Monday, July 27, 2009
The end of the month signifies one thing in the Daring Baker world. It's time for all of us to post our experiences with that month's challenge, successful or otherwise.
This July, the Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. We were given the choice of making any one cookie or both.
For this month's Daring Baker challenge, we were asked to bake two different cookies, both of which featured one of my favourites – chocolate! It was a different matter that I had never heard of either cookie before.
My Milano Cookie Experience:
Apparently, a Milano is a sandwich cookie with chocolate in the middle and extremely popular in the U.S. In India, the Milano is a chocolate chip chocolate cookie of the slightly more expensive variety which is sold as a "cookie for the grown up". I'm not sure how successful this market strategy has been, as in India, cookies are normally considered a treat for children.
As is my usual practice, I decided to see if our "alternative group" had any eggless options to these cookies. There is a vegan recipe for Milanos in the book, "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World", which can be seen on their website too. I made my cookies using that recipe. You can find the link to the printable versions of this month's challenge recipes at the end of this post.
The only change I made there was to substitute the rice milk/ soy milk with milk. I also added a tbsp of cocoa powder to half the dough as I wanted to sandwich one vanilla cookie with one chocolate cookie to make my Milanos.
My cookie dough was a bit oily and not smooth enough, and my "Milano shaped" cookies ended with cracked edges. I didn't quite envisage this and have no idea why this happened, as other DBers who used this recipe made good cookies.
I decided to salvage my cookie dough by rolling it out to about 1/8" thin and cutting out the cookies with a cutter. Now my cookies looked prettier and had no rough edges either. I baked the cookies as instructed and sandwiched them with the chocolate filling.
As good as these cookies were, they still didn't match my expectations of what I thought the Milano cookie would be like. For someone who has never seen a Milano, this was a slightly unrealistic expectation to have.
So I went ahead and attempted the challenge recipe scaled down to a quarter. This meant using only 1 eggwhite, about 7 or 8 cookies (according to the instructions) and minimal wastage if the cookies didn't turn out right.
My first set of cookies spread out quite a bit looking quite unlike any cookies I've ever seen. I managed to
make them look decent by drizzling leftover melted chocolate over them.
My next two batches turned out the right shape, which made me quite happy. They were a bit on the smaller side than I expected, but I think that's the size they're meant to be as I did pipe the cookie batter as instructed. I let the cookies cool, sandwiched them with melted chocolate and voila, Milano cookies!
While my rolled and cut out eggless Milano cookies looked pretty and were good, I didn't feel there was anything special or unusual about them. If you are looking for a reasonably good eggless cookie, then this recipe makes them.
The Milano cookies I made with the challenge recipe were much nicer in texture, crisp at edge and slightly chewy in the middle. About two hours after they had cooled down,however, the cookies became quite soft and lost any hint of crispness.
I seem to have lose-lose (as opposed to a win-win) situation here when it comes to the weather and some kinds of baking. Either the summer is too hot when all things buttercream (and such stuff) become soft/ melt, or the high humidity ensures that certain crisp bakes become spongy in texture!
If these Milano cookies taste the same as the famed Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies, I really do not understand what makes them so popular. I found them good, but not particularly spectacular. Of course, this is just my personal opinion.
The Not Mallow Chocolate Covered Cashew Marzipan Cookies
Making the chocolate covered marshmallow cookies was out of question for me, as marshmallows contain gelatin, which is not vegetarian. Yet the many lovely marshmallow cookies I kept seeing at the DB forums made me wish I could make them.
An alternative to gelatin suggested by some was "xanthan gum" which isn't available here. Agar, which is the usual substitute for gelatin in most things, doesn't work in marshmallows.
Then a fellow Daring Baker, who doesn't like marshmallows, made her Not Mallow cookies using marzipan instead of the marshmallows. I decided to follow suit, as I had been feeling a little sad at not being able to make a cookie covered with that magic ingredient, chocolate!
I made my marzipan using Jugalbandi's Vegan Marzipan recipe.
While making these cookies, we were told to leave them at room temperature for a couple of hours to allow the chocolate coating to set. Given the warmth and high humidity here, I put them in the fridge straight away. I'm happy to report that my cookies were perfect, though many fellow DBs complained that their refrigerated cookies developed a chocolate "bloom".
My halved and slightly altered version of the challenge recipe (I substituted flax seed for the eggs and cardamom for the cinnamon) is given below:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
6 tbsp (80gm) salted butter, softened and at room temperature
1 tbsp flax seed powder + 3 tbsp warm water (whisk together)
Blend the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter and using an electric mixer, mix till the mixture is sandy. Add the flax seed powder-water mixture and mix till combined. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat. 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.
Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes at 190C or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
You can store the cookies in an airtight container till you're ready to top them and cover them with chocolate.
Otherwise, place a small ball of marzipan (recipe follows) on each cookie, and smooth the marzipan ball down to cover the edges of the cookie. The cookie will look like it has a marzipan dome.
Line a cookie sheet with aluminium foil, parchment or silicon mat.
One at a time, gently drop the marzipan-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.
According to the recipe, my halved version should have given me about 1 dozen cookies. What I ended up with was over 50 cookies!!!
The cookies in themselves were quite good, a bit like shortbread and some where in between crisp and cake-like in texture. My daughter liked them plain and since I had so many cookies, I topped and coated only about 15 of them in chocolate.
The chocolate covered marzipan topped cookies were just heavenly. There was something very satisfying about biting into something chocolatey and encountering the textures of soft marzipan and a slightly crunchy cookie.
This part of this month's challenge got our full votes and this cookie is something I shall be experimenting with again.
Now you just have to see what magic the other Daring Bakers have been weaving with cookies, chocolate and marshmallow.