It smells like Sunday morning inside the commercial kitchen where Mallory Neiss is pressing sweet cookie dough between hot waffle irons. As she presses down, the room fills with the smells of sizzling butter, sugar, and cinnamon all stamped into perfectly golden-brown disks.
Neiss is making stroopwafels, a Dutch cookie with caramel syrup sandwiched between two thin waffle wafers. It’s a buttery sweet treat that gets more interesting with every bite.
“It’s gooey and soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside,” she said of the cookie’s dynamic texture.
Since Neiss started making stroopwafels in January, they’ve become a staple in many local coffee shops. They’re so popular that the young baker, 26, and owner of Hopboom Baking Co., is having trouble keeping up with the orders. She never expected her cookie to grow a fan base so quickly.
“It was kind of weird,” she said. “I actually have an inbox full of emails I haven’t responded to yet. Like people want to buy them directly from me and I’m like, ‘Hold on, let me organize myself here.’ I’m trying to crank out stroopwafels as fast as I can at this point.”
Stroopwafels take a lot of love to produce, and Neiss’ company is a one-woman show. Her first 5,000 cookies were made on one waffle iron she bought on Amazon. Each individual cookie has to be pressed, cut in half, topped with caramel syrup, and then hand pressed again. It can take hours to produce a hefty stack of stroopwafels. Neiss recently bought a second iron to double her assembly line, but even with the extra help, South Sounders are requesting stroopwafels faster than she can make them.
Neiss doesn’t eat too many stroopwafels these days, though. She taste tests each batch and her passion has always been baking. As a little girl growing up in Sumner, she was envious of her neighbor’s Easy-Bake Oven.
“I really wanted one,” she said.
Cooking and baking were a big part of Neiss’ childhood. Her dad would let her be the chef in the family kitchen. He’d help her prepare dishes, no matter how inedible they turned out.
“When I was little I felt like we made a lot of experiments in the kitchen. My dad would sit me up on the counter, and we’d pour random ingredients into a pot and stir it around. Like it would be totally disgusting. It was just fun!”
Neiss studied specialty desserts and breads through the pastry program at Seattle Central Community College. Soon, bread-making became her medium. Her sister, who owns a farm in Puyallup, helped introduce Neiss’ baking skills to her roughly 30 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members, and her bread business started taking off. So much so that when the 2014 holiday season came along she was swamped with orders. She made it work for a while but with limited supplies she had to give up bread making for something more manageable -— a sweet little treat with a longer shelf life.
Neiss’ first encounter with a stroopwafel was during a trip to Amsterdam with a close friend. When they bought a package of them together on a random whim, Neiss was so impressed by the delicious discovery that she finished the box on her own, much to her friend’s dismay. As an apology she bought another box and has been paying it forward ever since.
Neiss makes her stroopwafels inside the kitchen of the Old Post Office Building in Tacoma on A Street. It’s a shared space among Hopboom Baking Co., Ice Cream Social, Cashew Blanca, and Mythical Caramels. Visitors have to travel through a few dark, dusty rooms before entering the bright pink hallway that leads to the kitchen. Inside are shelves stocked with goodies and fresh ingredients for all four businesses. As Neiss plops her cookie dough on the irons, Diane Timmons, who works for Ice Cream Social, scrapes out the contents of vanilla beans for a fresh bucket of homemade ice cream. The space is a motherland for all things sweet, fresh, and delectable.
Neiss still hopes to bake breads in the future, but for now her stroopwafels are keeping her busy. She’s developed what many would call the perfect cookie recipe. But Neiss is still altering it ever so slightly all the time. Experimenting just like when she was a little girl. Turns out she never needed that Easy-Bake Oven — or an oven at all — to build her sweet business.
Warm your Wafels
Neiss’ stroopwafels are wide enough to sit on top of a coffee cup and warm up to gooey perfection. Or Neiss recommends throwing your stroopwafel in the microwave for a few seconds so that it’s warm and melted in the middle when you bite in.
You can buy stroopwafels at:
BlueSteel Coffee & Café
Treos (both locations)
Mad Hat Tea Company
Infinite Soups (Post Office location)
Ice Cream Social
Tacoma Food Co-Op
Northern Pacific Coffee Company
Wild Hare Organic Farm