When creating new cookies, I first think of favorite foods and then their flavors. Starting with a food opens an entire universe of delight. I like to go beyond my own marketplace and past my immediate imagination and troll online for menus of highly rated restaurants for flavor combinations. Online, I can dine in Paris, Sarajevo, Mexico City, Moscow, or Bangkok, or stick closer to home in Los Angeles, New York, Palm Springs, San Francisco, or New Orleans. . . . Well, you get the idea.
Interestingly, my ideas more often come from cocktails, appetizers, and sauces for entrees than from dessert menus. On this quest, I am surprised to see how repetitive desserts can be. And I wonder why cookies are not stronger players in restaurants. Cookies offer small bites of fabulous flavor. After a full meal, desserts are often too sugary, sweet, and heavy. A plate of cookies can be easily sampled, shared, and compared, leading to a new social experience.
After being inspired by an idea, I grab a tablet or index card and write down the name of the food and its key flavors, or the primary flavors I imagine if there is no specific food in mind. After listing the food flavors, before giving too much thought to constructing the recipe, I select 3-5 keywords or key ideas to invoke a feeling that defines the cookie. These words and phrases serve as criteria throughout the recipe-testing and presentation process.
For example, here are the keywords I created when setting out to design a few of the cookies in this blog:
o Rich in familiar flavors
o New approach good with beer and soda
o Surprise the taste buds with Kalamata olives and pepperoncini
o Elegant taste of caramelized pear
o Sweet but not candied
o Entertainment worthy
o Comfort food
o Realistic pancake taste
o Light enough to eat several cookies
o Fresh, simple, not boring
o Fruits paired with complementary spices
o Picnic/BBQ style
o Moist and simple
o Feels great in the mouth
o Nice banana and sugar balance
As I move forward and experiment with the recipe, taste test, and fine tune, I go back to these key words and phrases. If the cookie is not a match, I have to be willing to change the words. If the words ring true and the cookie is not a match, then I’m off track with the cookie.
If when tasting the cookie the keywords or keyword phrases describe what I see, smell, and taste, then I’ve got it – and a new Grownup Cookie is born!