It seems like everything has its own “National Day” these days. But in the case of National Cookie Day—celebrated December 4 — there’s really no reason to complain. I’ll take any excuse I can to eat warm chocolate chip cookies.
In honor of this delicious day, I caught up with master chocolatier Norman Love, who is a cookie connoisseur.
Love is known for his exquisite chocolates that are almost too beautiful to eat and his chocolate salons located in Florida. He partnered with Princess Cruises to create and launch the Chocolate Journeys program, which treats guests to decadent desserts; wine and chocolate pairings; and specialty chocolate cocktails. And now they are using Love’s cookie recipes onboard their 18 ships as part of that program as well.
As if that isn’t enough of a cookie resume, Love recently launched a line of gourmet cookie kits called Stir, Bake, LOVE. So, he seemed like the perfect guy to talk to on this day of all things cookie.
The Daily Meal: So many different things can be considered cookies. What is a cookie when it comes to a strict culinary definition? And how then are they defined more broadly?
Chef Norman Love: Here’s the unofficial definition: The English word "cookie" is derived from the Dutch word koekje, which means “little cake.” Dutch bakers used to test oven temperatures on small amounts of batter so that they would not waste the entire cake mix if the temperature wasn't right. It was not long before they discovered that these tiny pieces of cooked batter were actually quite tasty and thus, the cookie was born! Today, the definition is a bit broader. Cookies can be crunchy, sweet, salty and sour – the types and textures have greatly expanded over the years, but the idea of cooked, baked somewhat cake-like small pieces of dough is still the same.
What is your fondest childhood memory when it comes to cookies?
I’m not sure it’s my fondest, but it’s my funniest. My first attempt to make cookies was when I was in 2nd or 3nd grade. I was making peanut butter cookies and incorrectly measured the salt. ½ tsp became ½ cup. I gave my brother one of the cookies and let’s just say they were less peanut butter and more salt cookies. He still reminds me of it today!
What are significant ways people can celebrate National Cookie Day?
Enjoy a really delicious, warm, just out of the oven cookie with someone special. Whether that means making a batch at home with your kids, going to your favorite pastry shop and buying some, even picking some up at the grocery store. Enjoy them how you like them best — with a cold glass of milk, dipped in tea, with a strong cup of coffee, topped with ice cream. We just introduced a line of gourmet cookie kits, Stir, Bake, LOVE, so people can enjoy our delicious, gourmet cookies at home, made freshly and easily. I’d say that today, for National Cookie Day, go pick up one of our kits and make your own batch!
In this age of fancier and fancier and more obscure desserts, is the old school cookie still relevant? If so, why?
Of course! Cookies are part of our culture — all of us great up eating and baking them and chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal cookies are American staples. Cookies are comfort food and bring us back to fond childhood memories and in today’s crazy age, people are looking for that comfort. Whether freshly baked, purchased at a gourmet shop like Norman Love Confections, or bought at the grocery store, cookies are still one of the most popular desserts and snacks in the world. Plus, people are getting crazier with cookies, putting in obscure ingredients and creating decadent works of art to rival any fancy confection.
What is the one thing that you think would surprise people when it comes to cookies?
If you make cookies using fresh and high quality ingredients, in particular butter and vanilla, people would be so surprised what really different outcomes you’ll have. Good quality butter and vanilla — pure Madagascar or bourbon vanilla — really enhances the flavor.
What is the one thing you hate to see when it comes to cookies?
I am not a fan of many chocolate-dipped cookies. Often, especially in large retail stores where the cookies are mass-produced, the “chocolate” is really chocolate coating — a chocolate-like product. That substitute for real chocolate ruins the quality of a cookie. Maybe it’s because I’m also a chocolate-maker, but you shouldn’t skimp on the quality of any ingredient in a cookie — or any dessert. If you’re going to make chocolate-dipped cookies, use real chocolate. To have a truly delicious cookie, you need to use fresh, high-quality ingredients.
What are your favorite cookies to eat and why?
I really love buttery shortbread cookies that are heavy on vanilla and slightly crunchy.
And what are your favorite cookies to make and why?
I most enjoy making chocolate chunk chocolate chip cookies. They’re what our customers and my family and friends request most, and it’s always gratifying to bake something that’s so well received. But, they’re also fun because each time you make them, you can experiment a little — add more chocolate, more chips, throw in some walnuts.
Any chance you’d be willing to share your secret recipe?
Here it is!