Flavor is where it's at
Savor the flavor.
The culmination of the epic work of a mad (cookie) scientist.
Late on a hot summer evening, Jonny and I stood in his brand new cookie truck, me with my camera and tape recorder, Jonny with his apron and cookie wracks. He’d driven up from Florida earlier that day and had a long night of baking ahead of him. “Why bake cookies,” I asked.
“There’s something about seeing someone’s face when they first bite into one,” Jonny says. Everyone is expecting the cookies to be sweet. Cookies are generally sweet, after all. But Big Boy Cookies aren’t just sweet. Their sweetness is not overpowering. The sweet is followed promptly by savory notes. Salt, butter, vanilla. These are ingredients that carry their weight and find their own taste on the tongue. “That’s why we call them cookies for grownups,” Jonny explains. There is much more than sweetness to a Big Boy. “It’s all textures and flavors, and that’s what I try to bring to the party.”
So where does Jonny’s flavor inspirations come from? Mostly, they come from everyday life. “With the Maple Bacon Bourbon [Cookie], I thought I had come up with that idea totally on my own, just based on things I like.” When he researched it online, he found several variations already existed on that theme. Still, as always, he put his own personal stamp on what became a Big Boy favorite—a cookie that is as all American as a cookie can get! As American as John Wayne and over-priced cell service. (Jonny calls this cookie The Duke, as an homage to John Wayne. He offers no such respect to the cost of cell service.)
“It’s fun,” Jonny continues. “I’m not good with chemistry, but I understand butter, sugar, flour, eggs… all that good stuff. It’s a balancing act, and that’s part of the fun.” Jonny crafts each cookie’s “flavor profile” for how it will ultimately play out on your tongue, but, he explains, “it always begins with smell.” He is a self-proclaimed flavor junkie, but a successful cookie experience starts with smell, moves from there to the way it looks, and ends not just with flavor but also texture. To some, this level of attention to detail over baking cookies may seem extreme, but wouldn’t it be nice if everyone providing goods or services offered the same level of attention? I think so. In an age where instant gratification is expected, from our fast foods to our wifi hotspots, someone who likes to take their time and get things right seems like a breath of fresh air. Or a bite of cookie perfection.
For Jonny, creating new cookie recipes is part science experiment and part social experiment. He spent more than a year perfecting his Caramel Apple Cookie. For his Caramel Brownie Cookie, he experimented with the science behind what makes a moist brownie, because no one loves a dry brownie. And let’s face it. The last brownie you ate was probably dry. So how does one refine a brownie recipe to guarantee it’s moistness and then convert that into a cookie? Furthermore, is it even legal to fool around with the classically accepted American tradition of over-rated dessert snacks? If brownies are so dry, wouldn’t we be better off to just eat cake instead? Why bring cookies into it at all? If baking had a rebel motorcycle gang, Jonny would be a member, leather chaps and all.
Understanding how the ingredients interact with each other and react to baking informs the ultimate experience of each cookie. But that’s clearly not the end of the story. “Some people hate the taste of coconut,” Jonny says. “Other people like the taste, but hate the texture of shredded coconut.” It’s a tricky process combining the science (who even knows the difference between baking soda and baking powder?) with using smells, tastes and textures that make people happy.
And make no mistake: Big Boy Cookies do make people happy.