TWIN FALLS • The sun is rising slowly this morning — like many people in town, who pull back the warmth of white sheets, heavy heads leaving soft pillows, to shuffle to showers.
Every so often a car rolls down Shoshone Street but doesn’t turn to park in front of the row of downtown businesses with closed signs hanging in dark windows.
At first glance the windows at The Cookie Basket appear dark, too, but kitchen lights in the back of the store indicate work here has already begun. Owner Jayne Fischer and new employee Keyene Wood were at work by 6 a.m. Aug. 16.
Here the smell of raw chocolate chip cookie dough marks morning as it is rolled into tube shapes on parchment paper to be refrigerated and later baked.
Wood’s job is to replenish the cookies in a glass case in the front. When the door opens, a plentiful array will tempt downtown shoppers and workers. On an average day almost 200 cookies of 25 varieties — such as peanut butter, java chip and oatmeal butterscotch — are sold here.
Before Wood can make the dough for those, she is restocking the refrigerator with ready-to-bake cookies. A number of people throughout the day will frost cakes, decorate cookies, prepare gift baskets and ring up customers.
Wood will work the early shift and be gone by the afternoon when others arrive to frost cakes with buttercream flowers.
“It’s a constant rotation,” Fischer said.
The only person who is a fixture in the store is Fischer. She often is at the store as early as 6 a.m. and leaves at 7 p.m., an hour after the store closes.
This morning, Fischer is teaching Wood the art of baking from scratch, as the specialty bakery does to make its variety of cakes, cookies and treats. Wood places glob after glob of light brown dough dotted with chips onto a scale, then parchment paper, as Fischer helps her roll.
Then Fischer leaves Wood to prepare a gift basket. Clear cellophane crackles as Fischer wraps it around a basket of cookies. She needs to get this delivered to Idaho Falls this afternoon, which means she needs it picked up by 10 a.m. She calls a delivery service to schedule a pickup.
Soon the doors will be unlocked and the sign switched to open. The wind chime hangs ready above the door to greet customers.
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Fischer purchased the business almost 10 years ago. The Cookie Basket will celebrate its 10th anniversary in January. Fischer, who has more than 25 years of experience inside a kitchen, started working in the bakery at Albertson’s when she was 19.
“I was the night person who cleaned doughnut cases,” Fischer said.
Over the years, she moved her way up to doughnut fryer and icer. Then she assisted with baking French bread. Finally she garnered enough expertise to become a cake decorator and eventually head cake decorator.
Fischer was the bakery manager at Albertson’s stores in Twin Falls, Boise and Jackson Hole, Wyo., for five years.
When she first bought The Cookie Basket, she often worked 12 to 15 hours a day for six days. But she quickly learned that finding a balance between life and work is important.
She now employs five people to help her in the kitchen, make local deliveries and just fill in. Her three daughters help in running the business by updating the website or taking photos of products.
“Make sure you don’t burn out,” Fischer said. “Instead of loving the job you love, you begin to hate your dream and your job.”
This is one of the reasons there are so many hands in The Cookie Basket today.
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At midday on Aug. 17, the lunch crowd eats outdoors at a nearby pub’s tables with umbrellas, their vehicles lining Main Avenue. Many of downtown’s diners and shoppers, apparently, crave a little dessert too.
The hollow metal cylinders ring an inviting tune as The Cookie Basket door swings open again and again. Employee Shana Cheyney leaves her task of making brown ribbon into bows for baskets to greet customers.
At another counter in the back, Yvonne Marvin counts dollars, fives and tens. Marvin does not work for The Cookie Basket, but she buys goodies from the business and sells them to people in offices sitting behind desks. The self-employed Marvin rides her bright pink bicycle around town for three hours, delivering to businesses.
“I love it,” Marvin said.
In the kitchen, Mollie Weighall holds a flower-shaped cookie in her palm as she squeezes pink frosting onto its petal with her right hand.
Beside her sits Fischer, frosting a layer of plastic foam with wedding white. It takes about 24 hours for the frosting on a faux cake to dry and about two hours to decorate.
“It gets a crust on it right away,” Fischer said, spinning the cake on the pedestal to evaluate all sides.
Then she scoops a glob of frosting into a pastry bag, her face inches away from the cake, adding piping to the sides.
Fischer said people order faux cakes for decoration rather than dessert, to give an event the grandeur without the price. Fischer said many times brides and grooms order a sheet cake to eat but display a faux cake on the table.
This works especially well for outdoor weddings when insects are attracted to the sweet smell. People also order faux cakes with only the top layers being edible if they are serving only a few people.
After adding color to a sheet of flower cookies, Weighall starts to decorate a birthday cake for a 3-year-old with fondant pink and purple butterflies and pink-tipped white frosting flowers.
“A lot of the old school piping like Jayne is doing isn’t being done,” Weighall said.
Weighall got her start inside the same Twin Falls Albertson’s bakery where Fischer was manager.
Now the two work side by side once again, frosting cookies and cakes for brides, birthdays and those downtown shoppers lured in by the glass case. And tomorrow morning, by another display of beautiful desserts.