Even though I seem to be missing the artistic gene, it doesn't mean that a gal can't dream. And when I say dream, I say dream of making cakes and biscuits. The reason why I think I love baking so much is because the colour palette is wider and the potential for cute, whimsical or adorable higher. And biscuits or cookies along with cakes have huuuge cute potential.
When I walk into Cookies and Milk, a new cookie bar on King Street in Newtown, owner and pastry chef Libby Marriner is taking out a tray of custom made cookies from the back. The order is for Fashion Week and features red rimmed white iced cookies with perfect red hangers on the front.
They're so perfect that I can't help but admire the piping work. Libby's original business is Polka Dot Cookies, which are beautifully decorated custom made cookies. Less than two months ago, her cookie bar opened. It was her chance to go into bat for the humble cookie, often bypassed for macaron, cupcake or cake.
Where does she find inspiration? Libby says "A lot of pinched ideas firstly, there are very few recipes that I just make up myself, they all start from someone else. I will freely admit that if it wasn't for Alice Medrich I do not think I would even have a cookie shop. She has written the best recipes I have ever baked and the wall art in our shop is taken from her awesome book "Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy"."
"Then culture, I was born and raised in Melbourne so I stubbornly cook some things the way we ate there. Not like it is a foreign country, but some things are different, custard tarts for instance, always short, never flaky. The Doris Day (orange passionfruit marshmallow macaroon) came from watching lots of Hollywood movies with my Mum when I was a kid. Some kind of collective subconscious, voices in my head, ideas from customers, mostly things that just make us laugh."
The shop is prettily decked out with cute details like biscuit cushions, painted crates and well, of course cookies in jars. For savoury lovers there are also quiches but the main attraction is sweet. There's also a large rumpus room through the rainbow ribbons where mother's groups often gather for morning tea.
There are about a dozen cookies on offer plus tarts and brownies, the latter so popular that they're sold out. This afternoon supplies in some jars are running low and we watch as they're replaced by freshly baked ones. Libby's signature Polka Dot vanilla cookies are also available in different sized jars for gifts.
I was initially put onto the new cafe by cake artist Faye Cahill who mentioned Libby's lemonade cookies. Intrigued, I had to try one of these cookies. They look deceptively simple but one bite into the crisp, thinnish buttery cookie and the lemon sherbert comes to life simulating the sensation of lemonade! They're suddenly my favourite too.
The macarons have a paper thin shell and collapse like a soft cloud under each bite. They're filled with a passionfruit buttercream and there is the thinnest sliver of candied ginger in the centre.
Remember these things? You know, before macarons took over the world? ;) These are coconut macaroons which are chewy with toasted coconut, blood orange and fragrant cinnamon.
I bought these quite honestly just for the novelty but I end up really enjoying these biscuits. It's a double layered moustache shaped walnut cookie with a meltingly short texture. It's not overly sweet but appealingly nutty with a thin layer chocolate filling.
An unassuming cookie, the chocolate dipped spoon is fantastic and goes to show that cookies in the range are so different. The honey cookie is beautifully snap crisp and edged with sesame seeds, one end dipped in chocolate. It's the kind of cookie that you could easily eat a packet of.
I ask Libby how what her secrets to a good crisp cookie are and she explains "They all have their own texture you have to get to know, some of it is built in recipe balance, some in mixing, but mostly in oven and in the way you store them. With a wafer, you can start them off crisp by baking just right, settling for a short time on hot tray out of oven, just a half minute or so, then flicking off onto wire. Then move them into air tight as soon as they are cool."
Okay since I've already confessed to being a sucker for all things cute, I pretend as if I have a kid at home and buy one of these (for me of course, children should not be left in my care or they'll be returned full of biscuit and cake). In a contrast of textures to the other crispy cookies, the chocolate bear is soft and the first thing I think of is the Tiny Teddy cookies on the outside. Inside there's a caramel jam filling and small chocolate bits for the eyes and nose detail.
At 6 centimetres wide, the tart shells are a good size to have with coffee or tea and the tart shell is crisp and filled with a tangy tangelo and passionfruit curd and a dollop of moussey white chocolate cream and a tiny sprinkle of lemon sherbert. It's tangy and creamy at the same time.
The last tart is an interesting one with a layer of fresh banana, tahini and a top layer of chocolate ganache. The banana and tahini combine to produce a unique flavour combination and the chocolate brings it back to familiarity.
So tell me Dear Reader, are you team cake, cookie or ice cream? And do you regularly have a morning or afternoon tea break?
Cookies and Milk
531 King St, Newtown NSW 2042 Tel: +61 (02) 9516 4381 Open Tuesday to Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday 8am-5pm, Sunday 9am-5pm