Editor’s note: Cocina Connection is a once-a-month feature that takes a behind-the-scenes look at a New Mexico-based chef, who, in turn, shares some recipes.
On any given day, Kristin Dowling is rolling out cookie dough and making cookies.
Of course, there has to be music blaring alongside the heat of preheating ovens.
“I don’t like the quiet,” she says with a laugh. “I need there to be noise to keep my concentration.”
Come holiday time, Dowling is working at a breakneck pace.
“Around Christmas, I will make about 100 dozen cookies a day,” she says. “It’s not rare for me to come in at 6 in the morning or stay overnight. These days, I get to come in later, around 9 a.m.”
Dowling is co-owner of Albuquerque-based Rude Boy Cookies, along with Michael Silva. The duo opened the bakery in July 2014 and it is located at 1916 Central SE, Suite E, across from the University of New Mexico campus.
Dowling says a new location will be opening up soon near the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center campus.
“It’s so exciting to see how far Mike and I have taken this,” Dowling says. “It’s been a dream of mine.”
On a daily basis, Dowling will create dozens of cookies.
For Valentine’s Day, Rude Boy Cookies offers a diverse smattering of choices.
A few examples are of rappers Snoop Dogg or Biggie Smalls valentine duo, which consists of a cookie with the image of one of the rappers and a saying like “Gangsta Love” or “I Love It When You Call Me Big Poppa.”
Then there’s the “We Go Together” series that features a red and green chile decorated cookie, or a chip and salsa.
“Whatever we can imagine, we’ll try to make it,” Dowling says. “It was Mike’s idea to do the Biggie, Snoop Dogg and Tupac cookies.”
This is part of the dozens of special cookies the company prepares alongside the seven classics — chocolate chip, salted double chocolate, red velvet, peanut butter, sugar cookie, oatmeal butterscotch and snickerdoodle. Not to mention the oatmeal cream pie and The Duke Turtle cookies.
“Whatever you are craving, we have it,” Dowling says. “There’s always room for one of the classics.”
Dowling’s love for baking began as a child.
Her grandmother was an artist and encouraged her to do whatever brought her joy.
“She was always helping me express myself in any way that I could,” Dowling recalls. “She let me make restaurants in her kitchen when I was a kid. I wanted to be a waitress when I grew up. It’s funny to think that, but I knew I was going to be doing something creative and making it for an audience.”
Dowling was born in California, but grew up in Farmington and Albuquerque.
After high school, she took her talents to the culinary arts program at Central New Mexico Community College.
Today, she and Silva have three CNM culinary arts alumni working for the company.
“I’m fortunate to have this team of young culinary artists working for us,” she says. “They are bringing so much fun stuff to the table that I would never have thought of. So it’s all about collaboration too.”
Dowling utilizes those opportunities for collaboration because it helps challenge her.
With social media, creativity can be seen in an instant.
“I really like being able to keep my creative nature and not get bogged down by all of the outside noise,” she says. “If you honestly stop comparing yourself to others and just compare yourself to your past, you’ll continue to move forward. That’s how I like to think about it.”
Dowling enjoys the creative process and never realized how much math and science she would use in her career.
“I am not good at math,” she says with a laugh. “I’m very good at baker’s math. I failed out of chemistry. Baking is the closest thing to chemistry. I guess I could say I’m a STEAM girl. I use science, technology, engineering, arts and math.”
While Dowling has accomplished a lot in her career, there are so many other opportunities she wants to push forward with.
She and Silva moved into the Central Avenue location about two years ago.
“This building is really fun, though,” she says. “It’s opened up our opportunities to do bigger events and have classes here. We’ve even had some markets here, which has been really nice getting the community involved.”
Rude Boy Cookies has also expanded its online ordering during the pandemic, which makes up the bulk of their business.
“We really switched gears and opened up a Square website for the online ordering platform,” she says. “Big companies are now ordering from us because it’s a lot easier. I do wish there was more walk-up foot traffic so that I can see the customers.”
In 2017, Dowling was on the national stage when she competed and won on Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge.”
The premise for the show is simple — four talented cookie makers are given a theme, then some time to make cookies. There are two rounds judged by Damiano Carrara, Ree Drummond and Jamika Pessoa. After the two rounds are over, one baker remains the victor. Oh, not to mention a $10,000 check.
Dowling competed against three other bakers.
During the first round, Dowling created a biscochito scene with Santa Fe churches and chile ristras.
In the final round, the challenge was to showcase a Christmas tradition with at least two types of ginger cookies.
The contestants had three hours to complete the challenge and Dowling decided to put together a gingerbread structure.
“Being on the Food Network was obviously like the best, most fun thing ever,” Dowling says. “This is where we got the idea of coming up with our cookie decorating sets. I love getting weird sets. We got a Pokémon and astrology set once that was so weird to put together. I love all the challenges.”
Dowling and Silva worked together at Flying Star Cafe on Rio Grande before starting the company.
“I remember telling my wife about the idea,” Silva says. “I knew I couldn’t do Rude Boy Cookies without Kristin. She’s the creative push.”
Red Velvet Cookies
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon buttermilk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon red gel food color
1 cup white chocolate chips
Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars until combined and creamy. Beat in the egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
Once mixed, add the food color and beat until combined. Turn the mixer off and pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer on low and slowly beat until a soft dough is formed. Add the white chocolate chips. Dough will be sticky.
Cover and chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. If chilling for longer than a few hours, allow dough to return to room temperature before rolling and baking as it will be quite hard.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Scoop 1½ tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball. Place 9 balls onto each baking sheet. Bake for 13 minutes. If the dough doesn’t spread, press down on the warm cookies to slightly flatten.
Cool cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.