Sweet Bee Bakeshop: Talking to the Cookie Dough Master!
Sweet Bee Bakeshop grew from a love of fresh-baked, delicious cookies. After years of making cookies for friends and family, Claire Theodore made a product to share with everyone. Sweet Bee Bakeshop offers delicious, premium-quality cookie dough to keep in your freezer, ready to bake anytime since 2015. We sell all the varieties at Sickles Market! We spoke to Claire about how it all started and where it’s going!
Why did you start Sweet Bee Bakeshop? Was there a specific moment that inspired the idea? And more specifically why cookies?
I started Sweet Bee Bakeshop in 2015 and the first store I sold in was Sickles Market. I have always loved making cookies. In high school, I was in charge of a fundraiser and we made cookie dough to sell to students to raise money for a cause we were supporting. I was always on the hunt for a perfect cookie, either while traveling or in the many cities in which I’ve lived. When I made cookies at home, friends and family would say, “you should sell these!” After working in finance for years, I said, “Hey maybe I should sell them!”
What is a typical “day in the life” for you and your business?
First and foremost, I make lots of handmade cookie dough. I have an amazing team of “bees” that scoop, bag, bake cookies and help in countless other ways. They are incredible. Currently, I’m juggling starting up my new store in Red Bank, being sure all the grocery stores are stocked and expanding to new stores, thinking up new products, selling online and directly to customers, and managing social media. My husband handles all of the tech aspects of my business and my kids help with deliveries and packaging too. It’s really a family business and I consider my “bees” like family too.
Cookies can be so many types of sizes and textures, how do you decide on your recipes? What inspires you?
This is a great question. The best cookie is big enough so it can be soft in the center yet have enough crispness on the edges. There is nothing better than a freshly made cookie and cookie dough is really finicky. The weather and temperature effects the cookie dough-making process, so making a handmade batch takes focus and skill. Also, a perfect cookie must be fresh. It also has to be made with super high-quality ingredients, like the ones we use. Guittard Chocolate, real butter, cane sugar, no added preservatives, and only top-notch ingredients. I added up all these ideas and knew that I had to sell pre-scooped frozen cookie dough that people could bake easily at home.
Not only is the product itself easy and convenient but so is the packaging. Can you talk about the design and the inclusion of silicone parchment paper?
The cookie dough is pre-scooped and ready to bake whenever you crave a cookie. This way you can bake the number of cookies you want, rather than bake all of them if you don’t want a whole batch. Because of this, I wanted the packaging to be re-sealable and last well in the freezer. Since a fresh cookie is better than a week-old cookie, I want my customers to bake only as many as they want to eat, re-seal the bag of cookie dough and have it last in the freezer.
Most parchment paper you buy is coated in Quilon, which contains the heavy metal Chromium. I use silicone parchment which is safe and non-toxic when it’s heated to a super high temperature, unlike regular parchment. It’s twice the price of regular parchment paper but I feel it’s safer and healthier. Also, you can re-use it. If you bake one cookie at a time and use the same sheet over and over again until the bag of cookies is gone, the silicone parchment paper we include lasts and works just as well each and every time. Just wipe off any butter or crumbs from the parchment paper when it comes out of the oven and re-uses it next time.
How did you come up with the name, Sweet Bee Bakeshop?
My Dad always called me Sweet Baby Claire because I was the baby of the family. My husband called me Bee when we met. So, I combined the two nicknames to create Sweet Bee Bakeshop.
Can you talk about the development of your four year-round flavors?
I love creating new flavors. I thought it would be fun to have rotating seasonal flavors that people look forward to as the seasons change. Every week people email me asking do you have Trick-or-Treat, do you have Mini-Egg or Hot Chocolate? Right now our spring and summer flavors are out–Birthday Cake and S’Mores. People buy a bunch of bags of their favorite seasonal flavor and hold onto them all year, so they can have the out-of-season cookie when they are craving it.
You seem to take special care into the ingredients you use, can you tell us about that? And was including gluten-free products very important to you?
I buy all of my chocolate from a family-run California-based company called Guittard Chocolate. I think they sell the best chocolate in the United States. When I get over 500 pounds of chocolate delivered you should smell it. It’s amazing.
I’m really proud of my gluten-free products, too. I have countless customers say thank you for creating a gluten-free product that their child or family can enjoy as much as a non-gluten-free dessert. I wanted to make the best chocolate chip cookie in the country and the best gluten-free chocolate chip cookie in the country. I have been told over and over again that people think that I’ve done that. That makes me really happy.
My vegan treat, Bee Bites is totally plant-based and full of healthy ingredients plus it’s super delicious. We can hardly keep the bags on the grocery store shelves. It’s the only already baked product we sell frozen in grocery stores. the other products you bake at home. We wanted to bake them so people could open them and pop them in their mouths on the way home from the store. You can keep them in the refrigerator or freezer, they are equally good eaten either way.
What is your favorite seasonal flavor you put out? Have you thought of any new seasonal ideas recently we can look forward to seeing? As a kid, I loved Halloween candy. That’s one of my favorite seasonal flavors. How can you not love a cookie with Twix, Milky Way M&Ms, and Skor Bars?
Do you have any baking tips you feel more people should know about? Here is an inside scoop, although it’s great hot, The Toffee Chocolate Chip Crunch is really good if you bake it and then pop it in the fridge. It’s the only cookie I really prefer cold. Also since our cookie dough is handmade, some cookie dough scoops go rogue. Once in a while, the edge will sneak out and make a cookie that’s not round. If this happens, just take your spatula when the cookies come out of the oven and scoot the edge in a bit to re-shape the cookie into a nice round cookie.
Also, it’s really important to follow the directions on the package. Be sure your oven is totally pre-heated, bake the cookie dough from fully frozen (don’t leave it on the counter while the oven is warming up). And the most important tip, bake the cookies until the edges are starting to brown, not until the entire cookie is brown.
Lastly and most importantly, what goes better with cookies, milk, or lemonade? Milk (and red wine is good too!)
What is something that not a lot of Sweet Bee fans know about you? I just opened a store in Red Bank! Also, I grew up in Texas. After college, my husband and I lived in 6 different cities before we settled in Fair Haven.