I am a lover of sweets. Cookies in particular. Cookies involving chocolate most definitely. Cruising down an aisle of the Lebanon Co-Op, I spied attractively packaged cookies that looked like they held promise. While packaging alone (like a book and its cover) can’t always portend good things to come, the cookies were actually visible so they passed the “looks good” test, too.
Douglas Sweets was the name on the eye catching packaging. These were shortbread cookies: butter, sugar, flour. And, they were offered in a few flavors. I grabbed Dark Chocolate Dipped and Coconut Chocolate Dipped. They made it as far as my car before I ripped open the Dark Chocolate Dipped. Excellent.
Several weeks later when I went grocery shopping, I noticed that the number of flavors offered and choice of cookie sizes had expanded. They now offered bags of “Wee” cookies, not just the standard sized shortbread. I chose a new flavor (Samoas) and a new style (Wee Dark Chocolate Dipped). Again, I was not disappointed. The Samoas were rich and very filling- best saved for a time when you deserve to be free of guilt. The Wee ones were perfect for a snack post lunch or after dinner- small enough to justify eating two.
Now I was hooked. I emailed Douglas Sweets to see if a visit were possible and Debra Townsend, the owner, said, “Yes”. She bakes Monday-Wednesday and I wanted to come during baking hours to enjoy the aroma that I knew would be filling her bakery. Debra’s bakery, as it turns out, was in her townhouse in Bolton Valley, way, way up the mountain. She welcomed me in while she worked hand-dipping cookie after beautiful, sweet, tempting cookie. They were all laid out on bakery sheets in racks as the melted Belgian chocolate dried before the packaging process began. She had just finished dipping the Caramel Chocolate Sandwich cookies and was gathering the sheets of warm, naked maple cookies to dip in milk chocolate and sprinkle with toasted, sugared and crushed walnuts when my questioning started. (Are you headed to the Co-op now? You can finish this article later.)
Who is Douglas Sweets and where did they come from?
Debra Townsend and two of her children, Hannah and Ian are Douglas Sweets. Debra is responsible for most everything, including recipe development, baking, dipping, packaging and delivering. Hannah, who is off at graduate school in Canada, is in charge of the marketing, including the cute label and bag designs. Ian, also off at graduate school in Canada, is in charge of website development and social media. Debra also has two employees who help her with packaging the cookies and delivering them to stores around VT and NH.
Debra's mother was the inspiration behind the bakery. She made delicious shortbread cookies and Debra had simply lived long enough without them and decided to resurrect her mother's shortbread recipe. Her mother's last name is Douglas. The rest, as they say is history.
As a Vermont company, what Vermont ingredients do you use?
How many cookie choices are there?
9 cookie crumbs
What is your favorite cookie?
Ginger spice with black pepper. It’s good paired with cheese.
What flavors do men like the most?
Cherry with Dark Chocolate, Plain with Dark Chocolate and Maple Walnut Chocolate
What flavors do women prefer?
Plain with Dark Chocolate, Lemon Dipped and Pistachio Lavender
You mentioned that these cookies pair well with wine and cheese. Would you recommend pairing with an IPA as well?
Yes. The Ginger Spice would work well with an IPA and the Orange Spice would pair well with a hard cider.
When I left, Debra generously supplied me with a few samples and I decided to make a quick stop at my friend Prue’s house for a taste test. She called her neighbor Meg and Meg's sister in law, Gert, so that we could have more taste buds for the test: 4 women, 6 flavors.
Below are the results- there is nothing scientific about it:
Flavors: Caramel Sandwich (milk chocolate dipped), Raspberry Sandwich (dark chocolate dipped), Pistachio Lavender (undipped), Maple Walnut (dipped), Peanut Butter Sandwich (milk chocolate dipped) and Hot Curry (a savory choice)
Note: All but one of us declined the Raspberry chocolate noting that we did not care for fruit with our chocolate. This skews the test a bit since we all must be outliers!
Prue: Favorite was Maple Walnut, liked Pistachio Lavender next
Meg: Favorites were Peanut Butter and Maple Walnut, and unlike Prue, she was not liking the Pistachio Lavender so much- reminded her of hand lotion. But that's Meg. She is from the Midwest. If it's not served with hollandaise...
Gert: Hot Curry was her fav, but she also loved the Caramel and Raspberry (the only partaker of this flavor)
Sarah: Maple Walnut was my fav of this grouping, but I had the advantage of trying others before this test and I have to say that Wee Chocolate Dipped and Samoas rule my world. Like Gert, I really enjoyed the Hot Curry, but was wishing for some goat cheese to slather on it, too. And, the Caramel would have ranked much higher with me if it had been wrapped in dark chocolate rather than milk.
So there you have it. There is something about Vermont that just screams “artisan” and Douglas Sweets is further proof. Hurry to the Co-op and give them a try and do your own taste test! Or, shop the selections at these stores or or order from their online shop at your leisure.