What if you could enjoy eating raw cookie dough without that nagging voice telling you that you could get salmonella poisoning from the uncooked eggs?
Lindsay Larner, 29, wants to calm those fears. As owner and “chief cookie officer” of The Cookie Jar DC, the St. Louis native replaces the eggs with milk and produces cookie bites at the food incubator Union Kitchen.
When she isn’t packing jars with classic chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin or sugar cookie Funfetti, she pays the bills through her day job as marketing manager at Cove, a neighborhood workspace in Washington and Arlington.
Before joining Cove a year ago, Larner worked at the pluralistic Jewish teen movement BBYO.
We recently talked with Larner about why cookie dough tastes so good, teaching at Temple Micah and the differences between St. Louis and D.C.
What’s the story behind The Cookie Jar DC?
I had been really just looking to do something creative, maybe make a little extra money on the side. Maybe just do an art project. I didn’t intend to start a food business. My story is not one of being a lifelong avid baker who always dreamed of having her own food startup. I really just wanted to be creative and lead a project, and it kind of fell into place.
Why cookie dough?
I wanted to stick with cookies because I love cookies. But, I thought, I want to do something that is ready to eat and I don’t want to just bake cookies, because everyone knows how to bake cookies. So I started thinking about what I really loved about cookies and I thought: cookie dough. I love eating cookie dough.
I know I’m technically not supposed to eat it because you can get salmonella, and I had my mom’s voice in my head every time I go to lick the bowl saying, ‘Don’t eat that, it can make you sick,’ and I couldn’t really find any sort of product on the market that was offering eggless, edible, safe-to-eat cookie dough.
So I went home as soon as I thought of the idea and started playing around in the kitchen, researching different ingredients and how they could contribute to a recipe and doing testing and came up with some recipes.
What is the most challenging aspect to running your business?
I would say the biggest challenge has really been the learning curve of the product itself. If I was selling cupcakes you wouldn’t ask questions. You know what a cupcake is. But I get a lot of questions about why is it edible? What’s in it? What do you use instead of egg? Can I bake it? And so in addition to getting the word out, I’m working to help people to understand what the product is and why they need it in their lives.
What is your favorite kind of cookie?
My favorite is oatmeal raisin. I laugh because I feel like oatmeal raisins are the ugly duckling of cookies. I think it’s just a less popular flavor in general. But it’s my favorite.
Tell us about being a Sunday school teacher at Temple Micah.
I teach fifth grade. It’s a very different community than other synagogues that I’ve been familiar with. They prioritize experiential education and they prioritize exposing kids to positive Jewish experiences. It’s less about memorizing facts of the Torah or going through a set dry curriculum and it’s more about teaching Judaism through experiences and through fun activities, things that they’ll remember and give them those positive associations. I hadn’t worked with fifth graders before. They are a lively age group. They keep me on my toes.
What was it like growing up in St. Louis?
I always say that I’m very thankful I grew up in St. Louis because of the Midwestern values, slower pace and people were just a little bit friendlier. I’ll go back home, and I go to the grocery store and the cashier is commenting on everything I’ve purchased and telling me that she really likes something. I don’t really have patience for that anymore because I’m so used to things moving so quickly in D.C. But that’s so typical of the environment in St. Louis.