Monday, July 27, 2009

Jul 27: Daring Bakers' Cookies!

This is my one year anniversary challenge as a Daring Baker!

Hard to believe that a year ago my fingers were developing a callous and aching. I was cussing out the hazelnuts I was skinning. While spending the whole day (it was a hot day too) in the kitchen making a tremendous mess, I was asking myself, "Geez! What have I gotten myself into?"

That was the July 2008 challenge, a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream. If you're interested, take a read of the challenge,
July 2008 DB Challenge.

What a difference a year makes!
I'm more at ease with the DB challenges, but I still make a mess, use every pot, pan, baking dish and utensil I can find. It's a guy thing.

Moving forward to 2009...
The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milano Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

For the challenge, you choose one or do both recipes. Of course, I daringly made both recipes. :-)
Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract [I opted to use 1 T Almond Extract. I was leery of using 2T of almond extract so I used 1 T. I could have gotten away with 1.5 T]
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped [I used semisweet chocolate chips]
• 1 orange, zested [I left out the orange zest]

The recipes implies using a stand mixer. I used a hand mixer instead.
1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.

The flour being mixed into the batter. Yes, the cookie dough was like a thick batter... instead of being a firm dough.

4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.

I don't have a 1/4-inch plain tip so I used my favorite tool - the Ziploc bag with a 1/4-inch corner cut off. Using the real Milano as a guide, I piped a swirl pattern.

5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.

The dough spread out and the swirl all melded together. This resulting cookie is reminiscent of the tuile challenge from January. Darn... I was hoping to get the little pip like the real Milan cookie.

6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.

The thin coating of chocolate is applied. One coat for the cookie. One lick for me. One coat for the cookie. One lick for me. Oops... for a second I thought I was Paula Deen. :-)

10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

The second part of the challenge had a cookie component and a marshmallow component.
I've always wanted to make my own marshmallows, but I just didn't have the time. However, for the challenge I made time.

Mallows (Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

The recipes implies using a stand mixer. I wanted to try making the cookie dough in a "less mess", self-contained, easy to clean method... In other words, I just threw everything into a plastic storage bag and squeezed the bag to mix. It actually worked nicely.

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.

Softened butter is a must for this "all in the bag" method.

3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.

This shot was taken to show the crumb texture of the flour-butter mixture.

4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.

6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.

Looking at my cookie cutters, they were 2 to 2.5 inch in diameter. I found that the cap to the spice jar was just a touch over 1.5" diameter. The cap was used as my cookie cutter. :)

8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Onto the fun part!
Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.

Mixing the gelatin into the hot syrup. The bowl below is my original gelatin mixture. For some reason, I got into my head that the gelatin is bloomed in 2 Cups of water. It didn't make sense and fortunately I reread the recipe. 2T of water! NOT 2 cups! lol! I must be on a sugar high!

4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.

This marshmallow recipe called for using egg whites.
Gasp! Raw egg whites!!! Are you Crazy???
Well... pouring in the 230 F syrup and mixing takes care of any beasties in the raw egg.
That mixture was very hot! I could feel the heat on the bottom of the bowl.
Heating to 160F for a few minutes kills off any bacteria. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.

Hot syrup and eggs being mixed together! Whipping the eggs to soft peaks took about a minute. Whipping this mixture to something stiff took about 10 to 15 minutes!

10 to 15 minutes later! Whew! I thought I messed up when the mixture didn't stiffen up. I just kept mixing and mixing and mixing. Finally, I noticed the beater was leaving a trail in the marshmallow so I knew I was getting somewhere!

6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

Assembling the Mallows
1. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.

Another Ziploc with the marshmallows!
The cookies baked with the top a little rounded/dome-like. I wasn't sure if the marshmallows would be soupy and runny when I piped it or it would retain it's shape. The cookie was flipped over for the marshmallow kiss. I reasoned the bottom, being flat or slightly concave, would hold the marshmallow better than the top.

2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.

I only baked 1/3 of the cookie dough and the yield was about 36 to 42 cookies. The recipe states it makes only 2 dozen. Hmmm... I made 3 to 4 dozen using only 1/3 of the dough. There's a disconnect somewhere.

3. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.

The chocolate dipping process! The chocolate was in a double boiler and was still rather thick. I used the fork to roll the cookie in the chocolate.

4. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.

5. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

A few done and hundreds to go! LOL!
These cookies are best made during a cool day... which I didn't have. The chocolate took about 4 hours to set.

The Final Results
So how did these cookies compare to the commercially available products?
Let's take a look.

The Milan0s

On the left, the homemade Milanos.
On the right, the store-bought Milans.

The cookie of the real Milanos are more like a shortbread cookie, while the homemade Milanos are softer more Tuile=like. Also, the homemade Milanos become softer when exposed to the air.

The flavor of the homemade Milanos are actually better with complex and pleasing flavor - vanilla with a hint of almond. The store bought Milanos are mainly sweet and crunchier.

The Mallows

The mallows turned out to be my favorite! The cookie has a nice cinnamon flavor without being overpowering. The marshmallow turned out very well - light and fluffy.

As the day went on, I was running out of chocolate. What I opted to do was coat the bottom of the cookie and use a little parchment coronet to pipe chocolate on the top (the cookies on the right). One thing I found out about cooling chocolates, if you cool too fast like I did by using the refrigerator (the cut sample), the chocolate will bloom which results in a dull, sandy appearance. This is due to the chocolate forming large crystals. Blooming doesn't effect the taste, it's more of an appearance thing. At least, I didn't notice a change in taste. :)

Overall, a fun and easier challenge for my one year anniversary challenge. Both cookies turned out nicely, but my favorite is the mallows.


Deeba PAB said...

Well done on the challenge.Great cookies! What a way to celebrate the first anniv being a DB. I managed just the mallows & they were outstanding!

Audax said...

Congrats on your 1st year anniv!!!!! Love all the pixs and your mallows have that WOW factor. And your method of mixing in a plastic bag is amazing. Thanks for the nice comments you left on my blog. Your marshmallow looks especially well textured. Cheers Audax in Australia.

Jo said...

Congrats on your 1st DB anniversary and great job on this month's challenge.

Lisa said...

Congrats on your Blogiversary, John! This is my one year as a member of Daring bakers, and I recall you left me my first or second comment for the eclairs!

That said, your Milans and Mallows look awesome. I didn't flip for the flavor of the Milan cookie, so I adjusted the extracts and they tasted better.

Fuinally, I never knew of that butter and flour in the bag method! I love it and always seems to learn something new from you :) Glad to have known you 'virtually' for a year thus far! :)

Lauren said...

Congrats on your 1 year anniversary =D. All of your cookies look amazing - Beautiful job on this challenge!!

Chou said...

Bag method? Soooo cool. Thanks for sharing!

isabelle said...

They both sounds delicious!
Love your step-by-step photos!
Happy one year anniversary!
Great Job!

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

Congratulation on completeing a year of challenges. I also remember wondering what I'd signed up for, initially, but haven't regretted it so far. :)

Your cookies look pretty good. Tasting what one's making is the best way to ensure it's as good as it seems. ;)
I used the lid of my bottle of olive oil to cut out my cookies!!!

Angela said...

Nice work on both cookies! I like the posting method with your notes interspersed with the recipe. Happy DB anniversary!

Anita said...

You had real Milanos for comparison - very cool. I had never seen them before and therefore had no idea what they should be like :) but they certainly tasted good anyway

Arlene said...

The mallows look incredible. Great job, and I've really go to try your mixing bag method. Congratulations on your 1st anniversary!

Nidhi said...

I remember we started together. We would be so careful earlier,the tension seems to be easing out now. Great job with the cookies! I do not find time to comment but I do read your blog every once in a while. Enjoyed your potsticker soup pics. So, thumbs Up!!

Sweet Kitchen said...

Happy anniversary! The mallows were by far my favourite too and yours look lovely.

art and lemons said...

Happy 1 year as a DB! I'm also a big fan of the cut ziploc piping bag. I also like your squishing cookie dough method and spice lid cutter. Totally DIY - which is my favorite method!

Lovely looking mallows and milans!

Anonymous said...

All the cookies are beautifully done. Congrats on your 1st DB anniversary! By the way, your blog looks really neat. I love the design and layout. I hope you have more fun in the kitchen in the coming weeks.

Kat^..^ said...

a year now! Happy Daring Baker anniversary. Your cookies look yummae ...