By Julia Sweeney
Although it’s hard to imagine her doing anything else, Andrea Greene, the mastermind behind the addictive treats of Connecticut Cookie Company, wasn’t always a baker.
For years, she worked in the fashion industry, designing for such retail behemoths as Ralph Lauren, Old Navy, Abercrombie & Fitch and Club Monaco. Yet, as creative as she may have been, she found herself increasingly drawn to design of a different kind – that of food. After years of experimenting, she established Connecticut Cookie Company, a decision that has made life more delicious for us all.
Wholesome and quality ingredients serve as the foundation for her treats, which are inspired by, in Andrea’s words, “…warm, scented memories of visits to the local bakery and candy store in my Grandma’s hometown where everything was homemade.”
Yet as traditional as her values are, Andrea’s creations are thoroughly modern. Just one bite of her famous “Quick Fix” brittle (dark chocolate, sea salt, toffee, almonds, graham cracker) and it’s very clear: there’s nothing “cookie cutter” about Connecticut Cookie Company.
We caught up with Andrea recently on where she finds inspiration, her “secret” ingredient, and what she’s shopping for at Goldbely. Read our interview, below.
You spent years in the fashion and retail industry before becoming a baker. What sparked the career change?
It happened while I was designing for Abercrombie & Fitch or, as I like to call it, “Amberzombie.” I’d been on the design side of the fashion industry for twenty years and was working crazy, relentless hours. Baking was my outlet, my therapy. Honestly, I’m still in transition from cashmere to cookies.
I started by using my grandma’s recipes — she was such a great baker — as well as experimenting with my mother’s and mother-in-law’s delicious recipes.
Now 12 years later, Connecticut Cookie Company is doing better than ever. I am paying it forward – from baking with my grandmother on Sundays to now baking together with my daughter, Izzi, on Sundays.
How do you develop your delicious recipes?
I have been using my family’s recipes for years. I’ve tweaked these recipes and updated them, as well as developed my own signature vanilla, which is based loosely what I remember as a child. This ingredient really enhances all of the others.
I won’t bake with anything other than quality products; it is what brings out the flavor in our treats. I’m constantly experimenting and using friends and family members as my guinea pigs.
So this vanilla is a killer ingredient in your treats. Please, do tell…
In my business the “secret” has to be our pure vanilla extract. It is the real deal. It originated from a 75+-year-old recipe and contains only pure vanilla extract, no sugar or corn syrup.
What inspired the “Quick Fix“?
Everyone asks this question because it is so delicious.
It was my mom’s recipe that I’ve brought into the 21st Century by adding my special sea salt, plus dark chocolate and almonds. The first time I took it to a Christmas dinner it was gone within minutes. My mother-in-law and I came up with the name, which perfectly describes its addictive properties.
It’s our most popular product; it’s even available as a topping in some frozen yogurt shops on the East Coast!
What has been the most challenging element of the gig? What has been most rewarding?
My greatest challenge was recognizing that if I wanted to continue to provide the high-quality service and products my clients had come to expect, I needed to hire help. I am a bit of a control freak so that was hard. I built Connecticut Cookie Company to be not only a baked goods company, but also a business that brings back memories of good times with family and good service by purveyors.
So I went out and found people who share my vision and commitment. They keep my promise of providing high-quality ingredients in great old-fashioned treats, while maintaining great customer service.
The most rewarding aspect of my business, hands down, is when I hear someone say, “This is the best cookie I’ve ever had!” It is often followed by a plea of, “Please keep up the good work!”
OK, onto eating! How do you best enjoy your baked treats?
I’m a savory person, which is why I make sure our cookies aren’t too sweet. Every recipe I create tried to combine sweet and savory.
So when I go for one of my sweet treats, I’ll grab a handful of the “Quick Fix,” frozen. There is nothing else like them.
Your last meal would be…
My last meal would have to be Pepe’s Pizza (my choice: chopped garlic in the sauce, sausage and pepperoni). We order this all the time; to me it’s like the “Quick Fix” – very difficult to stop eating slice after slice.
Also I would include anything fried and salty. It would be full-on gluttony; bring on the heartburn!
What would we find you ordering on Goldbely and why?
My cousin in Kentucky suggested we order Lou Malnati’s pizza from Chicago. It came wrapped beautifully and was so delicious — we can’t wait to order again. Our second order was Shotwell Pretzel and Beer Caramels. They lasted only a day in our house and were the perfect mix of savory and sweet, my confessed favorite combination!
We then ordered Achatz’s Cherry Love pie. It had a great bakery crust and the cherries were tart rather than too sweet, which my family loved.
We plan on ordering again and holding a ‘Goldbely’ party at our house to let our friends and family try the great food we’ve found over time. I’m thinking we’ll try the Jeni’s ice cream; I’m from Ohio and the description of her ice cream seems decadent.
As someone who ships cookies all over the country I am curious to see how other products are shipped! I am learning every day — that’s what makes life so much fun.