The Designer Cookie is the latest one-stop sweet shop that lets customers create and bake their own cookies. Breaking into the frantic, sometimes fickle Toronto food scene isn't easy. Whether it's four-dimensional cupcakes or curry chicken poutine, more places are offering twists, slants or shticks to set them apart from the crowd. And Sweet Flour (another custom cookie baker) in Bloor West Village has found success in this category. So last week I ambled over to see if the gimmick here tasted good.
The Designer Cookie has existed as an online store for the past seven years, giving owner Monica Kransy time to hone her confectionery cred. Opening on Eglinton last November, Kransy follows the Norwegian proverb "cookies are made with love and butter," and uses no shortening, no margarine, and no shortcuts in her cooking - with everything baked fresh daily.
Much more than just a cookie joint, this temple of temptation offers cupcakes, scones, candied popcorn, wedding cakes and catering. It also boasts its own chocolate printer! Alas, not an Epsom wrought from cocoa, but a food dye printer that zaps logos onto cakes, cookies or whatever sugary snack you desire.
Although I'm here for the DIY cookies, the cupcakes look too good to breeze by, and with names like Chewy Vuitton, Calvin Lime and Christian Dioreo (all $2.50), I'll bite. The Dolce and Banana is a banana cake base that's moist and yum, but the choc buttercream frosting almost knocks my socks off. Kransy wasn't kidding about the butter. A little rich for my taste, it's the type of thing sure to please dedicated sweet tooth types. As I finish my aperitif, the aroma of freshly baked dough fills the air and I'm ready for the main event.
The cookie counter is a Wonka-esque take on the sandwich assembly line, with a gob-smacking array of goodies like M&M's, Skor bits, peanut butter pieces and mini-marshmallows (I'm pretty sure I had a dream like this once). Not knowing where to begin, Monica's assistant Blake (and cookie maker extraordinaire) guides me through the process.
Step one is choosing your dough: classic, double chocolate, or oatmeal. I go classic. Step two, choosing your mix-in, is where I get a little stuck. With over two dozen to choose from I'm trapped in a Pavlovian paradox. Do I go sweet and load up the chocolate chips and sprinkles, go nuts with macadamias, or mature with dried cherries? Sensing my struggle, Blake offers to whip me up his favorite concoction: Skor bits, soy nuts, pretzels and potato chips. Geez, I didn't know that much could be crammed into a cookie...but when in Rome. I nod and let Blake do his thing (all cookies $2.50 with two mix-ins, $0.50 per additional mix-in).
Working the ingredients into a generous sized ball, Blake flattens the cookie-to-be on a tray and whips it into the oven, where it cooks for ninety seconds. It's kind of like watching a pizza being made, and there's something thrilling about seeing all the stuff you wanted to put in cookies as a kid materialize before your eyes.
As Blake's unholy creation is baking, I grab a pre-fab cookie for comparison. The Cocoa Chanel ($2.00) is intensely chocolaty, with a high cocoa count that makes it more bitter than sweet. So far, so good. Then Blake plops down my custom cookie and I think I've over-extended myself.
Bubbling and crackling before me, it's a big bastard; almost the size of an outstretched palm and hot to the touch. A proud, formidable cookie, the Skor, pretzel and chips poke out, daring me to take them all on at once. I oblige.
Biting off a chunk, the first thing that hits me is the heat. I'd forgotten how good freshly baked cookies can be as the warm, lush dough rolls over my tongue and I taste the butter coursing through it. The Skor and pretzels provide roughage and that salty-sweet combination I'm such a fan of. I don't detect much of the chips and the soy nuts but I've got enough on my palette to keep me busy.
Working through my crumbling confection, I'm surprised at how much better it tastes than the cupcake and cookie that preceded it. Both were perfectly respectable, but this blew them out of the water. It was more than a taste; it was an experience. One I intend to repeat.
But not today. As the air once more fills with the scent of baking my tummy rumbles, and I leave before succumbing to temptation once again.
Tues - Fri: 10am - 7pm
Sat: 10am - 6pm
Sun: 12pm - 6pm
See also: The best new bakeries in Toronto, 2009