Baker, Cook, Writer, Pursuer of Gastronomic Joy

Milk and Cookies

After a holiday season full of cookies, I have taken a break from even thinking about them, much less eating them. The beginning of wintertime is such a cookie-centric time for me that once mid-February hits I find myself a little tired and ready to try some more spring-like loaves, muffins, and ice cream. But now that cookies and I have been on a break for a good while, I feel ready to once again bring them back into this blog’s orbit. As I was thinking about the re-entrance of cookies into my life, I was thinking of those that I had in that winter frenzy that did not make it onto the blog at that time due to the already over-saturated volume of cookie talk.

One such place was Milk and Cookies, a West Village bakery boasting a variety of creative flavors housed in some substantial cookies. I was especially excited to go to this place because the flavor that seemed to get the most attention was their s’mores cookie, filled with marshmallows, chocolate chunks and covered with Golden Grahams. In my childhood, my sister was always the one to gravitate toward s’mores flavored desserts while I aligned with my mother in our constant choice of anything with chocolate and peanut butter. But my late teens/early twenties seem to be the age of s’mores for me because I cannot get ENOUGH. S’mores ice cream, s’mores pie, s’mores cake: give me chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers and I am THERE. I think it is the honoring of the graham cracker that has pulled me in most, as that is the flavor I am looking to be highlighted in a s’mores dish. The unassuming cracker has a flavor that I find wholly unique and hits me in all the right taste buds. However, because of that specific flavor, I am very particular when it comes to judging other dishes’ execution of capturing it. The quintessence of getting a s’mores imitation right to me is Ben and Jerry’s (Yes, I’m mentioning Ben and Jerry’s again. They are simply always on it product wise and a great company to boot. @BenandJerrys, feel free to sponsor me. Or hire me…) limited time batch of “Gimme S’mores”. Unfortunately, I believe the time of that batch is over, but if they ever re-release it (which I am begging them to as it is my favorite flavor of all time) please get yourself a pint for reference.

But I am getting ahead of myself, for reasons we will get to shortly. In summary, I was excited. And so on one December evening, I felt it would be a joyful cap to a joyful day, to bring Nick along on a quest for this s’mores cookie. I was doubly excited because Milk and Cookies is located in one of my favorite areas of the city, the West Village, only a few blocks down from Stonewall. I love to walk in that area and remember its history, as well as take in the beautiful brownstones in the surrounding blocks, imagining a world where I come close to being able to afford living in one. Yet the two sweet treat shops in the neighborhood’s center that I was familiar with, Milk Bar and Big Gay Ice Cream, do not excite me (for reasons already, and yet to be discussed respectively). I was greatly hoping for Milk and Cookies to become a bakery in this beloved area that could become my staple sweet treat location for when I was around.

We arrived at the bakery, its blue fairy lights guiding us through the night, building our excitement. I hastily ordered a s’mores cookie, but had my hopes crumbled when told that they were all out! They were also out of my second choice, salted milk chocolate caramel. Nick and I scanned what was left and chose three: one for each of us and a third to split. Nick got the M&M, while I got the chocolate chip, and the double chocolate was our cookie to split. We nestled into the corner by the window with our stack of cookies, and readied ourselves for our diverse array of flavors that, while not the ones originally planned, were enticing nonetheless.

While the cookies were of good, individual serving size, the outside texture was worrisome from the get-go. It was dry, hard, and dull in color, depriving me of the enticing golden-brown I love in a chocolate chip cookie. When I split it in half to inspect internal texture, it split with more of a definite clunk, and the inside held no gooey goodness, nor any of the softness that I had been expecting from such a thick cookie. While I have discussed the wide variety of successful cookie textures in the past, and my fondness for a crunchy/chewy cookie, I was dubious that such a texture was what this one had in store. A cookie of this thickness would make such a texture difficult to execute successfully, as there is so much substance to crunch through. But I tried to dismiss these pre-conceived judgments and bite with an open mind.

But, my pre-conceived judgments were correct. The cookie was thick and rock hard, making it difficult to get my bites in. This was the unpleasant kind of crunchy, the kind of crunchy that is not so much a purposeful textural experience, but a product of being overdone or an improper mix of ingredients.  The flavor fell just as flat as the texture, what little there was getting lost in the effort of chewing. This was not only a fault of the dough itself, but of the lack of chocolate chips and chunks that it held. While I am interested in taking a typical chocolate chip cookie dough and making a cookie sans-chips, this day I wanted what was advertised at the time, a chocolate chip cookie.

Nick’s M&M cookie was similarly disappointing. Tough, thick, and with a sprinkling of M&M’s. This was truly too bad because there is a classic beauty to the M&M cookie. I sometimes think that the best place to get one is in a BJ’s bakery section, that perhaps it’s not a cookie meant for a Real Bakery. There’s nothing artisanal about it. It’s meant to be big, soft, and consumed in the appreciative hands of a child (or an adult with a youthful heart). This take on it abandoned all of those ideals, like a misdirected attempt to make the cookie grow up.

We split the double chocolate, not expecting much of it. Indeed, the texture was the same as the other two, and there was nothing new brought to the party with the addition of chocolate to the batter. For a cookie that was supposed to be double chocolate, there was not much chocolate for the taste buds to chew on.

Nick and I left unsatisfied, not only due to the lack of anticipated flavors, but the lackluster texture of the ones consumed. Perhaps it was due to arriving there so late and the cookies had been sitting out for a while making them so hard. But if you are a bakery devoted to doing cookies, which I largely consume in the evening, I would think that you would be dedicated to constantly having quality, fresh product available. I often consider whether I feel as if I could make a better homemade version of what I had to be a litmus test, especially for my well-experienced area of cookies, and these failed thoroughly on that front. For an establishment that literally makes its name with cookies, the product itself isn’t one of the finer ones available.

And so the search continues for a West Village bakery or ice cream shop to frequent. It so often seems that this is a city filled to the brim with sweet options, an amazing desert only steps away from wherever you may be. And indeed I have found downtown to be quite a hotbed of baked goodness. But sometimes it takes a little more digging to find which place is the diamond of its block.