[EDITOR’S NOTE: Dagny, age 7, is once again our guest writer on Every Food Fits! During our COVID-19 physical distancing/homeschool adventure, Dagny wanted to interview a cookie expert, and immediately I thought of Jenna Huntsberger, owner of Washington bakery, WhiskedDC. Dagny’s latest column is the result of the 20-minute interview and hours of research and writing. It was dictated to me by Dagny. While Dagny sneaked in some opinion, our fourth-generation journalist checked and rechecked quotes to make sure they were 100% accurate. And a big thank you to almost-9-year-old brother Myer for his keen copyediting skill and strengthening the document. Enjoy!]
By: Dagny Belle Viera!
WhiskedDC started in the year 2011 (when my brother was born), the year of the rabbit. Jenna Huntsberger started it because she wanted to have a business and sell things that she liked and make people happy. She also liked the idea of making a cookie business.
“I like the process of creating something. It’s really satisfying to make a product and see that physical product on a shelf at a grocery store. And then it makes people really happy…people love our cookies, and we get emails and comments at the farmers markets about how much people love them. And so we’re really bringing people a little bit of joy and comfort, and that feels really good.”
When I heard of Huntsberger’s business, I wanted one of her cookies. The first thing I did was get one of her cookies. I got the vegan Chocolate Blackout cookie. It actually really is vegan! Before we talk about vegan cookies, I am going to talk about baking utensils.
“Scales are awesome,” Huntsberger said. Scales are used so that we don’t get the wrong amount, and they are also really fun to use. Her work scale is bigger and heavier than my scale at home. “We have big scales that weigh up to 75 pounds. Actually, no. I think we got a bigger one that weighs even more than that, but we always use weighing to measure our ingredients because it’s much more accurate than using cups.”
Huntsberger uses lots of utensils and these are some of what she uses: spatulas, bowl scrapers, knives, and whisks. I use a lot of those in my kitchen at home, but not all of them. I use a 6-quart mixer at my house, but hers is another story! Huntsberger has a 140-quart Hobart mixer! She makes tons of cookies; 30,000 cookies per week, to be exact!
Baking in the work kitchen is “completely different” from baking at home, said Huntsberger. “At home I make what I want…If I mess up a batch of cookies at home, it’s fine, but if you mess up 100 pounds of cookie dough that we can’t sell, that costs us money…If you overbake a cookie and it goes out to a customer and that customer paid money for it and they’re really upset, that’s a problem…So the stakes are higher when you’re cooking professionally.”
Now back to vegan cookies! If you are wondering what eating vegan means, it means that you don’t eat animal products like milk or eggs or butter, which is made from milk.
I usually put eggs and butter in my cookies, so I asked her how she replaces them. Her vegan cookie dough is made with a chia seed mixture as an egg replacer and Earth Balance vegan butter.
I wanted to know what’s important to mastering a cookie, and I asked about her favorite ingredient. Huntsberger said that a cookie needs the right amount of salt because “salt will enhance the entire flavor of your product.”
Here are the types of flour Huntsberger uses: pastry flour and patent flour, which is kind of like all-purpose flour but for work kitchens. Huntsberger wants the right gluten content so she can have the right kind of cookie mixture she likes. She gets it by using a little bit of each flour. You want less gluten forming in the cookies to make it lighter and not like bread because bread has more gluten.
How much sugar to use depends on the recipe. “Sugar encourages spread,” Huntsberger said. I also asked about baking time, and that depends on the size of the cookies and the temperature of the dough, and the oven at your house.
At home, I do taste tests, but at a work kitchen, you’re not allowed to. Huntsberger said, “NO!” to eating a little bit of the cookie dough when they’re baking. “At Whisked, part of our food safety program is you cannot eat or drink in the production facility.” Then I asked about how they taste test to see if it’s good. She said that taste testing is done in the office to prevent cross-contamination, which is the spreading of germs and bacteria.
We talked about the ovens, and it was really exciting. She has two ovens, and each oven can hold 40 sheet pans. At home, I have one oven, and we can bake two sheet pans that each hold 12 cookies. I can bake 24 cookies at once when she can bake 960 cookies at once. Remember how I told you they could bake 30,000 cookies per week? It’s true, they can!
I was surprised when she said the dishwasher she has only sanitizes, it doesn’t wash. Someone has to load it. Huntsberger said that “50% of making food professionally” is washing dishes.
I asked her about her business, and she said, “I would like to grow to three times our size in the next five years. I think that’s enough growth that we’ll be maximizing what we do in our facility, but it’s not too fast that we lose the quality of the product, which is always top of mind for us.”
I asked her what she likes to do other than bake, and she likes to exercise, hike, read fiction, and think about her company.
TO ME, JENNA HUNTSBERGER IS THE #1 BAKER.
I think that her cookies are amazing. Do you?
Chocolate chip is Huntsberger’s favorite cookie, and it also is mine. Here is my family’s recipe! Try it out!
Luis & Stacey’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 480g all-purpose flour
- 6g baking soda
- 8g baking powder
- 8g coarse salt
- 148g shortening
- 148g butter
- 250g light brown sugar
- 150g granulated sugar
- 2 Large eggs
- 10ml vanilla extract
- 280g chocolate chips (more or less)
- sea salt (for topping)
Makes about 30 cookies. Unless you press the dough into your cast iron to make one giant cookie and then a bunch of small ones!
|Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt into a bowl.|
|Cream butter and sugars together until very light in color. Add the eggs. Stir in vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add chocolate. Press plastic wrap on surface dough and refrigerate at least half the day.|
|Set on the counter a gallon-size plastic bag or a lined cookie sheet. With an ice cream scoop, dole out individual scoops of very cold dough and add to plastic bag or cookie sheet. Do this until all of the dough is gone. Freeze. (You can add the cookies from the sheet to the plastic bag later if you want to reduce the likelihood that they will stick to each other in the plastic bag.) Once they’re frozen, you’re ready to heat and eat as many as you’d like at a time!|
|Heat oven to 350. Line cookie sheet – or use a cast iron pan! – and place frozen balls of dough a couple of inches apart. Bake for approximately 16 minutes until cookies are light brown on top. Remove from oven and let sit in pan for about 10 minutes to firm up before serving. Cookies should be enjoyed warm, but not so hot that they fall apart.|
This is such a great interview. I am jealous of Jenna’s oven and Kevin is all about her Hobart mixer. That recipe at the end looks scrumptious too. I’m going to follow your mom’s advice and freeze a few dough balls so I can have freshly baked cookies anytime I want.