Kevvie’s Cookie Safari – the first collection

12 cafés, 16 cookies – what began as whimsical test of how my wife’s cookies compare against professionally made ones became an odyssey that had us trekking back and forth through the inner city streets in search of the best cookies that Sydney has to offer.

This is a compilation of what we’ve tried so far…

 

Bourke Street Bakery’s Chocolate & Sour Cherry Cookie

Day 226: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #1 – Bourke Street Bakery's Chocolate & Sour Cherry Cookie

Day 226: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #1 – Bourke Street Bakery’s Chocolate & Sour Cherry Cookie

Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills has a rustic suburban charm, with a handful of wooden tables on the sidewalk and only a little room for its customers to congregate. In fact, I think it’s an even tighter space than Adrian Zumbo in Balmain. Tucked about a block away from the fashionable bustle of Crown Street, it’s a destination for freshly baked breads and pastries to the locals; its modest selection of cookies are hidden to the side on a shelf in the window. Its signature cookie, the Chocolate & Sour Cherry, is widely claimed to be among Sydney’s best. I bought four.

The Chocolate & Sour Cherry is luxuriously textured – crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and thick enough to give you the satisfaction of a substantial bite without falling into cake territory.

The flavours are pretty much as described – Belgian Callebaut chocolate blended into the flour, with a sparing three to four sour cherries per cookie that add little punctuation marks to the otherwise understated and surprisingly unsweetened flavour.

Bourke Street Bakery

Bourke Street Bakery

But without additional chocolate chips, even of the dark or unsweetened variety, the Chocolate & Sour Cherry falls short of delivering an unforgettable knock-out punch that has you coming back for more. In fact, it’s in danger of being described as slightly bland – I wasn’t left with any great temptation to go for seconds.

Still, sweetness isn’t necessarily for everyone – so on that note this is one of the nicer unchocolatey chocolate cookies I’ve had in a while. But is it one of the best?

Put it this way: I’ve got another two sitting on the kitchen bench and even the kids don’t want them.

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

6.5 – MOAR CHERRIES PLEASE!

Where: Bourke Street Bakery, 633 Bourke Street (cnr Devonshire Street), Surry Hills, NSW 2010. It’s a brisk 10-minute walk up Devonshire Street from Central Station, but it’s not too difficult to find local parking.

How much: About $4 each

 

Scout’s Honour’s Burnt Butter, Triple Choc Cookie with Nutella Centre and Sea Salt

Day 235: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #2 – Scout's Honour's Burnt Butter, Triple Choc Cookie with Nutella Centre and Sea Salt

Day 235: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #2 – Scout’s Honour’s Burnt Butter, Triple Choc Cookie with Nutella Centre and Sea Salt

A discreet sandwich bar and cafe to the locals, Scout’s Honour is one of Redfern’s hidden pearls. A stack of its signature cookie, the Burnt Butter Triple Choc, sits beside a mound of muffins and other baked goods on an open wood platter. I felt a little guilty buying the last four at noon – but I suppose that’s a sign of how in-demand they are. So, no – I guess I don’t feel guilty, then.

The Burnt Butter Triple Choc presents a mouthwatering combination of flavours. At its heart is the burnt butter, which envelops the senses with a rich, nutty taste. Milk chocolate chips add pops of creaminess through each bite; and the sea salt, sprinkled liberally over the surface, accentuates the flavours just a little more without going overboard. The sea salt is a devastatingly effective ingredient in the way it coats your lips, too – I was licking them long after I’d finished, which kept me on a cookie high for at least another 30 minutes.

Scout's Honour at Redfern

Scout’s Honour at Redfern

The lady at the counter explained that today’s batch had a peanut butter centre instead of Nutella (this may have something to do with the world hazelnut shortage), but it didn’t really matter. After working through the rich, complex flavours of the Burnt Butter Triple Choc, biting into the peanut butter is like reaching the centre of a jam-filled doughnut – a torrent of pure, unfiltered richness – the perfect finish to the cookie if, like me, you eat around the edges and save the best for last.

It’s difficult to judge this cookie, though, as the folks at Scout’s Honour don’t seem to be able to produce a consistent batch. Between the four that I bought, they ranged from being as hard and crunchy as an Arnott’s Ginger Nut to being as soft and chewy as an old pizza. I’d put this down to the fact that the cookies are all so thin – it means they’re more susceptible to being over and under-cooked.

I don’t know that that’s necessarily a bad thing. It gives them a homemade charm that I rather warm to.

Personally I prefer them on the slightly softer/chewier side, but that’s only because I had the luxury to choose. Early birds and all that.

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

8.0 – A rich and wholly satisfying combination of flavours (7.0 if you get a crunchy one)

Where: Scout’s Honour, 118 George Street (cnr Refern Street), Redfern, NSW 2016. It’s a brisk 5-minute walk from Redfern Station, but it’s not too difficult to find local parking.

How much: $4 each

 

Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen’s Callebaut Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Spelt Cookie

Day 242: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #3 – Bread & Circle Wholefoods Canteen's Callebaut Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Spelt Cookie

Day 242: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #3 – Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen’s Callebaut Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Spelt Cookie

Nestled in the back corner of one of the many hollowed-out warehouses dotted around the increasingly urbanised former industrial area (well, that’s kind of arguable) known as Alexandria, Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen is not a simple place to get to. But, like most of the food highlights in Alexandria (The Grounds, Bruce Leaves, The Brewery Bar, etc), it’s totally worth it.

Their signature cookie, the Callebaut Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Spelt, is a gorgeous thing to behold. Huge, thick, achingly soft to bite into, yet giving you the satisfaction of a hard crunch with a generous amount of whole hazelnuts, this no-nonsense cookie is lightyears ahead of everything else we’ve experienced thus far on our Cookie Safari journey.

Bread & Circle Wholefoods Canteen

Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen

The spelt base has a fine but crumbly texture, with a suitably plain but wholesome flavour. The magic truly happens when you bite into the chunks of dark Callebaut chocolate and let the flavours ripple through to the back of your palate – it is completely disarming; almost meditative in how you forget all of life’s troubles.

Before sense kicks in and you start asking yourself whether you’re eating a glorified cake, you get to the hazelnuts – salty, nutty and, as mentioned before, crunchy. I have to admit that I’m not crazy about hazelnuts (years of nothing but choc-coated hazelnuts as a young ‘un spoilt them for me), but even I can’t deny how well they work. This is one sophisticatedly crafted baked good.

It’s a healthy atmosphere, too. As I always say, good manners and a smile are free, and the folks at Bread & Circus are a genuine charm factory. They are super-friendly, which goes hand-in-hand with their awesome breakfast and lunch menus, creative freshly-squeezed juices and tea infusions that include the above-mentioned trance-inducing dark Callebaut chocolate melted in (though I do have to question the $20 breakfast called Breakfast w/ Gwyneth, because she sounds dumber than a box of hair).

Bread & Circle Wholefoods Canteen – baked goodness

Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen – baked goodness

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

10 – Sensational. We are definitely coming back. 

Where: The Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen, 21 Fountain Street , Alexandria NSW 2015. It’s at least a 15-minute walk from Redfern Station. There’s local parking, but it’s a little tricky at the best of times. By bus, the 355 will take you right to its doorstep; the 370 stops right around the corner.

How much: $5 each

 

Grandma’s Little Bakery’s Honey & Ginger Cookies

Day 248: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #4 – Grandma's Little Bakery's Honey & Ginger Cookies

Day 248: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #4 – Grandma’s Little Bakery’s Honey & Ginger Cookies

Located towards the southern end of the trendy Alexandria district, Grandma’s Little Bakery is a combination cafe and middle eastern diner with a slight hipster vibe. Its signature dish, the shakshuka, is apparently an Israeli speciality of poached eggs in a shallow pan; lthough I understand it’s also called “shakshouka” (meaning “mixture”) in Arabic-speaking countries, so I guess maybe it’s like the middle eastern equivalent of chop suey? Chop suey is, incidentally, an American invention and is quite foreign to most Chinese, but I digress…

Anyway I seem to have ruined a perfectly good introduction to the ‘mixture’ of cookies on offer at Grandma’s Little Bakery. There are at least a dozen to choose from. I chose three; and for today’s exercise we put their Honey & Ginger Cookies to the test.

Grandma's Little Bakery – go there for the shakshuka

Grandma’s Little Bakery – go there for the shakshuka. They’re famous, apparently.

It’s possible to buy them individually for a few bucks each, but we chose to go for a box. It cost $6.90 for 37 of these things. I’m not sure how the price is arrived at – some of the other cookies costed as much as $8 for a box.

No larger than a small bite in size, each of these little heart-shaped flavour-bombs is a little sandy to the touch, but cake-like and tender to bite into.

They’re packed with flavour – a spicy, gingery taste that’s fresh and beyond mere confection. I’m not sure I could discern the honey, but I suspect that’s where the chewiness comes from.

Grandma's Little Bakery – a wide selection of tiny cookies

Grandma’s Little Bakery – a wide selection of tiny cookies

They’re not bad when taken with a hot beverage, but on their own they’re just dressed-up gingerbread. The thing is, gingerbread is softer (these cookies lean on the firmer side of the “tender” spectrum), and I’ve had bigger, heartier gingerbread cookies that taste better. It occurs to me that these cookies would probably taste awful if they were any bigger by virtue of how concentrated the flavours are.

Anyway, I stopped at two. They’re nice, but only marginally better than what you can get from the supermarket. It may be that the fine but ultimately bland texture made it much less of an experience than I was hoping for… but that’s just me.

 

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

5.5 –  These cookies taste better when they’re obscured by a hot beverage. That may not be a good thing…

Where: Grandma’s Little Bakery, 42/40-42 O’Riordan Street , Alexandria NSW 2015. There’s plenty of local parking, and it’s an easy 5-minute walk north from the Alexandria Homemaker Centre. By bus, the 348 will take you to Collins Street, which is the nearest cross-street.

How much: $6.90 per box 

 

Grandma’s Little Bakery’s Superfood Cookies

Day 252: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #5 – Grandma's Little Bakery's Superfood Cookies

Day 252: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #5 – Grandma’s Little Bakery’s Superfood Cookies

I felt a little bad about the last cookie I reviewed because, even though the Honey & Ginger Cookies from Grandma’s Little Bakery were decidedly average, I didn’t want it to be the lasting impression I have of the establishment.

So here we are – Grandma’s Little Bakery’s Superfood Cookies. Their proper name is “Dana’s Superfood Cookies” so I really should’ve written “Grandma’s Little Bakery’s Dana’s Superfood Cookies” but I wasn’t keen on putting so many possessives in a sentence, which probably says more about me than anything else… Anyway, in case you’re wondering, Dana (Kvtinsky) is the store owner.

Most cookies use flour, eggs and butter as a delivery medium for a generous serving something sugary – like chocolate – but these Superfood Cookies go in the opposite direction. They are neither buttery nor sweet, but deliver an enticingly understated medley of oatmeal, chia seeds and crushed almonds… I’m not enough of a health nut to be able to divine the other ingredients, but it’s a settled and mature flavour that doesn’t leave that “Hey! This tastes like breakfast!” impression, as so many lesser ‘superfood’ cookies do.

These little cookies are firm but bordering on crumbly to bite into, which makes them feel very delicate to handle. While richer specimens tend to overwhelm the senses with unsubtle chunks of flavour, these impress with their soft, granular texture between one’s teeth – they’re practically dainty to eat. There are times when I feel as though I’ve maxed-out my weekly sugar quota and would prefer something a little less rich without being completely plain and dull – and these cookies hit the right spot.

I don’t envisage my kids queueing up for these cookies, but they’re the kind I’ll happily keep for myself; and go back for the next time I feel like some shakshuka.

 

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

7.5 – Subtle and understated; surprisingly good. 

Where: Grandma’s Little Bakery, 42/40-42 O’Riordan Street , Alexandria NSW 2015. There’s plenty of local parking, and it’s an easy 5-minute walk north from the Alexandria Homemaker Centre. By bus, the 348 will take you to Collins Street, which is the nearest cross-street.

How much: $8.90 per box 

 

Kürtősh’s Choc-fudge Cookie

Day 254: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #6 – Kürtősh's Choc-fudge Cookie

Day 254: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #6 – Kürtősh’s Choc-fudge Cookie

The Hungarian bakery known as Kürtősh is the pre-eminent place to go for fresh chimney cakes, also known as Hungarian doughnuts. It isn’t as well known for its cookies, but their signature Choc-fudge Cookies are hard to miss: a deep, glistening chocolate ganache sandwiched between two luscious chocolate cookies, all piled behind the glass counter by the cash register at their Surry Hills outlet, which is incidentally around the corner from Bourke Street Bakery.

I bought three, which were manually weighed. They cost about $2.80 each.

Kürtősh's Surry Hills bakery

Kürtősh’s Surry Hills bakery

There is nothing subtle about the Choc-fudge Cookie. After a slight crackle from your teeth breaking the surface, this cookie plunges you headfirst into an unapologetically rich and all-consuming swirl of chocolate. It’s an incredible chocolate taste, too – not the cheap stuff, not the kind that’s diluted by flour, or trying to be clever by complementing the flavours with fruits and nuts and whatnot…

It’s all chocolate. There is no room for anything else. I mean, I can see that I’m holding a cookie in my hands, but whatever’s in my mouth is soft and creamy and the chocolate just becomes the centre of the universe.

Don't like cookies? No problem. You haven't lived until you've had a freshly baked Hungarian doughnuts

Don’t like cookies? No problem. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a freshly baked Hungarian doughnut.

The downside to this cookie is that it’s just too much chocolate. It’s incredibly sweet and close to overwhelming. I realise this is an issue of personal taste and that even I’ve been known to occasionally declare “there’s no such thing as too much chocolate”, but the Choc-fudge Cookie has no texture to speak of. There’s no crunch, no variety – just a soft, nondescript mouthful of something that tastes really, really, ridiculously good.

That’s when I realised the Choc-fudge Cookie is really just a giant macaron. No really – take another look at the picture. It even has a semi-gloss surface, just like the ones from Adriano Zumbo. The focus on egg whites and icing sugar would explain why it’s so sweet, too.

If you’re after the satisfaction of a substantial cookie that you can sink your teeth into, then this doesn’t compare very favourably against, say, Bread & Circus’ Callebaut Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Spelt Cookie. But if you’re after a straight-up, no-nonsense chocolate fix, Kürtősh’s Choc-fudge Cookie will not disappoint.

 

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

8.5 – Incredible chocolate flavour, but a little lacking in texture

Where: Kürtősh, 604 Crown Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010. It’s a brisk 10-minute walk up Devonshire Street from Central Station. By bus, the 301, 302, 303, 352 and 355 stop a short walk away. Local parking is a little dicey, but not impossible. They also have outlets at Crow’s Nest and Randwick. 

How much: About $2.80 each (it was $49 per kilo)

 

Brickfields’ White Chocolate, Apricot and Rosemary Cookie

Day 259: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #7 – Brickfields' White Chocolate, Apricot and Rosemary Cookie

Day 259: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #7 – Brickfields’ White Chocolate, Apricot and Rosemary Cookie

With an Aikido school down the road, Sydney’s Mortuary Station around the corner and art galleries and photo studios forming pockets of cultural activity in the surrounding area, Brickfields is a popular watering hole for locals in the developing nouveau art centre of Chippendale.

Amidst a veritable minefield of baked goods (I hear their ricotta and lime cakes are best), I chanced upon their White Chocolate, Apricot and Rosemary Cookie. My first instinct was to avoid it: white chocolate has never been my favourite (it isn’t ‘real’ chocolate in my books), and rosemary is for lamb and beef.

So why did I end up trying one? I actually have no idea. It may have been my sense of adventure, maybe a desire to challenge a few of the established conventions in my life, like having crispy bacon with French toast or French fries in a chocolate sundae…

Brickfields' White Chocolate, Apricot and Rosemary Cookie

Brickfields’ White Chocolate, Apricot and Rosemary Cookie

At a glance, the White Chocolate, Apricot and Rosemary looks like an Anzac cookie – richly textured in rolled oats, with a golden hue to match the syrup it’s been drenched in. They look unevenly cooked and imperfectly shaped, like they’ve just come out of a little old lady’s gas-lit oven. It’s rather nostalgic.

There’s nothing imperfect about the taste, though. These cookies are substantial; soft and chewy to bite into. There wasn’t any of the overpowering sweetness that I initially expected, but rather a more subtle mixture of oaty, doughy flavours enhanced with occasions of dried apricots.

And the rosemary? You have to search for it. Or maybe it’s just not a flavour I’m accustomed to finding in cookies. But when you find it, it becomes the lofty top-note that defines the overall experience, like a guitar performance that just isn’t right without the squeals against the strings. It doesn’t feel out of place at all.

Brickfields – a short walk south from Central Park

Brickfields – a short walk south from Central Park

The white chocolate is the masterstroke, layering the cookie with a rich, creamy texture that reveals itself with each bite. As someone who isn’t particularly keen on white chocolate, it was pleasantly surprising to be able to completely overlook its presence, only to realise at the end that it was there all along. In fact, I’d say it’s what holds the whole experience together.

That said, the White Chocolate, Apricot and Rosemary is a substantial cookie to hoe into. One was more than enough for me.

 

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

7.5 – A rich cookie with layers of flavour (8.0 if you’re into white chocolate, I suppose).

Where: Brickfields Bakery and Cafe, 206 Cleveland Street, Chippendale, NSW 2008. It’s a brisk 10-minute walk north up Eveleigh Street from Redfern Station. By bus, the 352 stops right across the road. Local parking is very dicey. 

How much: $4.00 each 

 

Cookies + Milk’s Cocoa Nib

Day 269: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #8 – Cookies + Milk's Cocoa Nib

Day 269: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #8 – Cookies + Milk’s Cocoa Nib

It should come as no surprise that one of the best cookie establishments in all of Sydney should be located in Newtown, a melting pot of diverse tastes, cultures, philosophies and art. At the southern end of King Street, wedged somewhere between an indie toy store and a hoarder’s bounty of vintage knick knacks, is Cookies + Milk, an establishment that specialises in just those things. They make their own cookies, and they make their own syrups that go into the milkshakes. I think they also make jams and pies.

The place doesn’t seem like much – a hollowed out terrace, minimalistically refurbished with second-hand furniture straight out of the 1970s… but it’s the cookies that do all the talking.

Served on a thin wooden plank, it’s like a hipster’s reinterpretation of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – these cookies are presented and worshipped like sacred idols.

And rightly so: the Cocoa Nib is tiny, wafer-thin, brittle and slightly crunchy – the complete opposite of every other cookie we’ve tried to date.

Yet the flavours achieve a perfect balance of sweetness, chocolatey-ness and cookie-ness. Yes, it’s so good I’ve had to make words up just to describe it.

Cookies + Milk

Cookies + Milk. Go for the cookies, not the décor.

The flavours are impressively rich in spite of how delicate the cookies are to handle; and they linger in your palate just long enough for you appreciate them all. Better still, the experience seems to be very consistent. As you can see in the image, I purchased two of these cookies, and they were practically equal in every way (unlike Scout’s Honour’s Burnt Butter, Triple Choc Cookie).

Best of all? These things are so small that you don’t feel guilty about eating them.

Cookies + Milk – the menu. One of several. Prone to changing frequently.

Cookies + Milk – the menu. One of several. Prone to changing frequently.

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

10 – Sophisticated, delicate, flavoursome; perfection.

Where: Cookies + Milk, 531 King Street, Newtown, NSW 2042. It’s a brisk 10-minute walk south down King Street Street from Newtown Station. By bus, the 308, 352, 370, and 422 stop within close walking distance. There is some local parking available on Holmwood Street, which is just around the corner. 

How much: About $4.00 each. I don’t actually remember. Would you care when it’s this good?

 

Cookies + Milk’s Hazelnut, Rye and Whisky Fudge Cookie

Day 272: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #9 – Cookies + Milk's Hazelnut, Rye and Whisky Fudge Cookie

Day 272: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #9 – Cookies + Milk’s Hazelnut, Rye and Whisky Fudge Cookie

You didn’t think I’d settle for just the Cocoa Nib during my last visit to Cookies + Milk, did you? Unlike the bakeries and cafes that I’ve been visiting over the past few weeks, Cookies + Milk is the only place I’ve come across that specialises in cookies. It’s their business. It’s in their name. And if the Cocoa Nibs were anything to go by, I just had to see what the other cookies they have on offer are like – so here we are, the Hazelnut, Rye and Whisky Fudge Cookie.

The soft, chewy texture of this cookie is a great contrast to the considerably smaller and brittle Cocoa Nib – a testament to the range and talent of the people who run this establishment. Its moderately coarse layers of rye and crushed hazelnuts give every bite a nice granular texture, but it’s not quite as satisfying as the rippling crunch you get with Bread & Circus’ Callebaut Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Spelt Cookie, which has a remarkably similar taste.

In fact, the Bread & Circus cookie was the first thing my mind went to while consuming this one – so let’s call out the elephant in the room by directly addressing how they compare: the Hazelnut, Rye and Whiskey Fudge is a softer and significantly smaller cookie. Depending on how peckish you’re feeling, the Callebaut Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Spelt is an almost overwhelming experience that could qualify as a meal in itself; whereas the Hazelnut, Rye and Whiskey Fudge seems more sensibly sized as a snack.

The master stroke, however, is the smudge of whisky fudge at the centre, which adds an estery, malty flavour to punctuate the experience. It’s a more sophisticated flavour than the Callebaut Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Spelt at Bread & Circus; certainly less of a sugar hit, which is welcome.

With so many other varieties available on the menu, Cookies + Milk will be a very easy place to come back to.

Cookies + Milk. So many cookies, so little time…

Cookies + Milk. So many cookies, so little time…

 

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

9 – Another sensational cookie that doesn’t try to overwhelm you with sweetness, but impresses with complex flavours instead.

Where: Cookies + Milk, 531 King Street, Newtown, NSW 2042. It’s a brisk 10-minute walk south down King Street Street from Newtown Station. By bus, the 308, 352, 370, and 422 stop within close walking distance. There is some local parking available on Holmwood Street, which is just around the corner. 

How much: $3.00 each.

 

West Juliett’s Pink Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie

Day 290: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #10 – West Juliett's Pink Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie

Day 291: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #10 – West Juliett’s Pink Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie

Situated in the ambiguous border area between Newtown and Marrickville, the former local supermarket that is now West Juliett combines inner city taste with suburban sensibilities. A popular watering hole for breakfast, brunch and lunch, it’s the kind of place that excels at producing flawless poached eggs and grinding up its own fresh peanut butter; where there’s enough room for hipsters to share space with parents of young children who are desperate to remember what real food tastes like.

The baked goods are all stacked behind a glass counter next to the cash register by the door; a king’s bounty of cookies, muffins, brownies and other assorted confections that are designed to ensure you leave with ‘one for the road’. It’s impossible to miss and, if you have a sweet tooth, quite irresistible.

West Juliett’s Pink Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie is famed for having “more chocolate than flour.” Cafe owner John Stavropoulos claims that’s the secret behind the recipe, but I’m pretty sure the sprinkling of salt flakes might also have something to do with it – like salted caramel, chocolate with salt flakes can be devastatingly good.

Cookies on the counter

Cookies on the counter

The challenge that comes with appreciating a cookie that has set such high expectations is that it can be doubly disappointing. My first bite into the Pink Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie was altogether confusing: neither soft enough to be considered chewy nor hard enough to be deemed crumbly, I questioned whether it was even baked today (it was, apparently. This morning).

By the second bite, I started wondering where all the chocolate is. That’s when I realised it’s blended right into the cookie. Yes, there are chocolate chips, but they’re tiny and mostly melted through. You get the flavour, but you don’t get the satisfaction of an occasional, rippling cocoa explosion. Instead, it’s spread evenly through the coarse, buttery texture of the cookie, with occasional spikes from the salt flakes.

It’s huge, which is great. But by the third bite, I started asking “Do I really have to finish this whole thing? It’s starting to get a little bland.” And it is: the lack of refinement in the flavours and textures means that the novelty wears off fairly quickly.

Now, full disclosure: I’m a bit of a chocolate purist. I like big, whole chunks of the dark stuff, and a chocolate chip cookie that’s really just chocolate-infused dough is like a cruel joke. I appreciate that it might be enough for some people, but I was promised “more chocolate than flour” and I have a very active imagination.

So if this review is coming across as sounding disappointed, it’s because I set myself up for it. If I’d gone in blind, I’d say it’s nice and not entirely to my taste; but Cookies + Milk is just a short distance away and their Cocoa Nibs are like works of art by comparison.

Inner city taste, suburban sensibilities.

Inner city taste, suburban sensibilities.

 

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

7 – An unconventional take on a well known formula; not nearly as much chocolate as you’d be lead to believe.

Where: West Juliett, 30 Llewellyn Street (cnr Juliett Street), Marrickville NSW 2204. It’s a solid 20-minute walk from Newtown Station. By bus, the 355, 423, L23, and 308 stop within walking distance. Local parking is readily available. 

How much: $4.00 each.

 

Flour and Stone’s Hand-Iced Gingerbread

Day 295: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #11 – Flour & Stone's Hand-Iced Gingerbread

Day 295: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #11 – Flour and Stone’s Hand-Iced Gingerbread

Flour and Stone is a teeny, tiny little cafe located, as far as most city locations go, in the middle of nowhere; that weird vacuum of space on William Street between Hyde Park and King’s Cross. But that hasn’t prevented it from becoming the destination of choice for inner city dwellers and far beyond. With barely enough room for four modest tables (and a fifth outside), it’s not uncommon to see a queue of patient customers extending out to the street, eager for a taste of their cakes and other baked goods.

Everything about Flour and Stone is awesome. The panna cotta lamingtons, the salted caramel tarts, the home-made pies, the knitted hats with bunny rabbit ears that they put over their hard-boiled eggs… It’s an incredibly popular place to get custom cakes and wedding catering. Even the little dog that decided to take a dump outside right at the moment I took a photo of the place (see below) is awesome.

Flour and Stone. Yes, that dog is doing what you think it's doing.

Flour and Stone. Yes, that dog is doing what you think it’s doing.

Today’s trip was for their hand-iced gingerbread, which often changes in shape and design to match whatever is seasonally appropriate – so naturally I was presented with a selection of Christmas-themed shapes. They were all neatly stacked on a shelf off to the side of the main counter… It may have been arranged to look like an advent calendar, but it hardly seems important.

The first thing I noticed is that it seems to be the only style of cookie on offer at Flour and Stone. Most other places offer a range of nuts, chocolate and whatnot, so I thought it a little odd to put the entire cookie burden on something as pedestrian-sounding as gingerbread.

Flour and Stone – where everything is awesome

Flour and Stone – where everything is awesome

I needn’t have worried: Flour and Stone’s hand-iced gingerbread is a revelatory and thoroughly arresting experience.

The gingerbread is soft and moist, with almost no coarseness to its texture. The icing, which holds the cookie’s shape, is perfectly balanced against the rich spices infused into the cookie dough, producing a satisfying crackle with every bite.

The real reward comes after a mouthful of the gingerbread has gone down the hatch – the spices linger in your mouth like a warm after-glow, which is a nice contrast to the overall sweetness. This is a cookie to be savoured slowly, perhaps with a hot drink.

I want to say something superlative like “this is the most exquisite gingerbread I’ve ever had”, but the natural smart-ass response to that is “you mustn’t have had very much gingerbread before.”

I guess I’m fine with both statements being true. At a minimum, it’s lightyears ahead of the stuff they have at Grandma’s Little Bakery. Either way, I bought another one for later.

 

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

10 – Exquisite. Every piece of gingerbread I have from now on is going to be compared to this.

Where: Flour and Stone, 53 Riley Street (off William Street), Woolloomooloo NSW 2011. It’s a solid 15-minute walk from St James, Museum and King’s Cross Stations. By bus, the 200, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, L24, 311 and 461 stop within walking distance. Local parking is scarce. 

How much: $4.50 each.

 

Flour and Stone’s Soft Glazed Gingerbread

Day 297: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #12 – Flour and Stone's Soft Glazed Gingerbread

Day 297: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #12 – Flour and Stone’s Soft Glazed Gingerbread

Wednesday, 23 October 2014

If you believe that every Yin has its Yang, then the counterpoint to Flour and Stone’s perfect Hand-Iced Gingerbread sits on the shelf directly below – the Soft Glazed Gingerbread. It is indescribably bad.

The friendly staff warned that the experience wouldn’t be quite the same due to the lack of icing and the stronger mix of spices, but that doesn’t even begin to approximate the dullness of the flavours. Yes, they’re soft and sweet (golden syrup, butter and brown sugar are listed first in the ingredients), but they’re also the ungingeriest gingerbread I’ve ever had. I’m not even sure it’s ginger – it’s more like trying to suck the flavours of a mince pie through several layers of sponge, except there’s no mince pie at the end.

Okay, that was a terrible metaphor.

The anecdote I’m drawing on is that biting into this cookie is like peeling open a banana that you’re really looking forward to, then watching as it breaks and falls to the ground. I didn’t make that one up, but it most accurately captures how this cookie makes you feel.

But if you’re looking for value for money, let me be more direct: eating Flour and Stone’s Soft Glazed Gingerbread is like stepping in dog poop.

Flour and Stone's cookie rack of good and evil

Flour and Stone’s cookie rack of good and evil

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

3 – I didn’t think this would be possible. Yet here we are…

Where: Flour and Stone, 53 Riley Street (off William Street), Woolloomooloo NSW 2011. It’s a solid 15-minute walk from St James, Museum and King’s Cross Stations. By bus, the 200, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, L24, 311 and 461 stop within walking distance. Local parking is scarce. 

How much: $18.00 for a pack of five.

 

Cipro Pizza al Taglio’s Nutter Butters

Day 4: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #13 – Cipro Pizza al Taglio's Nutter Butters

Day 4: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #13 – Cipro Pizza al Taglio’s Nutter Butters

Occupying the same warehouse space as Bread & Circus in trendy Alexandria, Cipro Pizza al Taglio is the perfect destination for lovers of fine food who can’t rationalise the shame of loving pizza as well. The establishment comes from a fine pedigree, being helmed by Khan Danis and Catherine Adams (formerly of Rockpool). Each slice of their exquisite Italian creations is about the size of an iPhone 6 Plus and will set you back a twelve bucks. Staggering, yes, but it’s totally worth the money.

That said, a love of pizza is an absolute prerequisite for coming here. And, for the purposes of this week’s Cookie Safari, a love of peanut butter.

Cipro Pizza al Taglio – the pizza you have when you don't want to admit to liking pizza

Cipro Pizza al Taglio – the pizza you have when you don’t want to admit to liking pizza

Cipro Pizza al Taglio’s signature cookie is the Nutter Butters, an American-style delight in which a generous lash of peanut butter cream is sandwiched between two peanut-and-oat cookies. A second version of the cookie is also available – instead of creamed peanut butter, you get a thick wedge of fresh gelato, which essentially makes it an icecream sandwich.

The gelato version of the Nutter Butters is a terrific summer treat. The cookie is light, crumbly, and full of flavour; the texture contrasts nicely with the freezing cold gelato. It’s actually less like biting into a cookie and more like eating a gelato that’s topped with a nice crumble.

Cipro Pizza al Taglia's Nutter Butters – the gelato edition

Cipro Pizza al Taglio’s Nutter Butters – in focus, the gelato edition

The peanut butter cream version of the Nutter Butters is, unexpectedly, nothing like the gelato version. It’s soft, chewy and moist. I think the difference in texture comes from all the moisture in the peanut butter cream. It’s a dense cookie to work through, with a considerably more intense peanut flavour than the gelato version.

It is absolutely divine. If you are the kind of person who has a Pavlovian response to the idea of peanut butter with your French toast, or peanut butter with your bacon and egg roll, then the Nutter Butters will deliver a peanut butter high that you didn’t think possible.

There are, happily, many other perfectly acceptable dessert choices for anyone who doesn’t see the appeal of peanut butter – but you’d be mad not to try this at least once.

Cipro Pizza al Taglio's colour-coordinated interiors

Cipro Pizza al Taglio’s colour-coordinated interiors

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

9.5 – The cookie you need when you need peanuts with your peanuts 

Where: Cipro Pizza al Taglio, Shop 9, 21 Fountain Street , Alexandria NSW 2015. It’s at least a 15-minute walk from Redfern Station. There’s local parking, but it’s a little tricky at the best of times. By bus, the 355 will take you right to its doorstep; the 370 stops right around the corner.

How much: $7.50 each 

 

Jillian’s Cakery’s Oatmeal and Raisin Cookie

Day 17: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #14 – Jillian's Cakery's Oatmeal and Raisin Cookie

Day 17: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #14 – Jillian’s Cakery’s Oatmeal and Raisin Cookie

You don’t have to look far in Surry Hills to find a decent place to eat. Whether it’s the well-established places like Longrain or any of the obscure gourmet eateries dotted along Commonwealth Street, you’re sure to land somewhere that has a foodie following of some kind.

Jillian’s Cakery is located on Reservoir Street, just off Elizabeth; about as far west as you can go while still legally being classified as being part of the hipster Surry Hills locale. It’s the home of hard-to-find baked goods of the decadent kind, from spicy pumpkin pie, New York-style cheesecake and tres leches torte to individually hand-tied bags of caramel popcorn.

Fancy something savoury? They’ve got quiche, soups, crustini; and they make a pretty decent milkshake, too.

Jillian's Cakery – they make brilliant cakes

Jillian’s Cakery – they make brilliant cakes

Today’s Cookie Safari takes us to one of Jillian’s Cakery’s signature creations – the Oatmeal and Raisin Cookie. It’s a large, soft and moist cookie that holds its shape well, breaking apart with only a gentle bite.

Every mouthful is luxurious and coarsely textured. Sweet, oaty, ever-so-lightly spiced; it feels home-made, like the product of honest, hard work.

Unlike many of the cookies I’ve previously tried, the Oatmeal and Raisin doesn’t impress with extremes of sweetness and creaminess.The raisins don’t have the kind of overwhelming tang that you’d normally find in lesser cookies. Indeed, this cookie’s strength is in its subtlety. It complements their chocolate milkshakes quite perfectly… not so much their chai lattes, but I digress.

Despite its subtleties, the Oatmeal and Raisin isn’t an easy cookie to get through. It’s surprisingly dense, and there’s a lot to work through. Yes, it’s surprisingly yummy, but I think I could’ve gotten by with half.

Sweet and savoury – some of what's available at Jillian's Cakery

Sweet and savoury – some of what’s available at Jillian’s Cakery

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

8.0 – Subtle and luxurious, the perfect afternoon tea pick-me-up. 

Where: Jillian’s Cakery, 1/242 Elizabeth Street , Surry Hills NSW 2010. It’s at least a 5-minute walk from Central Station. There’s local parking, but it’s a little tricky at the best of times. By bus, the 308, 309, 310 and 311 will take you right to its doorstep.

How much: $4.00 each 

My boy enjoying a bag of caramel popcorn and a chocolate milkshake served in one of those hipster jar-cup things.

My boy enjoying a bag of caramel popcorn and a chocolate milkshake served in one of those hipster jar-cup things.

 

Black Star Pastry’s Naked Ninja

Day 30: Kevvie's Cookie Safari #15 – Black Star Pastry's Naked Ninja

Day 30: Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #15 – Black Star Pastry’s Naked Ninja

Black Star Pastry’s Ultimo cafe opened only a few short weeks ago, bringing the award-winning flavours of its pies, cakes and more to the considerably more family-friendly surrounds of the Sydney Powerhouse Museum. Among some of the best you’ll find there are the beef brisket burger and the strawberry and watermelon cake. Parents will love how the sausage rolls, with their amazingly textured pastry, are also packed with finely chopped vegetables (just don’t mention it too loudly in front of the kids).

For today’s Cookie Safari, we tried the Naked Ninja, a variation on their Ginger Ninja. It’s a straight-up gingerbread man and, as you can see from today’s photo, it’s only wearing a belt. Thank heavens the cookie cutters they used aren’t anatomically correct, because that would’ve been super-awkward to chow down on.

The Naked Ninja is soft and moist to bite down on, with a texture that’s just shy of a crumbly as it enters your mouth. It’s perfectly sized as a quick snack, two to three bites at the most; and it seems to go light on the sugar, too, so you won’t feel too guilty about scoffing one down.

Black Star Pastry's Powerhouse Museum location has a full kids' menu and loads of space.

Black Star Pastry’s Powerhouse Museum location has a full kids’ menu and loads of space.

But for a cookie that goes easy on the flavour enhancers, it doesn’t quite compensate with enough flavour. In fact, you could accuse the Naked Ninja of being altogether bland. It only redeems itself in the moments after it’s gone down the hatch, and a spicy aftertaste kicks in with a warm glow – kind of what I was hoping for while I was biting down into it.

And herein lays the problem: it needs something else, something to complement the ginger flavour during the initial bite. At Flour and Stone, they use icing sugar. Here? I’d suggest a thin layer of unsweetened, dark chocolate that encourages you search for the flavour.

As it is, however, it’s only slightly better than what you’d find at the supermarket.

 

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

6.5 – Needs chocolate 

Where: Black Star Pastry, 500 Harris Street Street (cnr Macarthur Street), Ultimo NSW 2007. It’s a solid 20-minute walk west from Central, Museum and Town Hall Stations. By bus, the 501 stops at the front door. Local parking in the blocks west of the Powerhouse Museum isn’t too difficult to find. 

How much: $2.50 each.

 

Black Star Pastry’s Vegan Cookie

Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #15 – Black Star Pastry’s Naked Ninja

Kevvie’s Cookie Safari #15 – Black Star Pastry’s Naked Ninja

Black Star Pastry is a wonderful place to go for a meal. Pies, pastries, cakes and sausage rolls fall squarely in the realm of comfort food, but there are all sorts of healthy little touches. The ingredients and the salads are fresh and bursting with colour.The preparation is on par with a hatted restaurant. They make their own chai, and the drinks in the fridge taste like they’ve been specially chosen for having a lower sugar content. And there are several – not just one or two, but several – very delicious-looking vegan options.

One of those options is the Vegan Cookie, a hard, chewy cookie that’s packed with oats, pumpkin seeds, coconut shavings and a handful of cranberries. The flavour is light, sweet and pleasant, but ultimately rather plain. The main attraction here is the texture – coarse, wholesome and satisfyingly crunchy. There’s nothing processed about this cookie.

Black Star Pastry – loaded with vegan options

Black Star Pastry – loaded with vegan options

Unfortunately there came a point where I realised it just tastes like a bowl of granola, and I kind of lost the desire to finish it. It’s not that it was bad or anything – I just found it annoying that I caught myself saying “hey, this really does taste like a bowl of granola” with every bite.

Now, I happen to enjoy vegetarian food and I don’t mind vegan food at all, but this seems less like “a delicious cookie that happens to be vegan” and more like “if you’re vegan and you must have a cookie, then this is it.” Which is to say this isn’t the cookie I’d choose to eat if I was able to choose.

I’d probably choose something with butter.

All the sweets are on display at the counter. Get in early before they run out.

All the sweets are on display at the counter. Get in early before they run out.

Rating out of 10 (where 10 = ermahgerd this is amazeballs; 5 = meh; and 0 = I want my money back):

6.5 – Wonderfully textured, but the flavours get old really fast 

Where: Black Star Pastry, 500 Harris Street Street (cnr Macarthur Street), Ultimo NSW 2007. It’s a solid 20-minute walk west from Central, Museum and Town Hall Stations. By bus, the 501 stops at the front door. Local parking in the blocks west of the Powerhouse Museum isn’t too difficult to find. 

How much: $3.50 each.

 

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About Kevvie’s Cookie Safari: People have been telling me for years that my wife’s chocolate chip cookies are the best they’ve ever eaten. It didn’t occur to me until now to test the claim. But if you’re interested, she uses a Jacques Torres recipe from the book ‘A Year in Chocolate’.

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