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Chef’s Tips: The Way the Cookie Crumbles

During the holidays, the sights, the sounds, and the smells – especially those of cookies baking in the oven – never fail to stir up memories. It’s one of our favourite seasons at Culinaire as we take a look at the sweeter side of things and help with (or hinder) planning your holiday treats.

Cookies is the name of the game in this month’s Chef’s Tips, and they come in all shapes and sizes, from the letter ‘S’ and bars, to traditional rounds and stars. The flavours range from delicate to decadent, and each recipe is as unique as the chef who has provided them. Put on an apron and preheat the oven: it’s time to get baking!


For Annie Ivarra at Calgary’s Chunk’d, baking brings back beautiful memories of growing up surrounded by bakers. “I remember sitting on the kitchen counter with my mom while she baked cakes for the family and "helping" my grandma - eating the scraps and licking the spoons - while she baked and decorated cakes.”

Mille Feuille with cream pastry ranks high on Annie’s favourites, but Chunk’d is known for cookies and for good reason: they’re big, chewy, and packed full of flavour combinations. 

Her recipe for Annie's Comfort Cookie Bars ticks those boxes, and then some. “This recipe screams comfort, especially for cold days. It's baked on a tray, and you can cut it to your liking to share with your family. It's easy and uncomplicated.”

Her best advice? “The most important thing is measure, cut, separate, combine every ingredient before making the recipe.” Annie also adds: “Follow your heart, if you're feeling more chocolatey that day, change the spread for Nutella. In the end, this recipe is intended to be a comfort treat for you.


Things that come together with little fuss means more time to spend with loved ones this holiday season. “I love making cookies! They're usually fairly easy and fast to make and I like that instant gratification,” explains Rachelle Germain, owner of Milk & Cookie’s Bakeshop in Edmonton.

For Rachelle, texture and visual appeal are high priorities, so get ready for this recipe for Everything Cookies. “A large part of my business is making cute, decorated sugar cookies so I love when I can make a different kind of cookie that is also fun to look at.

To balance out the sweetness, Rachelle likes to add a salty element like pretzels and potato chips in her recipe here. “If you don't have all the mix-ins asked for in the recipe, use whatever you have on hand! Just keep the mix-ins to approximately 400g.”

The secret to a perfect cookie is all in the timing. “Always underbake your cookies slightly. Your cookies will continue baking for a little while after you take them out of the oven because they are still hot. If you take them out a little bit before you think they're done, you'll have perfect, soft-centered, and gooey cookies.”


Marco Civitarese has distinct memories of his mother baking cookies and while he stole bites of cookie dough. “I remember the smell of almonds roasting, citrus fruits being zested, and sounds of clanging bowls. It is these memories that created the passion for me to move forward with my retirement baking journey,” he explains. 

The owner of Dolci di Delia in Calgary, Marco’s business is a result of community, from his family encouraging him to pursue his dream, to using kitchen space at the Marriot Airport Hotel, and selling his cookies at pop-ups in local businesses.

“Citrus flavoured baked goods are always top of my list of favourites,” says Marco, and this traditional Italian Citrus ‘S’ Cookie is a perfect example, made with orange zest, juice, and orange liqueur. But more importantly, it’s all about adapting to preferences. "This cookie provides a versatile base for many other flavours to be substituted. Find recipes you love and make them your own by adding flavours of the season.”


When Saskatoon’s Renée Kohlman isn’t writing cookbooks and food columns, she’s busy baking and running Sweetsugarbean, her gourmet cookie business. “I’m always at my kitchen counter or my computer!”

The changing seasons serve as inspiration, as do locally grown ingredients. Saskatoon berries (of course), carrots from her boyfriend’s garden, and cherries from the neighbour’s tree have all made appearances in her baking.

If you’re looking for Christmas in a cookie, then try Renée’s recipe for Rosemary Oatmeal Shortbread. “I’ve been baking it up at Christmastime every year since to rave reviews from friends and family. It’s a woodsy, buttery, savoury-sweet, superstar of a cookie that pretty much smells of Christmas.”

Reading through the recipe before you begin can save time and effort, she adds. “You don’t want to have progressed halfway through the recipe, then realize you’re out of baking soda.” And, if you discover you don’t have room temperature eggs, try placing them in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes.


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