Even the most elaborate plated desserts can’t compete with the comfort and consistency of a classic cookie. The fresh-from-the-oven smell conjures up memories of grandma’s kitchen, where a plate of warm cookies and a glass of milk made a perfect snack.
Pastry chefs take great pride in recreating such moments for members and guests. As they reveal which cookie recipes are worth playing with, these pastry pros explain how subtle tweaks to their ingredient list and procedure have enhanced the flavor without compromising nostalgia.
Sugar and Spice
At The Country Club at Castle Pines in Castle Rock, Colo., members are sweet on a cookie that’s almost as fun to say as it is to eat. Snickerdoodles, produced by Pastry Chef Julie Eslinger, who has been at the club since August 2020, is a favorite of kids and adults alike. “The members love them because they’re soft and have a great cinnamon flavor,” she says.
The cookie’s unusual moniker hails from the German word schneckennudeln, which translates to ‘snail dumpling’—a nod to the shape and texture of the crunchy, crispy treat. Eslinger credits the cookie’s universal appeal to its versatility despite its worldly origin. “They are great for any season and can complement different menus,” she explains, noting the snickerdoodle’s presence on banquet and special event menus.
While Eslinger has been making snickerdoodles since she was a kid, she adapted her recipe for professional production four years ago. This past March, she began using Saigon cinnamon after spending time with a fellow pastry chef. “This is what she had on hand, and I loved the difference,” says Eslinger of the happy accident. She also recommends using cake flour, which keeps the cookie soft and delicate and yields a crisp outside.
Peanut butter and jelly may make a great sandwich, but when it comes to terrific twosomes, the cookies served at Red Run Golf Club in Royal Oak, Mich., are made with lemon and raspberry. Since she began working at the club last spring, Pastry Chef Christine Anschuetz has made batches of these flavored cookies. “Lemon and raspberry are such a classic combination, so I was not surprised it became a hit,” she says.
When writing this cookie recipe, Anschuetz harnessed her pastry-making experience at Forest Dunes Golf Club in Roscommon, Mich., where she taught cooking classes to members. In her one-woman pastry operation at Red Run, she’s responsible for plated desserts, ice cream and sorbet and adapting fruit-based sauces for dishes like duck egg pasta and cured yolks. But when Anschuetz is elbows-deep in cookie dough, she relies on the citrusy flavors of lemon and raspberry to pull off the perfect product.
In addition to being a regular request from Red Run’s ladies golf league, Anschuetz’s lemon raspberry cookies are a top choice for special club events. “They are also often served after lunch, so a lighter, brighter sweet treat makes sense at that time of day when you just want a few bites instead of a plated dessert,” she explains.
Over the years, Anschuetz has fine-tuned her recipe, rendering it the most-tweaked cookie in her repertoire. In addition to increasing the amount of zest and adding a few grams of citric acid, she enhances her product with shredded sweetened coconut to create bulk and texture. And while she has achieved good results using gluten-free flours when adapting her recipe for those with dietary restrictions, she prefers all-purpose flour.
“If I remove the egg and create a more shortbread texture, it is tasty, but the light, flaky texture does change,” Anschuetz notes.
A Whiff of Nostalgia
Returning to her midwestern roots has benefitted Executive Pastry Chef Jessie Stravinskas. Still, her arrival will soon be the good fortune of the members at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn., where her brown butter chocolate chunk cookie will debut later this year.
“It’s a slight twist on a classic that brings me back to my childhood,” says the chef, who has refined her recipe over the years.
After spending the wealth of her career in pastry kitchens at luxury hotels and resorts in Rhode Island, Florida and Texas, Stravinskas was lured back
home to Minnesota last May when she began her first culinary experience at a country club.
“I immediately fell in love with the property,” she says of Interlachen. “It was nothing I was used to, but everything I wanted: a welcoming team, high-quality ingredients and an eye on excellence.”
Since coming aboard, Stravinskas has embraced member-favorite recipes for which the club is known. In the cookie department, that honor falls to the gingersnap, proudly served at the 13th Tee and Founders, Interlachen’s café and bar between the ninth and tenth holes. Stravinskas describes the cookie as small in stature but big in taste, with crispy edges and a chewy center. “We bake 1,500 [gingersnaps] a week in the summer,” she reveals. “[They are] grabbed by the handful and stuffed into pockets for later, from what we hear.”
But the time-honored Interlachen cookie fixture may soon have some stiff competition with the arrival of Stravinskas’s brown butter chocolate chunk, which has a fond place in her heart (and kitchen).
“I remember my mother covering our dining room table in old newspapers, placing cooling racks on top, and loading the table full of homemade cookies,” she recalls. “My brothers and I would climb onto the chairs and stare at the piping-hot cookies in hopes that our mom would let us have one before lunch, knowing full well that if we tried to sneak one, she would know. That is the best thing about cookies—they bring you back to moments like those.”
Hoping to recreate a similar experience by introducing members to these showstoppers, Stravinskas shares the secret to her cookie’s irresistible flavor. The crispy outside is paired with melted chocolate chunks in the center, rendering it gooey at the center. It is finished with a touch of fleur de sel. But long before the recipe’s final touches, the intoxicating aroma from the brown butter alone is enough to salivate even the most particular member.
“The nutty caramelized smell that fills the kitchen is simply divine; already, you know you’re getting into something special,” she says.
Making her famous cookies and sharing them with appreciative guests sustains Stravinskas, primarily when she can provide more than just a way to end a meal.
“One of the best parts of my job is creating desserts that will bring our members back to a happy memory of when they were kids,” Stravinskas says. “And to our younger members, I hope to help create new memories and favorites they will look back on someday.”