What's Good Here: A cookie with a twist 

For the past several years, I've taken most of my lunch breaks at Bernice's Bakery. A sandwich, a pastry, it never really matters so long as I manage to snag a toffee bar to top things off. I even started collecting punch cards for them, ensuring I'd get a free one every couple of weeks. Journalism is a stressful racket, after all, and a little sugar fix goes a long way when you're juggling interviews, edits and that ever-pressing deadline.

Honestly, I never thought I'd kick my toffee bar habit. But in March, as Bernice's began trotting out experimental new treats for its month-long Moderately Mad event, I stumbled headlong into a new sugary obsession. Now there's a new punch card in my wallet, a new capper to my lunchtime constitutionals. It's called the "mookie."

Christine Littig, who handed over ownership of Bernice's to Missy Kelleher on June 1, prefers to give credit for the creation where credit's due. One night a while back, Littig says, her daughter and a friend—both high school sophomores—were itching to home-bake chocolate chip cookies. In an ironic twist for a baker, Littig discovered that she didn't have a single cookie sheet in the house. So the girls put the dough in a muffin pan. It worked. And when Moderately Mad rolled around, Littig remembered how tasty the results were and applied the process to Bernice's classic chocolate chip cookies. The bakery blew through the first dozen in about two hours. And apparently customers are coming up with all kinds of ideas for filling the mookie's distinctive depression. Whipped cream. Ice cream. I'm craving another one just thinking about it.

"The popularity shot up right away," Littig says, a plate with a half-eaten mookie (mine) on the table between us. "We've been making about 36 a day for sale in the store. And our other cookie sales haven't gone down at all. It's developing its own following."

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ALEX SAKARIASSEN
  • photo by Alex Sakariassen

In case any sports fans get the wrong idea, the mookie wasn't named for Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts. Or for former Mets switch-hitter Mookie Wilson. Or for 13-year NBA veteran Mookie Blaylock. (Dang, there are a lot of Mookies in pro sports.) The title is merely a mashup of muffin and cookie.

I'll confess that I've never been the biggest fan of Bernice's chocolate chip cookies. They're sturdy, dense, a bit on the dry side, great for dipping in coffee but lacking, to my taste, in some essential cookie-ness that drove so many of us to raid the kitchen before dinner as kids. The mookie, though? It may come from the same recipe, but it strikes a far better balance. The lip of the cup has all the crisp, buttery trappings of my grandma Betty's chocolate chip cookies, while the soft, doughy middle reminds me of every time my mother ever let me lick batter off the spoon.

Littig and I are simpatico on the subtleties. The mere mention of my mom pulling a rack of gooey half-baked cookies out of an oven sends Littig spiraling into memories of her mom, who followed the Nestle Tollhouse recipe right off the package of chocolate chips. And that's right in line with Bernice's mission. "We're what your mom used to make," Littig says. "We're that familiar flavor."

The key difference is that Mom would have had a fit if I'd eaten a dozen mookies. At Bernice's, it means I get one for free.

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