Allyson Blackwell turned no allowance into gourmet cookies
By Bram Fulk
When young Allyson Blackwell asked her father yet again for an allowance, he just would not budge. Instead, he offered some advice that has helped inform Blackwell’s life ever since: become a self-made woman.
At the time, Blackwell was already well on her way to accomplishing great things in the kitchen, so her father’s advice, mixed with her grandmother’s teachings became the foundation of her life to come.
“What first lit that match for me was watching my grandmother bake a pound cake,” Blackwell recalls. She was five years old. “She was pulling out flour and all these containers of stuff. I’m tasting the flour, the baking soda…it just didn’t make any sense to me that she was making a cake with all of these strange ingredients that individually were not good. I was smitten at that moment because it just blew my mind.”
Blackwell took up baking that day, eventually graduating from her Easy-Bake Oven to the real deal and, over time, impressing her family with her ever-proofing skills.
When she pushed again for an allowance, Blackwell’s father took the opportunity to praise his young daughter’s talents in the kitchen and suggest that, if she really wanted some spending money, she should use her burgeoning baking abilities and figure out a way to make it herself.
So she did.
Armed with a fortune cookie recipe copied from a PBS program, Blackwell made a whole mess of the sweet treats for her family to enjoy.
When her father cracked into the confection made specifically for him, he found a fortune that read:
“You should probably consider paying
your children an allowance.”
It worked. Allowance negotiations resumed and Allyson began what has now become an incredibly accomplished career as a chef for restaurants, hotels, and country clubs from Columbus to the Kentucky Derby.
In 1996, Blackwell started The Pastry Factory as a fun side project but her creative endeavor took on new life when the COVID pandemic struck this past spring and Blackwell found herself without full-time work.
“I thought, ’You know, this is the perfect time to put 100 percent of my energy into my pastry business.’”
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Offering gourmet desserts for “sophisticated palettes,” Blackwell’s home business gives her the freedom to develop unique flavor combinations for cakes and pastries made to order.
“I really want to stand out from the rest of the crowd,” Blackwell says of her custom concoctions like avocado & rosemary or corn & mango cakes.
Through it all, she has never abandoned her love of fortune cookies and her innovative take on flavor carries through to her current future-telling offerings. Mint chocolate chip, piña colada, and pralines and cream with crushed pecans are all on the menu.
“You can infuse a lot of flavor,” Blackwell explains of the note-wrapped concoctions. “You can really play around with making them something interesting.”
On paper, fortune cookies seem fairly easy to make. However, that perceived simplicity hides unexpected challenges. Machines can mass produce fortune cookies by the millions. Made by hand, though, Blackwell is only able to bake them in pairs. The dexterity required to pull the cookies from the oven, place the fortunes and perfectly form both in the 15 seconds or so before they cool is staggering.
“You just have to know the love language of how to make that cookie right.”
Blackwell has had the opportunity to provide some cherished fortunes to happy customers over the years. The Girl Scouts commissioned cookies for 100 of their members, each with an individualized message. Blackwell has also made jumbo-sized fortune cookies carrying edible colored confetti for gender reveal surprises as well as one special treat with a fortune in the form of a lovely marriage proposal.
Sadly, Blackwell’s father was never able to witness the culinary achievements of the aspiring young chef he sought to inspire all those years ago.
“He passed away right before I turned 16,” Blackwell explains. “It makes me feel really good that he did kind of inspire me to do something with [baking]. I would like to think that he’s kind of looking at it like, ‘Yeah, I gave her that idea.’”
Discover more of Allyson Blackwell’s culinary creations on her website.