MAYNARD — If you have two master's degrees, one in chemical engineering, and can't find a job, what do you do? The answer for Laura Weinstein: bake cookies.
With time on her hands after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Weinstein, 25, pored over cookie recipes in cookbooks and on the Internet. She tested and tweaked, and came up with inventive versions. "I like to put crazy things inside," she says.
Last summer the entrepreneur launched Cookie Lady Treats and sells homemade goodies at farmers' markets, shops, and online. "My favorite part is creating combinations," Weinstein says. The Cookie Lady bakes varieties like pina colada, with dried pineapple soaked in rum, and other cookies that taste like apple pie, mixing together caramel pieces, dried apples, and spices. She offers a spicy, smoky, chipotle chocolate cookie and one with peanut butter studded with pretzels, caramel, and three types of chips: bittersweet, milk, and white chocolate. Weinstein sells close to 40 different kinds, including pumpkin spice, oatmeal raisin, lime, and s'mores oozing with homemade marshmallows. The cookies are thick and chewy, each confection weighing almost 2½ ounces, some with an ounce of chocolate chunks.
Baking cookies for a business was always a hobby for Weinstein. In middle school in Fresno, Calif., she sold her own cookies to raise money for class trips. In high school, baking was a way to relieve stress, and she delivered platters of goodies to neighbors. "I always dreamed about having a bakery," she says.
On a recent Monday afternoon, the warm and inviting aroma of her treats fills her kitchen. Cookie Lady is embroidered on her Kelly green chef's jacket. Dozens of cookies cool in their sheet pans stacked on a tiered rack. Shelves are lined with premium ingredients such as chocolate chunks from the Belgian company Callebaut; Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract; hunks of salted caramels; dried fruits and nuts.
Weinstein has only one 7-quart stand mixer and a modest-sized oven. Yet, she turns out more than 1,000 cookies a week. One week she had so many orders she baked, by herself, 2,000 cookies in one day. "I bake 12 hours a day," she says.
Today is a lighter baking day. This is a good thing because the day before, the Cookie Lady ran in the BayState Marathon in Lowell. "I feel great," she says. It was her third marathon. "This is why I can eat cookies."
Weinstein says her training in chemistry has helped with baking and concocting novel combinations. "My background allows me to know how ingredients interact. If my cookies don't turn out to the way I want, I know exactly what caused it."
Cookie Lady Treats
are available at Idylwilde Farms, 366 Central St., Acton, 978-263-5943; Quarterdeck Fresh Meat & Fish Market, 175 Main St.,
Maynard, 978-897-9165; Natick Winter Farmers' Market, Leonard Morse Hospital, 67 Union St., Natick, Saturdays, 9 a.m.-
1 p.m. beginning Nov. 24; Chelmsford Agway Farmers' Market, 24 Maple Road, Chelmsford, Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; and www.cookieladytreats.com.
Ann Trieger Kurland can be reached at atrieger@comcast