Wednesday, January 12, 2011

As we begin the new year, I was thinking about themes to work on for the month of January.  Other months with major holidays have easy to identify themes, like Halloween or the 4th of July.  January is a time of renewal and reflection as we assess the previous year and look forward to the new year. 

One theme that keeps coming up for me is "generosity."  True, there is a lot of injustice in our world today, but there's also a lot that works well.  And often, what works well in our lives is simply the result of our own generosity and the generosity of others. 

If you look around, you can see examples of generosity everywhere and everyday.  I think it's important to be aware of those moments because that's what gives us hope and happiness that things will work out.  Stinginess may put a few extra dollars in the bank, but it won't lift your spirits or give you the truest sense of security and well-being.

The theme of "generosity" is something we try to live by everyday at Michael's Cookie Jar.  When I started the business in 2006, it was important to me that we go back to basics and provide people with something real and sustaining and delicious.  To me, that started with using  only butter, sugar, eggs, flour, fresh nuts, imported chocolate and natural flavorings in all our cookies.  That wouldn't have been a very smart move if the final product didn't taste any better than our competitor's products, but they do.  And the customer notices.  At first I was worried about the cost of using these ingredients, but our food cost for 2010 was less than 15%.  I'm glad we decided to not skimp on quality ingredients and I'm even happier that our customer notices and is willing to pay the little bit extra for it.

Beyond the ingredients, we have a commitment to making all our cookies by hand, in small batches.  We offer samples to everyone the moment they enter our bakery.  And most times when customers place special orders, they receive a few more cookies than they originally requested. 

We've also started building relationships with area schools.  I'm happy to say that we've provided many cookies for school benefits so they can raise much needed money to improve their educational programs.

We're building a business on the idea that giving generously will create loyal customers who visit us often and remember us for their special occasions.  At Michael's Cookie Jar we hope to be part of what works well in the world.  All the best to you in 2011.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pumpkin Moon Cookie

Ok, I'm very proud of this cookie...even though its debut is about four months late, which reminds me of something else.  Customers always ask "what's my favorite cookie."  Honestly, I love'm all (how many people are willing to name their favorite child?).  I don't put a new item into our pastry case until I taste its specialness! 

So that brings me back to the late debut of the Pumpkin Moon Cookie.  We were testing recipes in the late summer, but not really liking the results.  This cookie, which is really a little cake that is baked and then the bottom side is iced, had to be moist with a distinct taste of pumpkin and a hint of spice.  We tried several versions of a recipe, but the results were disappointing. 

Once we got into the autumn season, there was no time to test recipes anymore. The holidays were upon us and all our energy was focused on filling orders.

After Christmas,  I remembered that a customer had brought me a recipe during the summer for a pumpkin cookie that she liked.  Initially I didn't think much of it by looking at the ingredients. Well, later in the autumn, that same customer came in with a sample of her cookie for me to taste, and it was yummy!  I revisited the recipe, made a few changes (omit shortening, replace with butter, etc) and started testing again.  Moist! Pumpkiny! With a hint of spice!  We added a cream cheese icing and....perfection!

Now, along with our classic Black & White cookies and Mocha Moon cookie, we present the Pumpkin Moon Cookie!

So, dear reader, which version do you like better?  The chocolate swirl top or the one that is half dipped in demerera sugar?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Cold Weather Treats

Happy New Year!  We had a great holiday season at Michael's Cookie Jar.  When people ask how it went, I say we had a "tsunami of cookie orders!"  We are very grateful for all our customers trusting us with their holiday cookie needs!

To start out the new year, we wanted to do something a little "out-of-the-box" for a bakery.  Since the weather has turned cold (well, sort of....) we thought it might be nice to offer some satisfying, hot beverages.  And true to our mission of making everything from scratch, with wholesome ingredients, we have some classically prepared beverages that will take the winter chill off you!

First, we start with hot coffee.  Nothing fancy here, but we use a full-flavored, robust bean from Mexico that is organically grown and fair trade.  Stepping up our game, we next have REAL hot chocolate.  It's a brew of Valrhona chocolate, milk, cream and sugar.  It's very rich and offered as an 8 oz portion. 

Lastly, we have something that I just recently discovered myself.  At Christmas, I visited Houston friends who are from Mexico.  They serve "Ponche de Fruta (Fruit Punch).  But this isn't your aunt Bea's fruit punch!  This punch is served hot and with generous chunks of fresh fruit simmered in a broth of tamarind and hibiscus petals.

We'll offer these items for a limited time so stop in soon!