Confession: I didn’t grow up on Oreo cookies. Oatmeal and raisin cookies, yes. Key lime pie, definitely, and chocolate chip cookies. But Oreos? Those skinny little chocolate sandwiches with a sort-of crème filling? Those I discovered as an adult.
Oreos reached the age of 101 in March. Kraft, which owns Nabisco, claims it sells 25-billion Oreos a year, just about all over the world. If you buy them in Japan you’ll get green tea filling; in Indonesia, you’ll get blueberry; and in Argentina, you’ll have a combination of banana and dulce de leche.
In South Africa, it’s chocolate, or plain old sort-of crème — unless you drop by Heidi Dodd’s stand on Sundays at the market at Arts on Main in the Maboneng district.
Dodd bakes the real thing — a sandwich of two slightly chewy chocolate biscuits made with cocoa and sugar and a real buttercream filling. They’re three times as tall as the original, and rather better. There’s a big difference between buttercream (Dodd) and hydrogenated vegetable fat (Nabisco) — although hydrogenated vegetable fat is an improvement over the lard the iconic cookies used to be made with.
But it’s not Oreos that Dodd is best known for. It’s macaroons, in a variety of flavours ranging from passion fruit to Campari and orange, from lavender and lemon-lime to coffee. The pistachio is brilliant, and the rose tastes like, well, roses.
Dodd is a “dessert person” who loves to bake. An American from Northfield, Minnesota, she honed her skills at an intensive five-month pastry course at the Prue Leith Chefs Academy in Centurion and then had to work out what to do with them. The answer was macaroons and markets.
Since then Dodd has expanded her repertoire. Red velvet cookies with white chocolate chips, for example; pink, blue or yellow smiley-face cookies; a cookie that tastes like milk tart … and Oreos.
She’s just made batches for a wedding, and macaroons in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head for a children’s party.
“People are really nostalgic for things from their childhood, like I am,” she says. But “there’s always demand for macaroons”.