When you think about cookies, what sorts of flavors pop into your mind? Chocolate chip? Butterscotch? If Ree Dolnick has her way, people will soon be dipping the spices of the world into their glasses of milk, instead of their typical favorites. You see, Ree has been baking cookies that are reminiscent of some of the planet’s most exotic places. Ree got the idea to create these cookies when she was looking for something that was more gratifying and fulfilling than what was currently on the market. So she began experimenting, baking for herself and her family. Soon word was out that there was a new style of cookie on the street – one that was made with local organic honey, more wholesome ingredients all around, with a caffeinated kick. The cookies are so different, in fact, that customers are having a hard time figuring out whether they are cookies or breakfast snacks. To tell you the truth, they’re both. They’re also incredibly delicious.
In order to get these yummy ‘cookie snacks’ made, Ree whips up her own peanut butter and coconut butter, avoids processed ingredients, makes the oat flour in-house, and searches out spices that no one would typically consider adding to cookies. “I consider these adult cookies,” Ree told me. “I wanted to supercharge a cookie, and that’s what happened. They meet my nutritional needs and I can eat them without the typical guilt associated with cookies. There’s far less sugar, no chemicals, and they give me a boost when I need it. They are considered savory, with some gratifying sweetness that comes from the dates and the honey. The caffeinated kick is from either coffee beans or matcha depending on the flavor. I use oats and nuts, and there is no dairy.”
The real kicker behind the cookies is Ree’s use of spices…
The Tokyo cookie encompasses the flavors of Japan. It’s sweet, sour and bitter, with a healthy dose of nori (seaweed) and a subtle hint of wasabi. With a scoop of green tea ice cream, this flavor would be righteous.
The Marrakesh cookie is loaded with the flavors of Morocco and North Africa. It’s spicy, high in fibre and nutrients. This was my second favorite cooking out of the four that she presented to me.
The Bangkok cookie incorporated all of the Thai flavors that creep up on you after a bite. It’s a blend of East and West, and comes out of the gate with subtle yet complex flavors. There’s a hint of coconut, and it’s a bit peppery… very different. The tastes tend to linger around on this one.
Finally, there’s the Seoul cookie – a tribute to her mother. This one has a definite kick, with a gingery bite. This was my favorite variety, though I must say that it was a very difficult decision.
To me, there’s a cookie flavor profile for different moods and times of day. Of course that will vary from person to person. The cookies are so simple, yet so complex. They are a wonder to the taste buds, which are not accustomed to translating these types of flavors in the form of a snack or meal supplement. Ree’s concoctions are so different that there is nothing quite like them on the market. That alone is the reason that she has recently launched her new business called ‘Jeca’ (her daughter’s nickname).
When Ree is not baking cookies, she’s a researcher at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
When Ree is not baking cookies, she’s a researcher at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. That should tell you a lot about the though process that went into making her snacks. “Our lives are so busy,” Ree exclaimed. “And we have come so separated from our wholesome food sources. Food is a big part of my life. I put myself through college cooking in a restaurant in Baltimore. I have some background in all of this. That’s how I knew that I could redefine what a cookie could be. The flavors of the cookies evolve as you eat them. This type of treat forces you to chew, instead of gobbling it down, which in turn satiates your hunger. Everything is made in-house and not in giant industrial machines, which is another reason for the intense flavors. These cookies should be eaten fresh whenever possible. That’s why I am looking into selling them at small markets, restaurants, etc. I am a true believer in microprocessing – I would love to have a retail bake shop, where the cookies are made in the back and sold in the front. I want to grow this business in Buffalo, and believe that one day these cookies will represent this city much the way that the chicken wing does.”
I told her that I would try to find her a cookie hat that she could wear when standing next to the Wing King – Drew Cerza.
To say that Ree is driven is an understatement. I told her that I would try to find her a cookie hat that she could wear when standing next to the Wing King – Drew Cerza. Although she calls this her “passionate project”, I believe that it’s going to become her main gig sooner rather than later. I handed some of her cookies out to the staff at Midtown Kitchen to try (that’s where we met up), and before long people were swarming our table and swooning over Ree and her creations. She couldn’t hand her business cards out fast enough. Every time we saw someone take a bite, his or her eyes lit up and giant smile came across the face.
I agree with Ree that her legacy will be this line of cookies. She already has additional flavors in the works – Tijuana and Tuscany. It’s funny to think that this brand is just out of the gate, and the world is her oyster at the moment. She can go in so many directions that it’s a bit frightening. Fortunately she’s embarked upon this start-up for all the right reasons, which will keep her level-headed down the road.
For now, Ree is growing Jeca in a grassroots manner. But I don’t think that it will be long before people will be banging down her door with business ideas and proposals. Judging by the response that she is already getting, I better get that cookie hat made pronto.