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A Kirkland man's journey to create the perfect cookie, led to a whole company

Michael Pinckney eats about two cookies every day (and most of the time, one of those instances is cookie dough).

The self-proclaimed "Cookie Monster" has had an appreciation for them since he was a child living in Great Neck, New York. He fondly remembers his mother — a gourmet baker and chef — always having some sort of freshly baked confection ready in the kitchen.

His favorite? A recipe sweetly named "Michael's Cookie." Fitting since he typically ate at least half the batch himself. Pinckney still has the recipe card for his namesake cookie kept in his mother's recipe box.

"I was addicted to these cookies," he said. "So, I've been a 'Cookie Monster' since I was a little one."

That love of cookies followed Pinckney into adulthood and led him to embark on a journey to create the perfect cookie recipe — ultimately culminating in the launch of his Kirkland-based gourmet cookie company, Pinckney Cookie Cafe, in 2009.

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Pinckney Cookie Cafe is an online cookie company where customers can choose to create their own cookie boxes or choose from various cookie assortments, filled with flavors like Brown Butter Brown Sugar Bourbon Spice and Double Chocolate Espresso, and that's just a taste.

The business is also home to the Miracle Cookie, which is gluten-free, vegan and just downright delicious (trust me on this, folks).

"The most important thing about my business is it is 100% about the cookies," Pinckney said.

The company operated primarily through farmers markets before COVID-19, which had a major impact. Pinckney intended to focus on growing the business' online operations in addition to farmers markets at some point, but that timeline was dramatically accelerated due to the pandemic. This past year and a half also inspired him to give back in the wake of COVID and the murder of George Floyd — Pinckney Cookie Cafe donated more than $15,000 to various COVID relief funds and racial justice charities through a donation program.

"I just wanted to do something," he said. "Even though it wasn't something I could sustain over the long haul, I thought for the short-haul, I could do it, and it would have a great impact."

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Pinckney's resume prior to his cookie company includes finance, sales, consulting, technology and management.

"I didn't have an intention of becoming an entrepreneur or certainly going into the cookie business or anything like that," he said. "But over literally decades just for fun, I developed two cookies, and people raved about them so much that I started the company."

Pinckney was working at IBM in New York City when he first started developing cookie recipes. He'd bake for fun and bring in the cookies to friends at work, who ended up becoming his first unofficial taste testers. Each time Pinckney would bring in a batch, he'd make changes his colleagues suggested.

"People absolutely loved it," he said. "I would take them to my kids' school auction, and a year later, I would be in the parking lot, and someone would come up to me and say, 'Hey, Michael, you bringing your cookies to the auction this year?' And I'm thinking, 'Somebody remembers these cookies a year later unprompted?' I must have something special."

That was Pinckney Cookie Cafe's origin story. At that point, he had only two cookies, the Pinckney Original and Dark Chocolate Oatmeal. Now, they offer more than 20 delicious flavors.

When he was developing his cookie recipes, Pinckney said he would think about what he wanted in a cookie, take in the feedback he'd get and just experiment — which is his favorite part about baking, aside from, of course, eating.

"It's really important for us to be a great company and have great cookies," he said. "Of course, the number one priority is the cookie. You know, we just will not take any shortcuts on the quality of the cookies."

Pinckney said a "great cookie" is all about great ingredients — having the right amount of "stuff" (think chocolate chips, coconut, walnuts), not too much sugar and plenty of vanilla.

"They are moist, soft, chewy, just a little crispy on the edges," he said. "For a great cookie, it's all about balance. Yeah, to have a balance of the flavors and of the different textural elements."

Good quality ingredients is also what makes the Miracle Cookie stand apart. Pinckney said their gluten-free flour mix is made up of 10 different ingredients. Figuring out the substitutes and techniques that would result in the cookie he wanted was quite the process.

"I still haven't totally mastered the Miracle Cookies," he said. "I'm still tweaking those, but people just absolutely love them. And that's been a huge boom to the business."

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I was lucky enough to taste some of Pinckney's cookies myself, and let me tell you, they hold up to all of the above. I'm a vegetarian, so when he told me about the Miracle Cookie, I was obviously excited (eating vegan is something I try to do often, as well). I really could not tell much of a difference between a Miracle Cookie and a regular one — I was shocked because that usually is not the case. But of the flavors I got to try, my favorite hands down was the Brown Butter Brown Sugar Bourbon Spice. I easily could have eaten a dozen.

But I'm not the cookie expert here. So, the hot, burning question: What is Pinckney's favorite cookie? When I tell you he didn't hesitate to answer this question when I asked it, I mean it.

"Oh, that's easy. That's the Bing Bling!, has been since the first day we made it," he said. But the list didn't stop there — his second favorite is the Brown Butter Brown Sugar Bourbon Spice, his third the Miracle Apple Pie and his fourth the Classic Chocolate Chip.

How could you ever expect a "Cookie Monster" to name just one cookie?

You can get your hands on Pinckney Cookie Cafe goodies through lovethesecookies.com, the West Seattle Farmers Market and New Day Cooperative Distribution at rethinkinggroceries.coop. While the products, services and/or accommodations in this post were provided without charge, all of the opinions within those of the author and the Seattle Refined editorial board.

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