advance so it’s always on hand.
— Goat butter (not goat cheese) imparts a mild delicate tang to baked goods
I asked Mindy which Cookies were particularly popular now. She thought Egg White Cookies (since egg whites provide a rich texture they can replace dairy, wheat or other ingredients) and French Macarons (of which she is not a fan). But as she remarked “You can’t get away from Chocolate Chip Cookies – they’re number one.”
And for those of us wondering what enables a restaurant to survive and flourish, since so many fail, Mindy summarized her own rules: she owns only one restaurant; she’s there six days a week; and when she’s not there, a trusted person, such as her husband, the manager, or the pastry chef, is.
Mindy believes “There’s a Cookie for everyone” (well, there are probably hundreds for me, but I digress) and “Cookies are tiny little nuggets of happiness.” I couldn’t agree more!