Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Charlie's Cookies Factory

Aaah... warm choc chip cookies, fresh from the oven.  Does it get any better than that?


Last month I was invited to visit the Charlie's Cookies factory in East Bentleigh.  As you know, I love cookies, and I was super excited to see a cookie factory in action!  Just walking into the building, the smell of butter and baked goods was overwhelming!

I met owner Jacky Magid and publicist Kate Anderson, who gave me an insight into the Charlie's Cookies story.  Jacky's husband Ken Mahlab bought Charlie's Cookies (then "Uncle Charlie's") as an insolvent business in 2004, and Jacky joined the business in 2007, concentrating on sales, marketing, and reinvigorating the brand.  Thanks to their hard work and tasty products, Charlie's Cookies has continued to grow, and the company's 2011 turnover was three times their 2007 turnover, which I think is a pretty amazing achievement!

Factory outlet; Cookies-in-a-Cup; Cookie Gift Boxes

The factory also has a little factory outlet, which stocks a good range of their products. I recognised the bite-sized Cookies-in-a-Cup, which I've bought from my local supermarket before, but they also make Cookie Gift Boxes (available at gourmet supermarkets like Leo's), as well as supplying cafes and corporate clients with a range of cookies, cakes and slices.

Entering the factory itself meant I had to wear a (very glamorous) blue hair net and a white lab coat, and scrub my hands clean, because they wanted it to be a hands-on tour!  On average, the factory produces one thousand kilos of cookies a day.  A thousand! That's (literally) a whole tonne of cookies!  Awesome!

Let's take a look!  I loved seeing all the massive bags and boxes of ingredients.

Nuts, sugar

Chocolate

Giant mixer
Mmm... cookie dough.
Trays of dough and pastry

Here are some big bags of add-ins (choc chips, coconut etc.), all measured out and ready to go. Efficiency!


Despite being a large operation, many of the processes are still done by hand, including the chocolate-dipping of these Viennese Eclairs.  I got to dip a few of these myself, and the ladies who work here said I did a pretty good job!  I personally consider it an achievement that I managed to dip these and place them onto a tray, not in my mouth, hehehe!

Dipping the Viennese Eclairs in chocolate

Viennese Eclairs

I also got to see the bite-sized choc chip cookies being made.  (These are the little ones that are sold in cups - I'd bought them myself a few times, before I'd ever been contacted by Charlie's Cookies, and can categorically say that these crunchy little cookies are totally addictive!)

Here's the dough:


To make the little cookies, the dough is put into a special machine, which stamps it into circles (or any other shape, using the cut-outs, below.) How much easier would rolling and cutting-out cookies be with some of these?  (I'm thinking cheese stars!)



And here they are, going into the oven.  The oven was massive, taller than me!


I also wanted to show you the slices and brownies that they make. Love the big, generous slabs!



Even though they'd already given me heaps of little samples and treats as we toured the production line, Jacky and Kate also generously loaded me up with heaps of cookies to take home.


From left to right we have chocolate chip shortbread (part of the food service line), the Handmade Double Chocolate Chip Bites, and the Chunky Chocolate Chip Mini Cookies-in-a-Cup.

Chocolate chip shortbread; Handmade double chocolate chip bites; Chunky chocolate chip mini cookies

I liked the crisp butteriness of the shortbread, but would have preferred a higher chocolate-to-biscuit ratio.  But as you can see from the above photo, the other two biscuits certainly have a very high chocolate content!

The double choc chip bites and the chunky chocolate mini-cookies are actually made from the same dough, but the choc chip bites are formed by hand, whilst the mini-cookies are pressed out using that machine I showed you above.  Both are very tasty and are crisp all the way through, so I guess it comes down to whether you like your cookies flat or chunky!


Whilst I enjoyed all the cookies that I tried, I particularly liked these mini lemon melting moments, which were super-cute, buttery and crumbly. I was impressed to see the very short ingredients list: wheat flour, butter, custard powder, icing sugar and natural lemon flavour. (Exactly what I'd use if I were making melting moments at home!)

And don't worry, I certainly shared the cookies and didn't keep them all to myself - you may recognise some of the packets from the insane snack-shelf on our most recent weekend away.

It was really fascinating to see a cookie factory in action - thank-you to Kate and Jacky for the invitation!

7 comments:

Not Quite Nigella said...

I love Charlie's Cookies! They taste like home made which I find a lot of others don't. Their melting moments are so dangerous...

Sophie said...

Charlie's Cookies are the best! I love visiting factories too (must be my engineering background showing through.) You lucky girl :D

Nic@diningwithastud said...

What a great experience. That brownie slab is dangerous ;)

Winston said...

Coooooool... Very interesting seeing things and how they're made from the "inside". And yes, I'll have to look out for those lemon melting moments! I reckon I could scoff a dozen of those at a time. You'll have to stop me ;p

Sarah said...

Lorraine - I know! It was a tough week having all those samples in my house!

Sophie - Haha I loved visiting the factory because of my Six Sigma Operations training *DORK*

Nic - It was a really informative and interesting day. I loved it!

Winston - It was so interesting for me to see how the products I'm familiar with come to life. :)

xox Sarah

myfoodtrail said...

Awesome documenting as usual :) Being inside a cookie factory would be a dangerous place for me... Or maybe for the factory because I would want to eat everything! The smell would be so amazing mmmm

Sarah said...

April - Thanks so much! Haha I did my best not to make a dent in their profits with my visit. ;) You could smell the butter before you even entered the factory floor. Amazing!