The always-informative website www.weightofstuff.com tells us there are a surprising number of objects that tip the scales at .45 kilograms, among them a can of kidney beans, a football and a roll of wallpaper.
Sweet tooths will be pleased to learn they can now add two gourmet cookies lovingly prepared by Sabrina Reid to the list. Reid is the founder of Cookie Craving Co., a few weeks-old biz that turns out treats made with premium ingredients such as organic cocoa and Ferrero Rocher chocolates, each of which weighs 225 grams, about a half-pound. Which leads us to our first question: what would have been so wrong with a quarter-pound cookie?
"Hey, bigger is always better, especially when it comes to cookies, right? That and I wanted to make something unique, something you couldn’t just pick up at the grocery store," Reid says, seated next to her husband Grant in the Island Lakes abode they share with their two dogs, Lola, an eight-year-old boxer, and Kona, a six-year-old chocolate lab.
If you’re still scratching your head over what to get your better half for Valentine’s Day, Reid’s latest brainstorm, an eight-centimetre-tall, red-velvet cookie stuffed with chunks of white chocolate and topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting, the latter made from scratch, wouldn’t be a horrible place to start. But you’d better act fast. Since launching Cookie Craving Co. in early December, Reid has sold every last confection she’s turned out. (That’s right, the 28-year-old St. Mary’s Academy alumnus has created a bit of a cookie monster.)
Reid’s cookies are baked fresh ahead of being delivered to customers’ doors through a courier service, but anticipating Feb. 14 might be "kinda crazy," she started accepting pre-orders for the red-velvet variety in mid-January, she says.
"Based on demand so far, I told Grant we may have to shut our website down early because there’s only so many I can physically bake, while still managing to get a couple of hours of sleep in at night."
Reid (nee Moccia) grew up in a traditional Italian household. Her uncle is Joe Grande, owner of Mona Lisa Ristorante on Corydon Avenue, and she guesses she was 12 years old when she started working there on weekends, busing tables. That is, when she wasn’t in the kitchen at home, helping prepare Sunday dinner for as many as 20 relatives, week in, week out.
"I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t giving my mom or grandmother a hand. Food was — and still is — a big part of our culture, for sure," she says.
By the time Reid was 18, her home-style chocolate chip cookies had become a bit of a sensation within her circle of friends. She chuckles, noting it almost reached a point where her university carpool pals wouldn’t open the door for her unless she was "carrying."
In 2017, a year or so after he and Sabrina met, Grant traveled to Hawaii on his own. While there, he paid a visit to the Maui Cookie Lady, a boutique bakery run by Mitzi Toro, whose cookies have been featured in Forbes magazine and on multiple TV shows, including Good Morning America, owing to their creative flavour combos and overall yumminess. (Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. the Rock, is reportedly a huge fan of Toro’s pineapple lychee passion fruit with hibiscus flower and white tea cookies.) Grant went on and on about the Maui Cookie Lady when he returned to Winnipeg, informing Sabrina that sure, her cookies were already outstanding, but she would have to up her game by making them "bigger... more gooey... more chocolatey..." if she wanted them to top Toro’s.
For the next few years, Reid, an accounts receivable and collections specialist for a Winnipeg construction company, continued perfecting her craft. But it wasn’t until last summer, weeks before her and Grant’s September wedding, that she considered turning her preferred pastime into a commercial venture. One morning, after she woke up extra early on a Saturday to bake a fresh batch of cookies, she turned to Grant and said, "Besides you and the dogs, this is what I’m most passionate about in life," pointing to a dough-laden tray in the oven. His response: if that was truly the case, why not follow her dreams and start a business of her own?
After choosing which flavours to offer — triple chocolate chip, Reese’s peanut butter and Oreo cookies and cream were among the first to make the cut — Reid got busy figuring out how to make her half-pound delights, the size she’d settled on, "stand up."
"There was so much trial and error involved because I wanted a tall cookie, and cookies tend to spread outwards during the cooking process," she explains, noting while she now bakes on weekends almost exclusively, she initially fit her baking schedule in around her 8-to-5 job, dragging herself out of bed at 4:30 a.m., and not turning in for the night until a good 20 hours later.
"I would literally pull up a chair, sit in front of the oven with the dogs and watch everything bake, whispering, ‘Please don’t fall, please don’t fall,’ over and over again. I’ll never forget the day I was sitting with Kona and suddenly screamed, ‘Kones, look at the cookies! Mommy did it!’" (Without giving away any trade secrets, Reid admits it was a bit of a process figuring out if her cookies were cooked all the way through, given their girth. Just like you wouldn’t want to cut into a ribeye to check if it was medium rare, she was forced to wait until she removed the lot from the oven before determining if they were a success.)
Confident she had a winner on her hands, on Dec. 1 Reid let a legion of Instagram followers know they could now place an order through her website. The very first day, she fielded requests for 2,000 cookies, available in denominations of six or eight.
One problem: now she had to bake 2,000 cookies.
"I’m lucky in the sense that all my little, Italian aunts were only too happy to help out," she says, mentioning that getting the ladies to work a prescribed distance apart in a spacious, commercial kitchen was the least of her problems; it was more getting them to follow her instructions to the letter.
"There I was, speaking Italian, telling these wonderful women who’ve been expertly baking their entire lives that I was sorry, but this time they were going to have to listen to me; none of this, you should add this or that. They’re absolutely awesome helpers and it’s turned out to be an amazing experience."
Since that first week, Reid has adjusted her numbers somewhat. She now caps the amount of cookies for sale at 1,200 per week. Every Tuesday morning she posts what types will be available, then begins accepting orders at 8 a.m. Like she said, she spends most of the weekend baking. The finished product is then boxed up and shipped out through UPS or Purolator. Thus far, it’s been a hoot hearing back from customers who let her know how — and when — they devour their cookies, which arrive in a decorated box, in individual, cellophane packets to maintain freshness.
"One woman was like, I had one for dinner the other night with a glass of red," she says, adding she’s fielded inquiries from as far as Vancouver and New York City.
"Others have told me they cut it in half to share with their kids or spouse, as it’s too much for them to eat all at once." (Grant says he likes to throw his cookie into the microwave for 10 seconds to give it that fresh-out-of-the-oven effect, before plopping it on top of two scoops of ice cream. "I’ve always been a bit of a health nut, so when it comes time for me to break my diet and cheat, I have very high standards," he says, reaching over to squeeze his wife’s hand.)
As for future plans, Reid doesn’t rule out the possibility of attempting to get her cookies onto retailers’ shelves one day, or even establishing a store-front operation of her own. In the meantime, she’s forever jotting down new flavour combos, such as an in-the-works specimen she intends to stuff with a cinnamon bun. (Ha ha, it sounded like she said her new cookie would contain a whole cinnamon bun.)
"That’s right, it’s a bit of a work in progress, but seriously, can you imagine how great that’s going to taste? Not to mention that it will be 100 per cent good for you," she says with a wink.
Oh, in case you’re thinking everybody wins now that the sweet things in life include a half-pound, brownie dulce de leche cookie as per the Cookie Craving Co., think again.
"Before all this started, the guys at work could always count on me showing up on Friday with a bunch of cookies they could munch on throughout the day," Reid says. "It’s not like I still don’t bring the odd batch to work every now and then but ever since the business took off, I don’t have time to bake for them the way I used to."
Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.