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Top Pick Of The Week

July 11, 2006

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Plate of Cookies
The “Damn Good Cookies,” from the bottom counter-
clockwise: Rockabye Raspberry, Controlling Coconut,
Maternal Macadamia Nut, Chubby Wubby Chocolate, Overprotective Pecan. Shown below, rugalach. Photo by Melody Lan.
WHAT IT IS: Assorted fancy cookies and rugalach that taste as good as they look.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Home-made goodness crafted by a professional. The different flavors and textures make a sophisticated assortment, and the rugalach are among the best we’ve tasted.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Quality, quality, quality: it’s not easy to find fancy cookies with special touches like the bittersweet chocolate globs (yes, glob is the official name of the Chubby Wubby), the butter cookies with jumbo macadamia nuts, and thumbprint cookies and rugalach with homemade preserves.


Damn Good Cookies:
Damn Good Eating

CAPSULE REPORT: We remember the good old days, when it was not so hard to find a bakery with delicious assorted butter cookies. We looked forward to special occasions, just to have an excuse to buy a couple of pounds. Today, we can find “not bad” cookies, but not great ones. The high rent in our neck of the woods, plus long hours in hot kitchens, have driven much of the talent away.

Thankfully, in the age of e-commerce, all of America is our marketplace. When we tasted Mary Winslow’s Damn Good Cookies, the scent of sweet butter perfumed our office the moment we opened the box. It reminded us that great baking still exists somewhere, and that it no longer matters where: we just go online and it gets delivered to us the next day. When Ms. Winslow’s cookies arrived, we ate every damn one in short order—and then went back to the keyboard to order more to share. Read the full review below.

  • For more of our favorite cookies, reviewed on TheNibble.com, click here.
  • For the table of contents of the July issue of THE NIBBLE online magazine, plus the back issues archive and our most popular articles, click here.
  • All of the Top Pick Of The Week newsletters are permanently archived on TheNibble.com, in chronological order and by product category.
THE NIBBLE does not sell the food products we review or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them. Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their categories.

Books For Cookie-Lovers

Great Cookies The Good Cookie All American Cookie Book
Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets, by Carole Walter. Packed with more than 200 delectable recipes, this colorful, all-inclusive cookie book has traditional favorites like Snickerdoodles, Oatmeal Raisin and Favorite Lemon Squares to future stars of the cookie jar like the trail mix–inspired Teton Trailers and chewy, chocolaty Midnight Macaroons. There’s something to satisfy every taste and every occasion. Click here for more information or to purchase. The Good Cookie: Over 250 Delicious Recipes from Simple to Sublime, by Tish Boyle. There are thousands of cookie recipes and hundreds of cookie recipe books. Boyle, food editor of the magazines Chocolatier and Pastry Art & Design, Boyle uses her experience as a pastry chef to update, improve and choose between all those thousands of recipes for classic and best-loved cookies. Click here for more information or to purchase. The All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Baggett went on a culinary journey of several years, researching and baking nearly 30,000 cookies. Every American cookie you can think of is here, from the traditional to regional favorites. Avid bakers will appreciate the bits of cookie lore, history and evolution of techniques. A brilliant collection. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Damn Good Cookies: Damn Good Eating

When was the last time you were excited about a box of bakery cookies?  If recently, please send us the address! Mostly, we find a dull sameness—whether because bakeries are following the same old tired recipes or ordering their cookies from provisioners who do. Most of the time, the calories aren’t worth it.

When we were tipped off to Mary Winslow, a Chicago baker of custom cakes for weddings and special occasions, we thought it promising. Hopefully, a specialist with the technique and dedication to prepare elaborate cakes from scratch would port those skills into making great cookies too.

We were a bit surprised when, instead of something elegant, a brown cardboard box with a hand-stamped label arrived announcing:

Damn Good Cookies
The kind you wish your mother would have made.

Therein begins the entertainment, for inside the box are cookies good-looking enough to bring to the finest reception anywhere...except, perhaps, when it comes time to making introductions on the receiving line. Let other bakers bestow traditional names like Macadamia and Thumbprint upon their cookies.  The Damn Good Cookies crew includes Controlling Coconut, Chubby Wubby Chocolate, Maternal Macadamia Nut, Overprotective Pecan and Rockabye Raspberry. Not to get psychoanalytic about it, but these cookies don’t see themselves as treats baked by a sweet, submissive Mama. They want to be in your face—in as many ways as they can. Let’s meet the cookies—before they get too demanding.

Gourmet Cookies
Above, the box of Damn Good Cookies and some of
their contents. Below, the open box with the five-cookie assortment, and the stamped “key” to the cookies. Photos by Melissa Hom.
Inside Box

Butter Cookies

 

Chubby Wubby Chocolate is a great cookie...if only it had a more prudent name. Yes, the cookies are chubby, but the name can’t help but remind one that perhaps one shouldn’t get too close in the first place. The good news is that we were content to eat just two, which shows how good these cookies are. It’s easy to plow through an entire a box of lesser cookies, seeking satisfaction. These bittersweet chocolate cookies, studded with lots of chocolate chips, are sandwiched with a layer of chocolate ganache.  It’s a great concept. If you love chocolate, consider ordering an extra box of Chubby Wubby Chocolate to augment the regular assortment.

Chubby Wubby Chocolate
Chubby Wubby Chocolate, a magnificent cookie for
chocolate-lovers, is two bittersweet chocolate cookies
studded with chocolate chips, sandwiched with
chocolate ganache.
Controlling Coconut Maternal Macadamia
Controlling Coconut isn’t really controlling. There’s just a touch, so people who don’t really like coconut may find that they enjoy it very much.
Maternal Macadamia Nut had one of the largest macadamias we’ve ever seen in the center. It’s just one of the ways in which Damn Good Cookies makes their cookies stand apart.
Overprotective Pecan Rockabye Raspberry
Overprotective Pecan is a pecan chocolate chip cookie, a flavor that normally is one of the more popular. Here, it’s in a group of peers (but we won’t say it too loud...we still want it to feel special).
Rockabye Raspberry is a thumbprint cookie filled with outstanding homemade raspberry preserves and sprinkled with vanilla sugar. With a cup of tea, it is true comfort food.
Photos of cookies by Melody Lan.

This classic assortment of butter cookies touches on British and French cookie tradition. But there’s another cookie tradition at hand here: the Damn Good Cookies line includes the bite-size Middle European pastry known as rugalach (pronounced RUH-geh-luch—if you can’t pronounce the guttural German “ch” at the end, as in the exclamation ach!, you can say rugala [RUH-ga-la], which is one of many alternative spellings).

Resplendent Rugalach

At the risk of sounding like we’ve been driven to rave by an overload of sugar: these rugalach are the tops, a minimum of browned cream cheese dough and lots of fabulous filling.

Unlike most rugalach, which are filled with commercially-made preserves, Ms. Winslow makes conserves* by hand. You can see the large chunks of apricot, along with the nuts and raisins, in the photo at the right and know that the filling didn’t come out of a jar! As a result, these rugalach are balanced more to the sweet, fruity side than the nutty side, which favors our sweet tooth. The rugalach are sold separately from the butter cookies, in an assortment that includes:

  • Cherished Cherry
  • Hold My Hand Hazelnut
  • Save Your Appetite Apricot

Ms. Winslow’s rugalach are not enormous (as the photo might indicate)—they’re on a scale with the cookies—but every bite is memorable.

*A conserve is a mixture of more than one fruit, often with added nuts and raisins. Like a preserve, it is used as a spread for breads, pastries and meats.

Rugalach Save Your Appetite Apricot. Photo by Melissa Hom.

What’s The Occasion?

When should one consider Damn Good Cookies?

  • As dessert, alone or with ice cream, sorbet or fruit
  • On a cookie plate at tea parties and other occasions
  • As a gift for any purpose
  • To prove to someone that you still can find good butter cookies
  • The rugalach also are a wonderful breakfast pastry

If you peruse the website, you’ll also notice a link to Ms. Winslow’s chocolate line, Ugly Truffles. They’re not ugly in the least—just snarky, and as delicious as the cookies. Perhaps they’re in need of a few sessions on the couch...with you.

—Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to cookie-lovers, people who like to treat their friends to cookies, people who entertain and anyone in need of a host, hostess or business gift.

DAMN GOOD COOKIES

COOKIES:  Chubby Wubby Chocolate, Controlling Chocolate, Maternal Macadamia Nut, Overprotective Pecan, Rockabye Raspberry
RUGALACH: Cherished Cherry, Hold My Hand Hazelnut, Save Your Appetite Apricot

  • Cookies
    20-Piece Assortment, $20.00
    32-Piece Assortment, $30.00
    Single Flavors, $10.00 to $18.00
  • Rugelach
    12-Piece Box, $20.00
    24-Piece Box, $35.00

Purchase online at ChocolateGourmet.com
info@chocolategourmet.com

Chicagoans can also phone in cookie orders for pick-up: 1.312.850.1051 and can take advantage of Ms. Winslow’s custom cakes at Take The Cake.

Shipping additional. Prices and item availability are verified at publication but are subject to change.

Cookie Assortment


Read about some of our other
favorite sweets:



More Favorite Baking Books

Creative Cookies Cupcakes Galore Crazy About Cupcakes
Creative Cookies: Delicious Decorating for Any Occasion, by Toba Garrett. A great cookie decorating book with outstanding recipes. Imaginative and elegant ideas for all occasions, with suggestions for adding your own touches. Click here for more information. Cupcakes Galore, by Gail Wagman. A comprehensive collection of all-time classic cupcake recipes, both old favorites and new treats. With more than 120 recipes and 60 fabulous and inspiring photographs. Click here for more information. Crazy About Cupcakes, by Krystina Castella. All the basics are lovingly explained so anyone can whip up a beautiful batch of cupcakes for everyday, parties and holidays. A chart- and template-filled chapter helps with flavor combinations and design elements. Click here for more information.

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