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Monday, July 27, 2009

July Daring Baker's Challenge - Part 1

The July 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. Thanks for hosting Nicole, and for giving me an excuse to try my hand at making marshmallow (and a reason to use such technical baking language as "soft ball stage").

Yep, it's been a whole month since my very first Daring Bakers' Challenge! Soon we'll all be exclaiming that we can't believe it is August already, possibly followed by a quip about when Christmas decorations will start being seen in the supermarket.

So, this month's challenge was plural - challenges - and thus this post is Part 1 of a gripping two part series. I made the Milan Cookies (which I like to be a little pretentious about and call Milano Cookies) not very long after the challenge was first announced, as that recipe was a little less challenging in terms of technique, and also in terms of shopping, when compared with the marshmallow cookies. The only thing slightly out of the ordinary in terms of ingredients was the lemon extract, easily found in a supermarket, and I had all the necessary tools on hand.

This baking event marked my final experience with my dodgy oven, before it was finally put out to pasture with all the old burnt out blenders (oh the smell of a burning motor), broken fridges with no doors and rusty fondue sets. My only regret is that I was not there to see it being ripped out, though luckily my absence did not mean my oven thermometer met a similar fate. I did get to spend some long intimate moments with the dodgy oven during this final cookie project together, as the Milano Cookies recipe makes a lot of cookies! I was a bit of a machine in the kitchen that night - piping cookie mixture onto trays, putting them in the oven, turning the trays around so they cooked evenly, taking them out at different times depending on whether they were on the top shelf or the bottom, letting them cool long enough on the tray so they firmed up a bit before transferring to a rack and starting the process again and again (and I do believe I was so terribly busy making cookies that I couldn't possibly cook dinner and was forced to have a roo burger from Jus Burgers, oh deary me what a shame).

So, the cookies. Would I make them again? Probably not, to be perfectly honest. They were really a very tasty cookie, and enjoyed by all who ate them, but I think their presentation lets them down. Perhaps if I were more skilled in piping them all perfectly the same shape and size, and perhaps if I tweaked the recipe a little so that they were a little thicker and crisper I would be happier. A lot of other bakers seemed to have these same issues, particularly with the cookies softening too much after being filled. The soft chewiness was pleasant, and the overall texture was reminiscent of a tuille, but I guess my personal preference is to have a bit more crunch to my cookie.

Oh and I haven't made a typo with the recipe - it is actually 2 tablespoons of vanilla and lemon extracts! Seems like madness but it actually works. The flavour is not overpowering, and pairs really nicely with the chocolate ganache.

(This point reminds me of something I would like to point out as some people may not be aware of it - you need to be mindful of the differences between measurements between countries. 1 US tablespoon is equal to 1 UK tablespoon which is equal to 15 mL (3 teaspoons) while 1 Aussie tablespoon is equal to 20 mL (4 teaspoons). 1 US cup is equal to 240 mL (well, 236.59 mL) while 1 Aussie cup is equal to 250 mL and 1 UK cup is 285 mL! While these differences may be totally moot in many recipes, there are others in which it may make noticeable differences to the taste, texture or look of the final product so it's worthwhile bearing these, however subtle, differences in mind.)

While I followed the recipe provided by our month's host, I also made a few variations to the original recipe with the ganache fillings, doing some with mini m&ms, some with roasted/crushed hazelnuts stirred through, and some with a bit of a Cherry Ripe theme with chopped glace cherries and shredded coconut mixed through.

Milan(o) Cookies

Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: 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
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
1 orange, zested


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

A container of cookies ready to be taken to the footy!


Maria@TheGourmetChallenge July 27, 2009 at 2:48 PM  

I think your cookies look pretty good. I especially like the cherry ripe addition. I could easily eat my fair shares worth of those.

Did you have a little going away ceremony for your old oven? I wish I could get rid of mine, but I'm stuck with her for a little longer.

isa July 27, 2009 at 10:41 PM  

Love your chopped glace cherries and shredded coconut mixed filling!
I'm sorry, that you didn’t love them.
Beautiful photo!

Lauren July 28, 2009 at 12:13 AM  

Your cookies look wonderful =D. I love the fillings, especially the hazelnut one - Yum!!

Anonymous July 28, 2009 at 4:49 AM  

Your milanos look really gorgeous! I love the filling too. Well done indeed.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella July 28, 2009 at 3:40 PM  

These look wonderful! Another blogger was talking about the sport softball and I thought he meant the soft ball stage. Obsessed much? :P

Conor July 28, 2009 at 9:49 PM  

Maria - thank you! Yes, those ones were definitely my favourite. Don't worry, I ate my fair share PLUS your fair share. I was actually up in Geraldton (420km away) when the oven met his fate so I couldn't dance on his grave, but I will be celebrating the addition of the new shiny oven with cookies on Thursday!

isa - thanks! I did actually enjoy eating them, but perhaps not enough to make them over a few other recipes that I have in the pipeline. Maybe one day :)

Lauren - thank you! Extra hazelnuts for you!

singinghorse - Thanks a lot :) They didn't last very long at the football!

Lorraine - Thanks! Ha ha, when I read your comment I also read "softball" and immediately thought of soft ball stage instead of the sport.... even though you wrote the word "sport" in front of it!

Food lover July 30, 2009 at 3:38 PM  

The cookies look soooo good! Do you think an inexperienced baker can attempt making them?

Christina July 30, 2009 at 10:49 PM  

OMG! Can I come over for some of your cookies? Love, love, love all of the different mix-ins you did! Awesome!

Conor July 31, 2009 at 8:55 AM  

Food lover - Thank you! Yes I definitely think an inexperienced baker can make them, I didn't have to tweak the recipe to get them to 'work'.

The only tricky parts are that the cookies spread quite a lot during baking, so you need to space them out generously on the tray; and they were difficult to pipe nicely to get all the same size, but hey, that's part of their charm :)

(also my oven was dodgy so I had to turn the trays around during cooking so they cooked evenly; and it was reasonably time consuming as the recipe made so many cookies - maybe do a half batch!)

Christina - thank you! You are very welcome to come over, I'll put the kettle on now. Tea or coffee?

msmeanie August 1, 2009 at 4:54 AM  

Oooh. Those M&M's in the cookies look scrumptious!

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