Incredible Bakery Cookies from Coast to Coast
The Cookie Comeback
In the hierarchy of baked goodies, with croquembouche and cronuts occupying the top, cookies don’t get as much respect as their sugary compatriots. The workhorse of many a bake sale, nothing goes better with a glass of milk (or almond milk) than a still-warm chocolate chip cookie. And where would ice cream sandwiches be without them? But lately, cookies are making a comeback. Artisan bakeries from coast to coast are giving Mrs. Fields a run for her money. From s’mores named after a popular rapper to Oreos with a French Laundry pedigree, you'll want to steal these babies from the cookie jar.
Atlanta: The Cookie Studio
Something as simple as a classic chocolate chip cookie isn't always so simple. IT professional-turned baker Barbara O'Neill spent eight months perfecting her leveled-up version of the Toll House Cookie for her Atlanta-based bakery. The result is a bread-plate-sized cookie that's crispy on the outside with a soft center studded with morsels of Guittard chocolate. Her hard work paid off: Her cookies (she offers more than 18 flavors, along with cupcakes, brownies, whoopie pies and more) have been repeatedly voted the best in Atlanta. O'Neill also follows in another time-honored tradition: the bake sale as fundraiser. When The Cookie Studio first opened, it donated money to the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children, and it still donates cookies for local schools and other nonprofits.
Cambridge: Sofra Bakery & Cafe
In addition to turning out textbook renditions of classics such as kunefe (a sweet Levantine cheese pastry) and Umm-ali (an Egyptian-style bread pudding), this unassuming Cambridge bakery and cafe serving Middle Eastern-inspired sweets and savories imbues the flavor profiles of Turkey, Greece and Lebanon into Americana staples. Take pastry chef and co-owner Maura Kilpatrick's oatmeal cookie. This is not your Moosewood-era hockey puck. At Sofra, she mixes a little tahini into the batter, which gives the cookie a touch of nuttiness and a softer texture due to its higher fat content. She also jazzes it up with candied orange peel and a pinch of spice mixture called Dessert Rose, composed of halvah, cardamom, sesame seeds and rose petals, for that extra exotic touch.
Photo courtesy of Sofra
Denver: Victory Love + Cookies
Some of Kristy Greenwood's top-selling cookies include the Lemon Lucy and Booty Bars, but our favorite is the Strawberry Margarita. The cocktail-inspired treat originated as a raspberry lemonade cookie, but one day Greenwood wondered, "Why should the kids have all the fun?" So she switched the lemon to lime, removed the raspberries, and added freeze-dried strawberries and lots of booze. And because of Colorado's high altitude, she discovered that adding more liquid in a recipe is beneficial, so adding both tequila and Triple Sec as well as lime oil worked perfectly. To finish them off, Greenwood sprays the hot cookies as they come out of the oven with a mixture of tequila and Triple Sec. Not in Denver? No worries; she ships the cookies, and they’re way cheaper than a Key West vacation.
Photo by Chase Bortz
New York City: Milk Bar
Kitchen Sink. Garbage Cookies. Whatever you call them, there's no denying that Christina Tosi struck gold when she synthesized America's guilty pleasures into her infamous Compost Cookie®. Like most inventions, the cookie that launched a thousand copycats was born out of necessity. As Tosi explains in the Milk Bar Cookbook, her co-worker developed the recipe when they were working on a remote island off New Hampshire where food deliveries were unpredictable. Back then, the cookies were always different, based on whatever ingredients the kitchen could get their hands on; today, the standard recipe is a sweet and salty kaleidoscope of Tosi's favorite munchies — chocolate and butterscotch chips, potato chips, pretzels, graham crackers and coffee grounds. Get your fix at all six Milk Bar locations in New York as well as at Milk Bar in Toronto.
Photo courtesy of Momofuku Milk Bar
Seattle: Hello Robin
The awesomely named Mackles'more at Hello Robin isn't the only reason we love this Seattle bakery, but it sure brings a smile to our face. Named for its most-famous Capitol Hill resident (who apparently is a fan), these graham cracker cookies topped with marshmallow, cinnamon-spiked chocolate chip cookie dough and dark chocolate from Seattle-based Theo are the epitome of local civic pride. Owner Robin Wehl Martin gained fame for her award-winning whoopie pies before opening up her storefront on the encouragement of local ice cream entrepreneur Molly Moon, who uses Hello Robin’s cookies for her ice cream sandwiches and operates a seasonal walk-up "scoop station" in front of the bakery from May to September. Other top sellers include habanero-chocolate chip, curry-and-white chocolate and a signature breakfast cookie that combines oatmeal, shredded carrots, mini chocolate chips and other secret tasty bits.
Photo by Sarah Flotard
Yountville, Calif., Las Vegas, New York, Beverly Hills: Bouchon Bakery
When is an Oreo not an Oreo? When it's reengineered to the perfectionist ideals of chef Thomas Keller. Sure, the namesake chocolate bouchons are a main draw at Keller's archipelago of bakeries in Yountville, Calif., Las Vegas and Beverly Hills, but we have a sweet spot for his reimagined down-home classics like Oh Ohs (a variation of a Hostess Ho Hos) and America's favorite sandwich cookie. For the TKOs (Thomas Keller Oreos, get it?), chocolate shortbread cookies made from chocolate sable dough mixed with Valrhona cocoa powder are sandwiched around a stuffing of white Valrhona chocolate ganache that replaces the Lord-knows-what in the traditional filling. (No word on any plans for a double-stuffed version.) Find TKOs at any of the Bouchon Bakery outposts, or try your hand at them yourself — the recipe is featured in the Bouchon Bakery cookbook.
Photo by Deborah Jones
Chicago: Cookie Bar Gluten Free Bakery
Even wheat eaters love Cookie Bar, Chicago's only gluten-free bakery. Unlike gluten-free bakeries that rely on potato starch and white rice flour (which can give gluten-free desserts a starchy, heavy and, frankly, bad name), this Ravenswood bakery employs a mix of higher-protein, high-fiber grains such as amaranth, quinoa, sorghum and teff to ensure that its seasonal pies, quadruple-decker sandwich cookies and Mississippi mud cakes emerge moist and light. One of their best-sellers is these oversized Salted Caramel Nutella Brownies; hitting on all cylinders, they're at once sweet, salty, fudgy and ludicrously delicious. Gilding the lily are a drizzle of white chocolate and a glaze of housemade salted caramel, studded with organic Mediterranean set salt that adds an earthy crunch and a savory counterpoint to the rich smoothness of the Nutella. They’re sold by the half and full dozen at the store, at CookieBarOnline.com and on the bakery's new all-brownie site, BrownieBar.net. Pass the almond milk!
Photo courtesy of Cookie Bar Gluten Free Bakery
Minneapolis: Salty Tart Bakery
Don't wait until Passover to dig into Michelle Gayer's coconut macaroons at the Salty Tart Bakery in Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. Featured on Andrew Zimmern's The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Gayer has been turning out these addictively coconut-y cookies since her days as a pastry chef at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago, and they didn’t earn their nickname — "crack-a-roons" — for nothing. Putting the "deli" in delicacy, Gayer binds the shredded coconut with a touch of cream cheese, creating a cookie that's crunchy on the outside and lusciously soft and creamy when you bite into it. These (naturally) gluten-free goodies are a perennial favorite at her shop and at the annual Minnesota State Fair; last year she sold approximately 18,000 in one day.
Photo by Tom Thulen
Los Angeles: The Sycamore Kitchen
There's much to love on the savory side of Michelin-starred chefs Karen and Quinn Hatfield's casual La Brea breakfast and lunch spot (a few doors down from their newest restaurant Odys and Penelope), but we recommend you save room for their desserts such as salted caramel pecan babka. You can also just swing by for a cookie fix. The kid in us has a weakness for their Rice Crispy Cookie. Elevating everyone's favorite lunchbox treat, the duo shape-shifts the traditional marshmallow bar into a cookie, then ups the ante by folding in their own housemade puffed rice and two kinds of chocolate (Callebaut dark and Guittard milk). Pro tip? All of Sycamore Kitchen's pastries are half-price from 4:30 to 5 p.m., but we can’t promise the RKT-inspired goodness won't sell out before then.
Photo courtesy of The Sycamore Kitchen
San Francisco: Batter Bakery
A staple since the bakery's inception, these Peanut Butter Blossoms are so decadent that one of its original wholesale outlets (Trouble Coffee) renamed them Sweet Jesus. A hybrid of two childhood favorites, the batter contain two types of peanut butter (smooth and natural) and is enriched by sweetened condensed milk, which gives it a delightfully chewy interior. And as if that weren't peanut butter-y enough, bite-sized peanut butter cups are pressed into the still-warm cookies as they come out of the oven. Seems simple, but the hand-formed cookies are extremely temperature-sensitive, which is why they're not always available at the bakery's satellite outposts — a downtown kiosk and a stall at the Ferry Plaza farmers market on Tuesdays and Saturdays. If bars are more your jam, Batter also has a strong following for its brownies, carmelitas and almond butter-espresso blondies.
Photo by Jen Musty
San Diego: The Cravory
Herbaceous rosemary, rich extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar reduction, and just a hint of lemon and black pepper. No, we're not talking about tonight's dinner special; it's one of the most-sought-after treats at this cookie-only San Diego bakery. Also known for its Pancakes and Bacon Cookie (made from actual pancake batter and accented with hand-chopped smoked bacon bits and a touch of maple syrup), The Cravory isn't afraid to mine the hot kitchen's toolkit to fill its cookie jars. In addition to the Point Loma shop, their daily rotating menu of cookies is sold at San Diego farmers markets, various airport terminals and sweet shops (including Dylan's Candy Bar), and online, where they can be ordered by the dozen or as part of a freshly baked monthly subscription shipped anywhere in the United States.
Photo by Garrett Richardson
Multiple Locations: Insomnia Cookies
A bakery that delivers still-warm cookies to starving students until 3 a.m.? Genius. Founder Seth Berkowitz undoubtedly hit on a killer app back in 2003 (almost a decade before the era of on-demand food delivery services) when he launched a warm-cookie delivery service for his fellow University of Pennsylvania students from his dorm room. Now boasting 65 storefronts in 23 cities, Insomnia Cookies sates late-night munchies far and wide. More than 12 different cookie flavors, along with brownies, cookie cakes and ice cream sandwiches, are shuttled straight from their ovens to your doorstep from noon to 3 a.m. in most cities, but a perennial crowd favorite is the S'mores Deluxe, a chocolate cookie base loaded with chocolate chunks, pieces of graham cracker and melted mini marshmallows. And yes, milk and water are also available for delivery.
Photo by Felicia Pascarella
Columbus, Ohio: Rogue Bakery
The bakers behind this delivery-only bakery are every bit as rogue as their name suggests. Brick and mortar? Forget about it. Fried-chicken cookie? Why the heck not? This tongue-and-cheek company working out of a local incubator was known only to its Twitter following until its Ranch cookie was featured on ABC’s The Chew. As owner Carl Acampado points out, the Ranch doesn’t actually have America’s favorite salad dressing in the batter; they just share the same ingredients. "It looks and feels like a normal cookie, but taking a bite reminds you of a totally different eating experience," he says. "Sure, it's weird, but in a fun and strange way." Rogue also rolls out seasonal specials, but we’re not talking pumpkin and peppermint. Each year around Thanksgiving, they release a Stuffing cookie that incorporates a mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery) and herbs.
Photo courtesy of Rogue Bakery
San Francisco: Dough & Co
Let's be honest: The best thing about baking cookies is, well, sneaking the dough out of the mixer. Sure, your mother warned you about the dangers of eating raw eggs, but old habits die hard. And thanks to one San Francisco cookie entrepreneur, they don't have to. Dough & Co founder Omar Mamoon hit upon the Holy Grail — an eggless chocolate chip dough that that’s delicious to eat baked or raw. Mamoon pursued alternative binders and discovered that finely ground white chia seeds resulted in a nutty-tasting batter, helped with shelf life and made the cookies all-around healthier. You'll find Dough & Co chocolate chip cookies — baked and finished off with Maldon sea salt — at scores of San Francisco restaurants, and offered as a topping option at various frozen yogurt shops. But chances are you'll want to buy the raw cookie-dough logs and devour them right out of the fridge.
Photo by Goodeggs/Colin Price