Melbourne's first Manhattan style Cookie
27 January, 2020
Melburnians approach American food trends and products with caution and distrust. We harbour a general dislike for hospitality chains, minus a few mainstays, and have been known to forcefully reject the attempts of US hospo heavy-hitters to gain a foothold in our city – ask Starbucks. Much of this attitude can be accredited to a preference we hold dear for individuality, advocacy of the ‘little guy’ but most of all, our love of the quality which is most common to eateries owned and operated by people who are personally invested and passionate.
'The ‘mom and pop’ bakeries of Manhattan have a long history of producing cookies which are phonebook thick'
For the most part, Melburnians lean away from high fat, high sugar and excessive portions commonly attributed with American grub. However, there are unquestionably some US food trends which are penetrating our filter, and it is a 24-year-old English teacher from the outer Northern suburbs who was the first to introduce Melbourne to perhaps the most indulgent of East Coast desserts, the New York City Cookie.
The ‘mom and pop’ bakeries of Manhattan have a long history of producing cookies which are phonebook thick. Melting chocolate chips and decadent fillings are features of the NYC cookie which must be eaten warm for the true experience. It was the iconic cookies of NYC’s esteemed Levain Bakery that caught the eye of Amar, a long-time hobby baker and proud owner of a formidable sweet-tooth, when they were featured on the aptly titled TV show ‘Food Porn’.
"nowhere in Melbourne was doing them, so I decided to make them myself"
Cakes were always Amar’s cooked batter of choice, but after discovering the existence of the indulgent Manhattan style cookie, she recalls thinking “I need to go to New York! I also thought the trend would soon catch on in Melbourne, and I’ll taste them when it does. After a couple of months, they were still on my mind, but nowhere in Melbourne was doing them, so I decided to make them myself”.
Amar’s workplace colleagues were willing test subjects for her cookie creations she unashamedly describes as “big, loud and with a lot happening at once”, and not long after ‘The Chocolate Chip’ was the title attributed to her baking passion-project. The signature feature of her cookies has since become a height more typical of a muffin, and being as tall as they are wide meant finding a consistency which prevented the filling from caving was an significant challenge, in addition to walking the fine line between “sweet and indulgent, and a straight up sugar-high”.
"the best flavour ideas come to me when I am swamped with orders. I just stop everything and make what is on my mind"
The Chocolate Chip has earnt a dedicated following in a frighteningly short amount of time, especially amongst the fitness community for whom the cookies provide the decadence and calorie-density required to satisfy weekly ‘cheatmeal’ cravings. The flavour profiles are ever evolving and are often products of spontaneity in chaos, “the best flavour ideas come to me when I am swamped with orders. I just stop everything and make what is on my mind, and 90% of time it just works.” Whilst Lotus Biscoff, Hershey’s Cookies & Cream Brownie and Reese’s Caramel cup form some of the usual suspects, Amar’s creativity is rarely restrained when it comes to new flavours, even creating a rosewater syrup filled baklava cookie, a tribute to her Lebanese heritage.
So how does one delineate between a trend with substance and staying power, and a fad? The two can be differentiated on the telling basis of quality. The Manhattan Cookie undoubtedly falls in the category of the former, as Melbourne’s growing adoration for thick cookies is not simply a product of novelty, but more so because they combine ‘melt in your mouth’ indulgence with certain adolescent appeal. Looking to the future, Amar says “my ultimate goal is to have my own little bakery, a place where adults feel like kids again, and where kids will reminisce about when they are older, and of course a career in something I am truly passionate about”. It may not be long before Melbourne has its first NYC cookie specialty bakehouse, and few who have tried the Chocolate Chip could argue that would be anything but a great addition to our fine city.
The Chocolate Chip