By Megan Gillette
Cookies are my greatest weakness. I try to sample the local goods anywhere I am and find a degree of deliciousness in every make, texture, and creation. You really have to love baking to make a perfect cookie, thus, my life-long pursuit of really good cookies in Champaign-Urbana also reflects on the source. It is only out of concerns for my rapidly-expanding waistline, that I share with you my favorite local finds.
My hands-down favorite is the Cherry-Sugar Cookie at the Art Mart. Lightly almond-flavored, butter-ific, and sprinkled with crunchy baker’s sugar, this delectable and understated goodie is a perennial favorite. Also of note are their lemon cookies, if you like a bit of tart citrus in your sweet and the lemon glaze is divine.
Other cookies very easily tieing for second. The Peanut-Butter Cup cookie at the Barnes and Noble Cafe has been an indulgence on Fridays on and off for the last ten years. This cookie is so rich and dense with peanut butter that I won’t even let them bag it for fear of losing the oil that seeps through the bag. The melted candies on top are not overwhelming, but nicely complementary in texture and provide a smooth balance to the chewy cookie base. I question the wisdom of allowing this delectable around fine manuscripts, but realize it most likely gets smudges on the pages of People or Martha Stewart magazines. Though I can never eat an entire cookie alone, I always scramble for the last bite.
Cafe Kopi has a special place in my heart with their ever-so-small and ever-so-perfect Princess Cookie. This petite confection of delicate buttery shortbread dough supports the pink tiara of sweet, buttercream frosting, sprinkled with hot-pink granules of refined sugar that twinkle like little jewels atop the icing swirl. Every little morsel can be savored as the frosting melts in your mouth and the cookies yields quietly to the bite. I treat everyone to this feminine delicacy and it is loved by men and women, young and old alike.
The Courier Cafe has the corner on the Monster Cookie. Huge and dense, this is practically a meal in a cookie unless it is shared several ways. Chock-a-block full of oats, peanut butter and chocolate chips, then dotted with M&M® eyes, we always choose this option over ice cream with the kids meals. Sometimes I sheepishly wait in the alley while my valiant husband runs in to procure one on the odd night a craving strikes.
The Common Ground Food Coop has a few cookies that call to me as I get my soups. Mango Sugar and Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodle always seem to make their way into an otherwise very healthy lunch…! Strawberry Fields gets me into predicament with their enticing Lime Shortbread and Jumblies.
Mirabelle has a Pumpkin Cookie that is almost like a little cake, capturing the essence of fall in the flavors and textures of the golden raisins and walnuts that float in the caky-ness, finished with a smooth, rich cream-cheese frosting. I have to cut these in little wedges to share since these are like fresh meat in a tank of piranhas at my house.
Not to be overlooked is the tenacious Turtle Cookie at Great Harvest Bread Co. Oats, pecans, butter and chocolate are all fine and good, but it’s the melted caramel that glues this incredible edible together! A little too close to my baby-doctor’s office than is healthy, but, an occasional necessity nonetheless.
Sweet Indulgence sets the standard for sugar cookies with their buttery dough and colorful, whimsical shapes and decorations. We’ve captured many an after-school pick-up if it’s an extra-special day or we just need some extra special time.
Finally, the classic, the Chocolate Chip. I get this honorable mention: made with semi-sweet dark chocolate, butterscotch chips and incredibly dense, french butter, baked until just crispy on the edges but still chewy in the center, these cookies are made with pure and unadulterated love of the cookie…
Verdict: Family! Cookies are best when shared with loved ones or better still when made together with beater/bowl-licking for all!
Megan Gillette is a mother of two active little boys — FIT kids (Foodies in Training). In her “spare time” she is a senior graphic and web designer at Wolfram, a real-estate broker with TeamKay at Keller Williams, and a real-estate maven for the family holding company. Megan is in constant pursuit of perfect food, exciting dining experiences, and farm-to-fork meals with her husband and personal sous chef, Kurt.