By Caroline Moran
Living in Puerto Rico at the start of the pandemic, Val Hernández, founder of Cookie Lab Confections, was on the hunt for a good cookie. Searching high and low for unique specialty cookies, she was disappointed to find the same old classics (chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, etc.). Not letting the lack of variety stop her, she took it upon herself to purchase an oven and begin experimenting with new flavors. Val quickly discovered a passion for baking. It was apparent she could bring joy to the people around her through baked creations.
Research of various farmers’ markets led her to Saratoga Springs, where she fell in love with the “opportunity to get involved with the local community, meet new people, and showcase [her] cookie creations.”
One of the most rewarding aspects of the business is “every bit of loving feedback” Val receives when she experiments with a new “flavor story.” Using this method, she chooses a treat and asks herself, “how can I turn this sweet treat into cookie form?” A key aspect of this process is thinking outside the box with flours and mix-ins. For her Maple Bisquick cookie, pancake mix replaces traditional flour. Her Deconstructed Rice Krispie cookie incorporates white chocolate chips and a marshmallow center to emphasize the cereal’s flavor.
As for upcoming flavor stories, Val aims to bring the tastes of some beloved Puerto Rican treats to the region. Mantecaditos are a classic buttery shortbread topped with nonpareils, which will pair well with the flavor profile of Quesitos (a puff pastry with a sweet cream cheese filling).
While new flavors are in production, Val’s current favorite is her Brownie & Confetti cookie. Inspired by a trip to New York City, the idea for a “two-in-one” cookie led to a perfect mashup of “dark, moody flavors” and “light vanilla flavors.”
Val’s journey began by laying down roots at local farmers’ markets. Now, she dreams of opening a cookie and coffee shop where she hopes to serve freshly baked cookies alongside Puerto Rican coffee.
Cookie Lab Confections’ treats can be found at the Saratoga and Clifton Park markets and are available online for free delivery throughout Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, and Saratoga every Friday.
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. at High Rock Park in downtown Saratoga Springs. Find us online at saratogafarmersmarket.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.