Family Profits from its Cookie Recipes 1997
OBRIEN, MILLER, WILLIAM, CILEK
Posted By: Misty Christner (email)
Date: 6/13/2018 at 12:07:34
Source: Cedar Rapids Gazette 7/30/1997
Family Profits from its Cookie Recipes
By Suzanne Barnes
Thousands of people have munched on cookies made from the Miller girls' family recipes.
But don't ask how the cookies are made. The recipes are carefully guarded because they are the backbone of the family baking business.
In Iowa City, the business is known as Cookies & More. Located in Old Capitol Center, it was started in 1983 by Jane O'Brien, two of her three sisters and their parents.
One of Jane's sisters has since quit the business. Their father died last December.
"My mother is an excellent cook," says Jane, "Taught us all how to cook and we enjoy it. We love experimenting."
Jane, 52, says she has a file of recipes she is going to try that will require her living to be 300 so she can fulfill her goal. "I cannot quit tearing out new recipes," she says, laughing. "I love to try things. They're fun."
The recipes in Jane's collection come from family, friends, cookbooks, magazines, and newspapers. "I am not inventive. I may change things slightly, but I pretty much follow the recipe.
"And I measure. Some people just dump and have a lot of luck."
In addition to learning to cook from her mother, Jane also belonged to a 4-H club when she was a child. Not only did she enter livestock in fair competitions, she also entered food. One year, her yeast bread was good enough to be sent to the state fair.
These days, Jane doesn't have time to do a lot of bread baking because she is at the family store six or seven days a week.
Cookies & More is not a franchise, although there are family stores in Marshalltown, Mason City, and Ames. The stores outside of Iowa City are run by one sister; Jane and her family operated the Cookies & More store, which is managed by her son Alex.
All of the cookie dough is prepared on site from scratch by a family member. No one in the family has a mixer big enough at home, jokes Jane.
When the first store opened, family members selected the cookie recipes they would be using, based on family favorites. Jane admits there was a little bit of a trick to increasing an everyday recipe 60 or 70 times.
Not all ingredients are multiplied the same. "We try to keep low salt. You need some salt for browning and to help with the color," says Jane.
Dough is mixed fresh everyday and cookies, scones, and muffins are baked all day long. The goal is to stay ahead of customers' needs, but "not too far ahead".
Several businesses in the Iowa City area have standing orders at the mall store.
Either Jane, her husband Ed or their son Alex will open the store. A lot of the time, Jane says she mixes the dough so when she's done, she can leave.
Occasionally, a cookie will crumble or break because of handling. Those bits and pieces are what the O'Briens consume. As a matter of fact, Jane started her day today with a cookie.
"I try to say, 'OK, how many days can I go without having one?' Sometimes I can make six or seven, but usually I can't."
Jane likes desserts so well, she and two friends began another business, Fudge Because . . . , a year ago. The fudge operation is wholesale.
Jane, Nancy Williams and Cheri Cilek talked about starting a fudge business for a couple of years. "I'm not sure which of us said it's time to quit talking and we're going to do it."
Although each one can work alone, the women prefer to get together in the fixtured kitchen that has been set up in on of the O'Briens' buildings.
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