Cookies From ShoeBox Oven's Spice Girl

By Emily Heil
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, July 20, 2008; Page N02

For a kid-pleasing cookie, sweeter is usually better. If chocolate chips are good, chocolate chunks are great. Like Oreo filling? Try 'em double-stuffed. But Krishna Brown, the proprietor of the online bakery ShoeBox Oven (, turns out a pint-size savory cookie that's tailor-made for grownups.

Her spin on the traditional spice cookie, whimsically named A Girl in Bombay, includes ingredients more often associated with non-sweet foods, such as saffron and curry, as well as flavors from around the globe. The crunchy coating of sesame seeds brings to mind traditional Italian cookies, and shredded coconut blended into the dough adds a tropical flavor.

The ingredient list might suggest novelty for its own sake (isn't there a reason curry is more often found on chicken than in dessert?), but the results are subtle. The curry marries nicely with the more expected nutmeg and clove, while the saffron adds a can't-quite-place-it note to the spice symphony.

Brown, a Howard University graduate who left her job as a graphic designer for the Peace Corps to run Arlington-based ShoeBox Oven full-time more than a year ago, says she invented A Girl in Bombay as an homage to her name. Krishna is a popular name among Indian people, and though Brown, 33, isn't of Indian descent ("My mom was a hippie," she explains), she felt drawn to the cuisine of the country where her name originated.

My attempts to re-create the cookies that had so intrigued me were hampered by faulty kitchen gear. I found out too late that the thermometer I'd placed in my oven was inaccurate. The result was that I dialed my oven to a too-low temperature, and the cookies, instead of setting up into lovely round balls like Brown's, oozed into flat disks and took way longer to bake than she'd instructed. The flavors, though, were dead-on. I ditched the defective thermometer and cranked the heat up, and the next try yielded much prettier little mounds.

The lesson? Check your equipment. Along with your convictions that curry is best suited to carryout.

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