We Spoke to the Creator of the Famous Cheetos Cookie to Find Out How It Came to Be
Have you gotten the chance to try Cookie Good's famous Cheetos cookie?
It's recently attracted a lot of attention on social media thanks to its bright orange color and speculation as to how it might taste—and we got to talk to the mind behind the cookie.
Ross Canter is Cookie Good's co-owner, baker and self-proclaimed "cookieologist," and he told us all about how the Cheetos cookie (and a bunch of other supremely delicious baked goods) came to be.
Sweety High: What's was your background with baking before you started Cookie Good?
Ross Canter: I've always loved baking, and I'm creative by nature. I worked in the movie industry for a long time as a producer and a writer, so I love the process of imagining something that doesn't exist yet and then building it in my head and trying to figure out how to make it real. Applying that to cookies felt really natural. It used the same part of my brain, so it was really easy for me to do.
I always liked cookies and brownies, and I loved the idea of doing something that takes what you know but makes it different. In college I was working as an intern in the movie business—so I wasn't getting paid—and I started a brownie business. I'd make five different kinds of brownies a day and go to an office building, going floor to floor until I sold out, which I did pretty much every day.
For me, it was a daily challenge. We all know what a chocolate brownie or a walnut brownie is like. What else could I do so that every day I would have a different flavor to sell? That was really fun, and I wound up doing it with cookies later in life for our kids' bake sales and Halloween. In the back of my brain, I always thought it would be fun to start a real business.
SH: How did the Cookie Good shop become a reality?
RC: During the writer's strike in January of 2008, I couldn't work or do anything but picket, which is the worst experience ever. My wife, Melanie, suggested it might be time to start our cookie business. We didn't have any business background, but we had the name—Cookie Good.
I'd been talking to somebody about how miserable the life of a writer can be. 90% of the day is spent disliking what you do and feeling small and insignificant, but when I was baking and making these cookies, I didn't feel that. I felt happy.
Also, there's no doubt with cookies. You eat the cookie and you know whether you like it or you don't. With writing, sometimes you feel like it's where you're supposed to be, sometimes you feel like you'll never be a real writer—sometimes in the same five-minute span. I felt really good about baking, and I wish I'd felt "cookie good" about my writing. That phrase stuck with us, and we came up with the catchphrase "It's how you want to feel."
Food is huge. People are talking about it and really appreciate food in a new, different way. It's almost impossible to take a bit of a good cookie—sometimes even a bad cookie—and not smile and feel connected somewhere to who you were when you were a kid, to some part of you that is pure and happy. That's what "cookie good" really means.
SH: Where do you get ideas for you flavors?
RC: When I'm coming up with new flavors, for the most part it's not about putting "interesting" combinations together. Hopefully they are, but really these ideas come from a place of what's familiar and fun. One of the first cookies we did was s'mores. Other s'mores cookies do exist, but we wanted ours to have a real graham cracker taste without just putting in big pieces of graham cracker.
We came up with the dough, which has graham cracker crumbs in it, we use three different kinds of milk chocolate so you get a lot of different flavors, we put a Hershey bar right on top, and we put marshmallows in it and then toast those marshmallows. It's the whole s'mores experience, but it's a pure cookie. I think we all connect to a s'more.
Last week we had a key lime pie cookie. Before you eat it, you're not sure exactly what a key lime cookie will be, but when you taste it, it has the brightness of the lime juice and zest. My favorite part of a key lime pie is the graham cracker crust, so we make big graham cracker crusts, crush it up, and fold it into the dough, so you get everything you should possibly get from a key lime pie in cookie form.
SH: How much work typically goes into developing a cookie once you have the concept?
RC: Sometimes, there's a lot of work we have to do and sometimes it's pretty quick. The Cheetos cookie was quick. I knew that I wanted it to have a lot of cheesy flavor, but I didn't want it to be so cheesy that it was no longer a cookie. I love our "just plain sugar" cookie because it's thick and chewy, so I knew I wanted that as the base, and I wanted it to be cheesy and taste like a real Cheeto.
I think I did one try that was too subtle, and the next batch was it. I just had to bring up the cheese. When you take your first bite, the taste of it is different from beginning to end. It starts off as sugar cookie, but soon the Cheeto comes in. You get that saltiness which is a little bit of a surprise, then the cheesiness, and finally it tastes like an actual Cheeto.
We've had the Cheetos cookie almost a year, and it's definitely the one that people talk about the most. We didn't come up with the cookie to do something "weird"—I literally just love Cheetos. People want me to do a Hot Cheetos cookie. I don't even like Hot Cheetos, so I probably won't do that one.
SH: Do you ever have ideas that just don't work out?
RC: I wanted to do a banana cream pie cookie. A lot of the time I'll go to a place and eat something and go, "This has to be a cookie," and I love banana cream pie. I went home and made that cookie and it was great, but when I tried to make it again, it was terrible. It wound up thin and too cakey. I tried it again a couple of times and it just wouldn't work. Rather than fight it, I turned it into a blondie, which I think is great. It has all those things—banana, vanilla wafers, white chocolate for the creaminess—but it's not a cookie.
I wanted to do the same thing with a butterscotch pots de crème. I made a cookie once that turned out great, but I tried again and it was thin and too chewy and not what I wanted, so I made it into a blondie—not that blondies are a receptacle for all of the bad cookies!
SH: Are your most out-of-the-box cookies your top sellers?
RC: You know, our caramel pretzel sells well, but our best-seller is probably plain chocolate chip. I was really surprised when we opened shop a couple of years ago to see people come in and see all these cookies and flavors they haven't seen before and ask a lot of questions and go, "That sounds really good, but I'll take two chocolate chip cookies." Really?
But honestly, the chocolate chip cookie was one of the hardest ones for us to develop because everybody makes a chocolate chip cookie. It's almost impossible to make a bad one, because when you put that much butter and brown sugar and chocolate together, it's going to be good. We worked really hard on this recipe to make sure it delivered what we wanted, which is a crispy outside, a chewy inside, and a lot of caramel, a lot of salt, and really, really good creamy chocolate.
Looking for even more delicious L.A. Desserts to try? Click HERE to read about all the delicious treats you can try at B Sweet.