The secret ingredient


I make, as it turns out, a lot of chocolate chip cookies. I like making them. I hardly ever do them the same way twice — sometimes with a little more cinnamon, sometimes a little crispier. Over the past 15 years or so, I’ve slowly changed the way I make them, getting closer and closer to the ultimate cookie.

Can you see it?

I don’t mean to brag, but when people try my cookies for the first time, they often like them, and they can tell there’s something unusual about them. “What’s the secret ingredient?” they ask. A few years ago, one person wouldn’t leave me alone about the secret ingredient. She was throwing out one crazy idea after another, certain that my eyebrows would twitch when she said the right one. Finally I said, “The secret ingredient is that I really, really, really love cookies.” Don’t think that stopped her questioning! But that’s the truth.

There is no secret ingredient to my cookies. When I started making them, I used the recipe from the back of the Toll House chocolate chip package — the most standard cookie recipe there is. Yes, I add little things to them: some cinnamon, some nutmeg. I vary the amounts and the cooking time. But what I really do is pay a lot of attention to all the little parts of making cookies. How melty is the butter when I add it? Did the eggs get beaten to that particular fluffiness? When I put the cookies in, did the oven just stop heating to temperature, or did it just turn on again? How does the kitchen smell when the cookies are ready? That’s all there is to it. I like cookies enough that I give all of my attention to making them come out right. I pay attention to every step and how it affects the results.

I had a great time showing someone the Wesabe preview the other day, because they were incredibly enthusiastic about it — and a similar kind of question came up: “How did you come up with that feature? What’s the secret?” The answer is the same as the secret ingredient to cookies: I really, really, really care about getting it right. Everyone at Wesabe feels the same way. No pixel gets added to a page without at least two of us debating whether it’s in the right place. Our first release will probably feel for some like my first batch of cookies, many years ago — good, but with lots more needed to make it perfect. What I love, and what gives me hope, is that every one of us cares about making it that, in every way we can. If you come to like Wesabe and you wonder why, that’s the secret.

(P.S.: If you love cookies too, you have to run over to Mighty Goods and check out the ultimate cookie accessory!)

6 Responses to “The secret ingredient”

  1. Jeff Fassnacht Says:

    Are you going to make cookies for the Wesabe launch?

  2. Coda Hale Says:

    Does this also explain why the pizza was so good?

  3. Marc Hedlund Says:

    Jeff: Yes. I will make a cookie for everyone who signs up at launch and shows up at our office. How’s that for committed? 🙂

    Coda: the pizza’s a different thing. Wait until I get to that wood-fired brick oven goal — then it will be good. But thanks!

  4. Damien Says:

    My ultimate cookie accessory:

  5. Richard Says:

    my kids love to make cookies. (read on)

    we started a cookie journal where we capture the date, occasion, guests in our house, who helped, what we did different, along with ratings of the dough at each stage and the cookie along with what was best about the whole experience.

    journaling cookies has taught me several things, including:
    1. We don’t spend true quality time with kids as often as we think we do. (judge by the dates in the journal)
    2. Kids find what is meaningful in the mix/preparation/experience far better than adults
    3. Kids don’t care if they offend you

    the overall lesson:
    spend quality focused effort finding what is meaningful all the while not caring who you offend in the process. This will always find you closer to pure genius.

  6. John Says:

    Guess what? Following the Tollhouse cookie recipe is a darn good start to making a great cookie.

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