CookieBar: A Behind the Scenes Wrap-Up

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While all the pretty stuff was happening uptown in Manhattan, I was in Queens, in the kitchen with Johnny Iuzzini baking like mad.  If I hadn’t been so nervous about how these new and huge ovens would work, how the cookies would come and if anyone would show up on opening day to eat them, this would have counted high among the best baking days of my life.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend Sunday baking with Johnny, pastry chef at Jean-Georges, winner of the James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef Award, author of Dessert Fourplay, and one of the kindest, most generous chefs I know?  We had an amazing team at CookieBar, but SuperBowl Sunday was everyone’s day off, so it was Johnny, my husband Michael and moi alone with the Chocolate Chunkers!  As I said in my newsletter, I learned more about baking in that one day than I’d learned in years.

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Still, when the team reassembled the following day, I couldn’t have been happier. This picture was taken by Jordana Zizmor for New York Social Diary and it shows the fabulously talented Megan Fitzroy, our lead baker for the week and, in real life, the genie behind Fitzroy Cakes, The Kid, Joshua Greenspan, The Husband, Michael Greenspan, and the wonderful Nathan Noland, who came to us through The French Culinary Institute and who, even though he said he could only stay one night, baked with us through the week.  Missing from this photo is another super-chef helper, Bradford Thompson. I met Brad when he was at Daniel and I was writing the Cafe Boulud Cookbook.  He went on to become the James Beard Best Chef of the Southwest when he was at Mary Elaine’s in Phoenix.  Now, back in New York, Brad helped us set up our production — a big deal for me, since I’m a home, not a big-bakery, baker — and he found us the terrific Megan.

Also missing are the great volunteers who came to bake with us after putting in full days at their real jobs.  Among them — and I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone — Liane, Bethany, Lane, Karen, Jamie, Suril, Eric, Sang, Kummi and Christina.  And the amazing Graceann Jordan, of The Modern, who seemed to arrive just when we needed her most.

I’m still trying to sift through all that happened during the week, so until I find words for it, here are some pictures of the project, some of them taken from the great stories that were written about CookieBar in TimeOut (Gabriella Gershenson scooped the story); Bon Appetit; Serious Eats (I think Robyn Lee’s photo of us on opening day got picked up the most); the Village Voice; and New York Social Diary.

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This was our set-up on Day One.  All neat and pretty and organized.  That lasted for about a minute.

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When the front area of Mizu was filled with people, it was all we could do to restock our dainty little trays and figure out who had asked for which cookies.  Thank heavens cookielovers are a patient lot. (And thanks to Emily Fleischaker at  Bon Appetit for the picture.)

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Being in the shop with Joshua and his friends who came to help us was great fun and, in a way, glamorous.  We got to get dressed up everyday (in my case with lots of make-up to hide the lack-of-sleep pouches that were growing under my eyes) and we got to meet so many really great people. (Picture by Robyn Lee for Serious Eats.)

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And then, at 4 pm, it was back into jeans and an apron (and lots of layers to keep warm) and off to the kitchen – less glam, but equally terrific. (This picture was taken by Bethany Clevenstine of My Baking Therapy.)

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Most of the recipes for our CookieBar cookies came from Baking From My Home to Yours, but I played around with them a bit.  For the shortbread cookies, we rolled the dough out to a thickness of 1/4-inch, cut out 3-inch rounds and then baked the cookies in rings, so that they developed a slight crust around the edges, and so that all of the shortbread cookies — the Sables, Coconut Limes and the Espresso-Chocolate Chips– would be the same size and have the same look. (Another picture by Bethany Clevenstine of My Baking Therapy.)

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Here’s the last box of cookies we put together – you can see the edges of the shortbreads.

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We had hoped to bake a few other kinds of cookies for the pop-up week, but it turned out that we’d underestimated how many cookies we’d need each day and so didn’t have time to work on the others.  But somehow, Megan found a moment to make these little sable hearts for Valentine’s Day – not that they lasted until Valentine’s Day, since we put them out Friday and they were gone in a flash.


Next time – and there will be a next time (stay tuned) – we’ll know better.