Thank You for Ann’s Cookies, Woody Allen

Thank You for Ann’s Cookies, Woody Allen
Woody Allen has been accused of being a lot of things, but the impetus for opening a cookie shop? That’s the story if you talk to Anne-Laure de Lummen, owner of the newly opened Ann’s Cookies at 60, rue St-Louis-en-l’Île on the Île Saint-Louis. Years ago, Madame de Lummen, who is a bright, open, warm person of 37, was watching Woody Allen’s movie, “Small Time Crooks,” in which some not-very-bright guys buy a pizza restaurant near a bank and devise a plan to rob the bank by digging a tunnel to it. That they knew neither how to make pizza nor left from right – they dug the tunnel in the wrong direction – mattered not. They decided to make cookies instead of pizza, franchised the stores when the cookies were a success, and, well, go rent the movie if you want to know the rest. It was while watching that movie that the dream of opening a cookie shop was planted in Madame de Lummen’s mind. But first she had to complete her education, which she did at the École Superior de Commerce de Paris, one of the French grandes écoles. As part of her program, she studied business at Oxford University, and it was there that she met Helge Rubinstein, founder of the successful Ben’s Cookies. She was so taken with his cookies that she offered to open a shop in Paris. Mr. Rubinstein declined the offer, but the dream of opening a cookie shop remained. When Madame de Lummen completed her studies, she worked for a large consulting firm, then did sales and marketing for LVMH, the famous luxury group that stands for Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy but handles many other well-known upscale brands, as well. But it was at the consulting firm, Mars & Co., where she was working on business strategy, that her cookie dream began to be realized. There, she began to experiment and test her recipes, in 2007, with various combinations of dough and other ingredients. Working systematically, she varied the amount and kind of flour and other ingredients until she thought she had a perfect balance. She was trying to produce the cookie of her dreams – one that was crunchy on the outside but dense, soft, and gooey on the inside. Most importantly, however, she wanted to be her own boss. Madame de Lummen brought her test cookies to the office and they drew rave reviews. Even the founder and head of the company, Monsieur Dominique Mars, began asking for them. That Madame de Lummen’s office was near the elevator, where people could smell the cookies, was a fortuitous marketing aid. Six months after starting her “experimenting phase,” her colleagues began asking if they could order cookies – offering to pay. It was then that Madame de Lummen realized it was time to put into practice the many business lessons she learned in her previous jobs and to make her dream, now fifteen years in gestation, a reality. In September 2010, Madame de Lummen submitted her resignation, and in October and November 2011 she set up a kiosk in a corner of La Grande Épicerie de Paris, the fabulous food hall at 38, rue de Sèvres in the 7th arrondissement, which showcases the food of up-and-coming chefs by allowing them to sell their creations in a corner of the store for two months.   This allowed Madame de Lummen to further test her cookies and receive feedback. They were a success. Next, Madame Lummen needed to find the right space. She wanted it to be a small store to start – less than 20 square meters (about 215 square feet) – and thanks to an Internet ad, she found exactly what she was looking for – a former foie gras shop of 15 square meters (about 161 square feet), on rue St-Louis-en-l’Île in the heart of Île Saint-Louis, one of the prime pieces of real estate in all of Paris. It was on the sunny side of the street, and perfect. Then it was time to really get down to business. Madame de Lummen opened a professional kitchen in the 6th arrondissement that meets the strict French health and hygiene requirements. That’s where the dough is made. She hired an assistant, who meticulously adheres to Madame de Lummen’s recipes and exacting standards.  Madame de Lummen goes to the kitchen every day at 8:00 a.m. to pick up the batches of dough that will be baked that day in the shop. The parfums, or flavors, offered, are divided into Les régressifs, Les raffinés, and Les classiques, although additional flavors are also available. Les régressifs, or “the regressives,” include cookies meant to appeal to the customer’s inner child, such as those made with toasted hazelnuts and Nutella, something nearly every French child grew up eating; and those made with speculoos, a Belgian shortbread cookie also familiar to European children. Les raffinés, or sophisticated/refined, include the praliné, a rich blend of chopped almonds and hazelnuts; and the pistachio with dried apricots. The classiques, of course, include the usual dark and milk chocolate confections as well as white chocolate. A standout is the double chocolate cookie with orange, called the tout chocolat, which is made with a dark chocolate batter and large chunks of dark chocolate, spiked with orange confite, which is candied orange rind. Other flavors available include caramel au buerre salé – salted butter caramel – and anyone familiar with that taste will immediately recognize the sweet/salty flavor embedded in this chewy cookie. Flavors are added as Madame de Lummen perfects them. Currently, she is working on a lemon-poppy cookie, and also on her list is a peanut butter cookie. All the cookies…

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Diane Stamm occasionally writes from Paris.