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What We’re Into: The crème brûlée cookies from Dough & Arrow in Costa Mesa

A good cookie is like a Rorschach test with sugar, fat and flour: The resulting flavors and textures provide a clear image of the baker who made it.

Pastry chef GiGi Pascual says she’s always loved a good cookie, and that she has been tweaking her recipes since she was 10 years old. At Dough & Arrow, the Costa Mesa bakery she runs with partner Jennifer Green, she’s baking dozens of cookies that are equal parts comfort, joy and nostalgia.

Green and Pascual met when they parked their food trucks next to each other in Orange County in the early 2010s. Green operated the Nom Nom truck, which specialized in banh mi and other Vietnamese food, and Pascual served breakfast on the Buttermilk Truck.

The two would frequently meet for coffee and cookies as they bonded over new motherhood. In 2017 they decided to turn their usual meetups into a business and opened Dough & Arrow.

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Their menu includes the Smookie, a cookie that’s made with marshmallows and Nutella and is gilded with an entire graham cracker that protrudes from two sides. The baklava (a seasonal offering available for another week or so) is crowned with a square of phyllo dough and a glob of cinnamon-spiked nuts. The ube and coconut is the cookie version of ube halaya.

There are so many things to lust over at the bakery, including ice cream cones bursting with leaning scoops of cookie dough, and iced coffee and tea drinks swirled with guava and served in milk cartons. But the crème brûlée cookie is more than worth the multifreeway trek it may take to get there.

It’s a structural feat that took weeks of trial and error by Pascual and pastry chef Kaitlynn Kistler. How do you get the pastry cream into the middle of the cookie? How do you keep it from seeping out and causing a soggy bottom? How should you use the high and low fans in the oven to get the perfect bake? And how long should you torch the sugar so that it brûlées but doesn’t completely burn?

“We sell about 700 a week,” says Green. “We definitely have it down pat now,” adds Pascual.

The crème brûlée cookies are made from a base dough suffused with the bakery’s own vanilla extract. The dough is then formed into blobs on a baking sheet and the top third of each is cut away to make room for about a tablespoon of pastry cream. The dough is chilled to make sure that the cream doesn’t spill out in the oven. They emerge from the oven with a slight hump, and a spatula is used to “spank” the top flat. After the cookies chill, they’re topped with a mixture of dried vanilla bean and sugar, then torched until a solid, caramel-colored pane of sugar forms over the top.

When you bite into the cookie you get the familiar crème brûlée crack, which gives way to an impossibly chewy, gooey center full of pastry cream.

“To be honest ... every day that I’m here, I do eat a cookie,” Pascual said.

3033 Bristol St., Ste. Q, Costa Mesa, (657) 247-4483, doughandarrow.co


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