Meet Mimi Council, a fresh-faced Eastern Sierras-based baker, business owner, photographer and author. Mimi’s love of cookies came from her YiaYia (which means Grandma in Greek). All throughout her childhood Mimi stuffed her face with cookies until her health-conscious mom stepped in and taught her that it’s all about balance. She found herself in California after she graduated early from high school and drove cross-country to Mammoth Lakes the very next day. Living on her own at seventeen, Mimi decided against college and was pursuing a competitive snowboarding career. After a season of snowboarding and 5 years at what she thought was her dream company (Roxy!), Mimi realized that all of those cookies she was baking for her friends and co-workers could become her full-time gig. She opened the organic bakery, Mimi’s Cookie Bar, in September 2011, and it’s been growing ever since. Mimi is a self-taught baker that loves sweets just as much as living an active and healthy lifestyle. Her recipes represent the kind of life she lives, with minimal and organic ingredients. Her cookbook, Mimi’s Cookie Bar, came out in December 2015. When Mimi isn’t baking, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, running and spending time with her dog and husband in the amazing mountains she calls home. Read on to dive deeper into her passion for organics and salivate over a standout organic, vegan brownie recipe.
I saw that you competed in winter sports as a child and teen. How did that evolve into a love of baking?
I used to miss a lot of school because of traveling for snowboarding. And, even though I kept my straight A average all through high school, some of my teachers weren’t too keen on me being gone all the time. So, I started to bake them cookies to keep in their good graces. When I would return from a trip, I’d bring them a plate of homemade Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies (that recipe has since evolved into what is now called “Dad’s Coconut Chocolate Chip” and served daily at the bakery). So, baking was what I did to keep doing the thing I loved at the time. All the while not knowing…baking was my true passion.
What was the inspiration for opening your own bakery?
When I first came up with the concept for Mimi’s Cookie Bar, all I wanted to do was bake organic cookies because it made me happy. And it made me even happier to see other people enjoy them. I also wanted people to be able to walk in and not have to worry about the ingredients. We have been organic since day one and that will never change. I want people to know that they can come in and trust all the ingredients that go into every single cookie we bake. And, if they’re looking for gluten free, vegan or paleo desserts that they can come in and find something at Mimi’s Cookie Bar. Cookies were the inspiration from the beginning. But since opening, our bakery has grown and evolved so much since conception. Our customers wanted more baked goods that they could trust so they kept asking us for more than cookies. Now we bake so many other desserts: Sweet Cream Pies in a Jar, Fruit Pies, Cupcakes, Cakes, Brownies and more.
What makes your baked goods stand out from others on the market?
The biggest thing that makes us stand out is that everything we bake here is organic. I don’t claim that we “use organic ingredients whenever possible” because I see that a lot and I feel it’s a way of trying to reel people in with promises that don’t always have to be kept. That is not good enough for us. If I can get all organic ingredients in my tiny mountain town that is only 4 square miles and over 3 hours away from any major city, you can too. It is possible to use organic ingredients 100% of the time, and that is what we do at Mimi’s Cookie Bar. The only exception is for items that are not yet available in organic versions like rainbow sprinkles or food coloring. In these cases, we use the highest quality items that are all-natural, made without any artificial colors. The colors are all plant based and non-GMO. Crops grown specifically for color vibrancy are not organically farmed because there is not a big enough demand to make it cost effective for these farms yet. I am sure there will be soon, and when there are organic versions you can bet we’ll be the first to be using them. The company that we use is called ColorKitchen, which makes food coloring and sprinkles. They make the absolute best colors that actually work, which is so hard to find in the natural dye space. Glancing at some of our baked desserts, you would never guess because we can still make you a pink birthday cake with rainbow sprinkles. And that’s the idea. We want to show people you can have exactly what you want and love, while using the best ingredients for you and the environment. And guess what, it will taste even better.
What is your nutrition philosophy?
My philosophy is to eat everything you want, but organically. I am not vegan, or gluten-free, or grain-free or soy-free or dairy-free. I enjoy everything. But, I also eat things that are vegan, gluten-free or dairy-free. I believe in enjoying all food in moderation. If I’m craving a burger, a salad, or, perhaps most importantly, a cookie, I will eat one. I don’t, however, eat foods that are not organic. I used to cheat once in a while when I would go out to dinner or I couldn’t find something available to me when traveling. However, recently I’ve noticed a greater intolerance with my body when putting in foods that are not high quality. So, for me it’s just not worth it anymore. If I know I’m going to be traveling, I bring a lunch or pack my own food. I make it work so that when I eat I feel good, because that is the most important part. Food fuels your body, and if you’re not putting good stuff in, you won’t get good results from your body.
What is your favorite product in your bakery?
That is so hard! I love so many desserts, but cookies are and will always be one true love. I don’t think I could choose between our Best Friend Ever Cookies (which are peanut butter pretzel chocolate chip cookies with sugar and sea salt on top, which we also make vegan), our Dad’s Coconut Chocolate Chip or the Coconut French Macarons.
Do you have a favorite plant-based recipe to share with us?
Yes, our Vegan Brownies are one of my favorite vegan desserts we make. They are so good we don’t even make regular brownies in the shop, because there’s no need to. If you didn’t tell someone these were vegan, they wouldn’t know. We also can make them gluten-free with one simple adjustment so it’s a great recipe for everyone.
Yields 1 -2 dozen
- 284 g. organic sugar
- 57 g. organic dark chocolate, chopped
- 57 g. organic Dutch cocoa, sifted
- ½ tsp. organic ground vanilla bean
- ½ cup boiling water
- ½ cup organic canola oil (or organic coconut oil, if you use this they will taste like coconut brownies)
- ¼ cup organic coconut milk
- 255 g. organic flour (or an organic gluten free flour blend)
- ¾ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- 85 g. organic walnuts, chopped (optional)
- organic powdered sugar (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9” x 13” baking pan with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, add sugar, vanilla bean, cocoa, and dark chocolate.
- In a separate bowl, add flour, baking powder and sea salt and whisk together. Set aside.
- Add the boiling water to the mixing bowl with the sugar mixture, and mix on medium speed until all the chocolate and cocoa are melted and you have a smooth chocolate.
- Add in the canola oil, coconut milk and the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined, do not over mix.
- Add the walnuts and mix again to combine.
- Pour batter into the pan. You will have to spread out until the brownie batter is completely even.
- Bake for 17 minutes.
- Cut brownies into 12 large or 24 small brownies. Sift powdered sugar over the top (optional).
- Store brownies in an airtight container.