Ross Canter, the baker and co-founder of Cookie Good in Santa Monica, was outside his house late at night when when the inspiration hit him: a Cheetos cookie.
"The most important part to get right was that it left your fingers orange, just like when you're eating them out of the bag," Canter tells me as he whips up a fresh batch for me to try. He has just finished adding a measuring bowl full of cheddar powder to his creamed butter mixture, and then proceeds to add a larger measuring bowl's worth of crushed Cheetos Puffs. He forms little balls of the neon orange dough and dusts them with another layer of crushed Cheetos.
A Cheetos cookie may sound polarizing, but when executed by a cookie master such as Canter, it's flawless. Crispy on the edges, it gets chewier as your reach the center. It's not too sweet nor too salty, but strikes a very happy middle ground that may bring up happy memories of stuffing your face with handfuls cheese popcorn from Christmas tins with a little caramel corn accidently mixed in.
The simple cookie relies on the buttery qualities of cheddar cheese, and then is pushed to levels of addictive ridiculousness when the Cheeto seasonings meld with the cookie dough. (Canter estimates that each cookie is roughly 30 percent cheese; in other words, three big Cheetos Puffs in each cookie.)
In short, the Cheetos cookie seems destined for a cult following.
Canter is an exemplary citizen of Los Angeles. His family owns Canter's Deli along Fairfax Avenue, and before he found his inner-cookie genius potential, he worked as a movie executive, a Hollywood producer, and a screenwriter for animations and TV shows. While he was busy penning scripts, he developed a hobby of baking cookies as a way to deal with the stress and anxiety of being a writer. "When you're a writer, you are miserable 90 percent of the time," he says. "You sit there and tell yourself, 'You suck! You're stupid! You're fat!' When I'm baking, I don't have any of these insecurities."
When members of the Writers Guild of America held a strike in 2007, Canter found himself out of work. His wife, who co-owns the bakery with him, encouraged him to pursue his passion for cookies full-time. Soon enough, orders started flooding in, including many from strangers. When the strike ended in 2008, he went back to work, but he always found himself rushing home to bake more cookies and keep up with the increasing demand. Two years ago, he finally decided to quit for good and open up Cookie Good.
"The process of writing is not dissimilar to making cookies," Canter says. "I feel like running a cookie shop is [like] being on the set because everything is so fast-paced and things are always dealing with a crisis."
He hopes that this Cheetos cookie, along with the rest of his equally delicious inventory, will make his customers feel as good as cookies makes him feel—or, as he calls it, "cookie good." Judging by the boxes full of baker's dozens that a handful of customers pick up during our interview, and the stack of boxes in the kitchen that are about to get shipped out to their customers across the US, he is on the right track to making this happen.