March 18, 2009
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
In an innovative blending of tastes -- and a sterling example of non-profit and commercial collaboration -- popular Girl Scout cookie flavors inspired three new Jubilations cheesecakes this month and are featured on Harveys'' dessert menus in Columbus, Starkville and Tupelo.
It all began when members of The Heart of the South Girl Scout Troop 40 in Columbus suited up in hair caps and plastic gloves on a recent Monday at Tammy Craddock''s Jubilations'' kitchens on Gardner Boulevard in East Columbus. The girls were eager to explore using tried-and-true cookies in new cheesecake recipes.
For 90 years, the annual Girl Scout cookie campaign has taught girls and young women marketing, budgeting and goal-setting skills. All proceeds from cookies sales remain in local areas to support troops, events and other activities for the Heart of the South Girl Scouts, a United Way agency.
"Tammy talked to them about her career and how she got started as a baker," said Lee Alford, volunteer troop leader. "She was very informative and encouraging for young girls entering the business world."
"I think the hardest thing for the girls was putting on those hair nets and taking their jewelry off," laughed Craddock. " I wanted to show them that if a women decides to do something, if she wants to work hard enough, then you can accomplish whatever you want to try. I also want them to know it isn''t easy."
Craddock has been featured in numerous publications for her entrepreneurial success in turning a hobby into a thriving business and marketing her specialty cheesecakes to restaurants and grocery outlets. The former high school teacher''s mentoring of the Scouts enhanced their understanding of taking an idea to market.
After a thorough briefing in health regulations, Craddock and the bakers-to-be discussed which and how much of certain ingredients would be most likely to produce the tastiest desserts.
"We had a lot of input," said Cadette Laura Stevens. "She asked us what our favorite flavors were, how we thought they would work in the cheesecake, what kind of crust would work. She told us how she started in her own kitchen and made all the cakes herself; that was really cool how she did that. It shows that it is possible ... "
Thin Mints, Caramel deLites, Peanut Butter Patty, Lemonades, Shortbread and Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies were used to create new cheesecakes. From planning, mixing, decorating and, finally, to the oven, the Scouts were involved in the production. Each new recipe was recorded.
Only a day or two after the baking session, the troop learned John Bean of the Eat With Us Group -- the umbrella organization that owns Harveys, The Grill, Sweet Peppers Deli, Bulldog Deli and Park Heights -- would feature the Thin Mints-, Caramel deLites- and Peanut Butter Patty-flavored cheesecakes in Harveys'' Columbus, Starkville and Tupelo locations through the end of the month.
"It was exciting!" said Cadette Scout Sarah Hern. "It was great of John Bean to do it, and I think it really helped us to sell cookies."
The Caramel deLites cheesecake contained crushed Caramel deLites with added caramel and chocolate syrup and a cookie/graham crust, topped off with toasted coconut, Alford explained. The girls'' Thin Mints recipe contained added creme de menthe with mini chocolate chips and a Thin Mint crust and crushed Thin Mints on top. The Peanut Butter Patty cheesecake has crushed Patties with added chocolate syrup and a crust made from the Shortbread cookies, Alford said.
Sarah''s younger sister, Reagan, spoke of the experience with Craddock. "Her working with us was a lot of fun; it helped us grow more. She kind of showed us what to do, but she really let us do it on our own and use our own ideas."
"We are so grateful to everyone involved for their support," Alford stressed. "This project was a wonderful example of community collaboration and girls taking an active role in leadership and discovery!"
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.