Thursday, April 28, 2016

Banana Nilla Cookies

I've made cookies from at least two James Beard Foundation award winners.  Both recipes were amazing.  At the same time, both recipes were rather involved--or at least included some extra steps. And, I don't mean that to act as a deterrent to anyone thinking about making something from a JBF award winner.  I mean, there is a good reason why they've won the award.  These cookies from Mindy Segal's Cookie Love were spectacular.  There were a lot of steps involved in the making of these cookies but they weren't difficult steps.  And if you have everything ready and able--or store bought--then it probably won't take you nearly as long.  I didn't, which is probably the main reason I'm bringing this up.  So, don't be like me--be more prepared.  Now let's discuss the actual cookies.

What Mindy Segal has done is created a homemade recipe for Nilla Wafers.  She then used them to sandwich a banana caramel buttercream filling and topped them off with two types of chocolate--a bittersweet and a caramelized white chocolate.  The result is a decadent sandwich cookie that to me--due to the bananas--has a fairly accented fruity flavor--which is a good thing.  The cookies are softer and more pillowy than actual Nilla Wafers and pack a good vanilla flavored punch.  The bittersweet chocolate comes through nicely but I personally didn't think the caramelized white chocolate one did as much.  In truth, I think it's more decorative than anything.  But at the same time, I've been wanting to caramelize white chocolate for a while now and this project gave me a good reason to do so.  And by the by, even though I don't necessarily think it came through with these cookies, caramelized white chocolate is pretty damn tasty on its own--well worth the effort of caramelization.

What I really like about these cookies is the pure fact that they are sandwich cookies.  Basically my philosophy over sandwich cookies is the more the merrier.  Barring the fact--but probably because of this very fact--that sandwich cookies are double the cookie--which means they are double the fat, sugar, refined flour, blah blah blah--they are my favorite type of cookie.  I'll always take an oatmeal cream pie over a regular oatmeal cookie or an Oreo (preferably double-stuffed) over a simple chocolate wafer.  And now I can state, with a clear conscience that I would definitely take a Mindy Segal Banana Nilla cookie over a simple Nilla Wafer.  Yes, they're more decadent and more calories but they're a little more complex and a lot more fun to eat.

Recipe via the kitchn for Mindy Segal's Banana Nilla Cookies (makes about 30 sandwich cookies)


1/3c unsalted butter at room temp.
1/3c vegetable shortening
1c powdered sugar
2/3c granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs at room temp.
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 T water
3c cake flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes (I used Maldon)

Using a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salts and then set it aside.  Then in a small bowl crack in the eggs and add the vanilla and water and set that aside.  Next in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and shortening using the paddle attachment.  Mix that until they are combined on medium speed.  Add the sugars to the mixer bowl and cream the mixture on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes.  Then add each egg into the fat/sugar mixture one at a time--mixing just until it looks like cottage cheese.  Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and run the mixer for a minute more just make sure all that side and bottom stuff has been re-introduced into the mixture.  Now add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low speed just until combined.  Next, place a large sheet of plastic wrap flat on your work surface.  Scrape the batter onto the plastic wrap and pat it into a rectangle.  Wrap the batter up tightly and refrigerate it overnight.

The next day when you are ready to cut out the cookies and bake them, get out two baking sheets and cut out pieces of parchment paper to fit them.  Then lay each sheet of parchment paper on your work surface--you're going to roll out your dough directly on each parchment sheet.  Now, remove the dough from the fridge, unwrap it and cut it in half.  Place one half back in the fridge and leave the other one out.  Lightly dust one sheet of parchment paper with flour and place the one half of dough on top of it.  Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness (you can either place an additional sheet of parchment paper on top of the dough and roll or lightly flour the surface of the dough while rolling). Once you've got the dough rolled out to 1/4 inch thickness, place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the dough, ease the sheet of dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate it for one hour.  Do the same thing for the other half of dough.  Once the hour is up, preheat your oven to 325 F.  Remove one sheet of dough at a time from the fridge and ease the sheet onto a work surface.  Place a silicone baking mat or another sheet of parchment paper onto the baking sheet.  Then with the dough, remove the top sheet of parchment paper and cut out 2 inch circles of dough--re-rolling the dough with the trimmings and cutting once again as needed.  Place your cookie circles on the prepared baking sheet, lower the oven temperature to 300 F and bake for 7-10 minutes or until the cookies feel firm.  Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool completely before sandwiching.  Repeat with the remaining half of dough.

Banana Puree

2 medium overripe bananas
2 T granulated sugar
1/4c water
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

Break the bananas up with your hands into chunks.  Place them--along with the rest of the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook them for about 5-7 minutes or until the bananas are soft and easily break apart when nudged with a spoon.  Once that is done, place the mixture in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.  Pour the puree into a small bowl, place a sheet of plastic wrap directly over the puree and let it cool completely.


1c unsalted butter at room temp.
1c powdered sugar
Seeds from half of a vanilla bean
1 T vanilla extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
All of the banana puree you just made at room temp.
1/2c homemade or store-bought caramel sauce at room temp.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high until smooth.  Add the sugar and beat on medium-high for about 5 minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl.  Add in the vanilla bean seeds, extract and salts and mix until fully incorporated and evenly distributed.  Then add in the banana puree and mix in until fully incorporated.  Finally, add the caramel sauce and mix until that is fully incorporated.


All of your cookies
8oz bittersweet chocolate melted and cooled
2oz caramelized white chocolate melted and cooled (here is a good link to how to go about caramelizing white chocolate)

On your work surface, pair up the cookies with a suitable partner.  Fill a pastry bag with the frosting and pipe a tablespoon or two of the frosting on the bottoms of half of the cookies.  Sandwich each cookie with its unfrosted partner.  Dip each sandwich cookie into the bittersweet chocolate and set aside to set for a minute. Finally, using a fork or spoon drizzle the caramelized white chocolate over each sandwich cookie. Let the chocolates set and then enjoy at your leisure.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Buckwheat Linzer Cookies

Doughs made with buckwheat don't look all that appetizing.  They're the color gray.  Incidentally, I dare someone to name one gray food that looks inviting.  I for one can't think of any.

Luckily when you bake with buckwheat, it browns a bit so the appearance warms up.  But before that--yuck.  For this recipe I had to create this log of gray buckwheat cookie dough to chill so I could slice it up into cookie circles later and bake. As you can guess, the log of gray dough looked less than tempting--like some sort of generic sustenance that would be served to the masses in a post-apocalyptic earth science fiction movie.  It was sticky, wet and of course...gray.  The upside is that the old adage, don't judge a book by its cover, applies here.  The resulting cookies were delicious.

This recipe is another one from Alice Medrich's Flavor Flours.  I've been baking from this recipe book a lot lately--partly because I'm intrigued to see how some of Alice Medrich's gluten free creations turn out.  Also because I've bought just about every flour specified in the book and I'm afraid it's going to go rancid if I don't start using them up faster.  Nevertheless, its been fun.  And the buckwheat linzer cookies--despite their pre-baked appearance--were delectable. They were buttery, sweet and soft.  Aside from the color, the buckwheat adds a bit of a grainy texture to the cookie--which I didn't look at that as a negative attribute.  A little texture is nice sometimes.

But at the same time I feel as though I need to have a traditional linzer cookie at my side in order to properly perceive the differences between the two types of flours.  Plus, in addition to buckwheat flour this recipe calls for oat flour and white rice flour.  Technically, the buckwheat flour is the predominant flour in the blend but I can't help but feel that with the added butter and sugar plus the other flours it might be hard to pick out the flavor of the buckwheat.  Or...maybe my taste buds just aren't that sophisticated.

If anyone has any trepidation about baking with buckwheat, let me be the one to allay those concerns. It may look kinda gross before it's baked but it doesn't taste gross--unless you make it taste gross of course.  I'm assuming, from my recent experience that you could use it to make any number of good baked goods--this recipe being proof of that in fact.  It's different yes.  But certainly not in a bad way--in a good way, a real good way.


55g (1/4c + 2 T) white rice flour
70g (1/2c + 2 T) buckwheat flour
65g (2/3c) oat flour
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
100g (1/2c) granulated sugar
60g (1/4c) cream cheese cut into chunks
170g (12 T) unsalted butter at room temp. and cut into chunks
1 T water

1/2c of preserves--I used blackberry

Using the bowl of a food processor, combine all of the dry ingredients and process for about 30 seconds.  Then add everything else and process until a smooth ball forms.  Scrape the dough out of the food processor and divide it in half.  With each half of dough, form it into a log that is about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  The next day when you are ready to get baking, place oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and then preheat it to 325 F.  Line two baking sheets with either silicone baking mats or parchment paper and set them aside.  Next, take one chilled log of dough from the refrigerator and slice it into just a little less than 1/4 inch slices and place each slice on baking sheets at least 2 inches apart.  Make sure you have equal slices on each sheet--it will make the next step a little easier.  Do the same thing with the other log of dough.  Bake two baking sheets at a time for 12 minutes.  Remove the baking sheet from the upper rack.  Place the one on the lower rack into the upper position and rotate it 180 degrees. With the baking sheet that was removed from the oven, use a 1/2 inch cookie cutter to cut circles in the middles of each cookie--the centers may or may not pop out--it doesn't matter whether or not they do.  Place the baking sheet in the lower rack and bake both sheets for another 10-15 minutes or just until the edges start to brown a bit.  Once done, remove each baking sheet from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on each sheet.

Once the cookies are cooled, match all of them up and spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of preserves on the bottom of each one.  Sandwich it with the cut-out top and enjoy.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Lemon Tart with Coconut Crust

In my neck of the woods, citrus is about the only fruit available during the frigid winter months.  And if I really didn't like citrus, I'd probably be mad about that.  Luckily I do like it--quite a bit in fact.  Its got that tart bite that I find refreshing during the bleak winter months--and they're tropical fruits that hint at the warmth from which they are borne.  And I fantasize about that warmth.  My all time favorite citrus dessert is key lime pie.  My ideal one has a tooth-achingly sweet and salty graham cracker crust that cuts up the key lime filling.    

I found a recipe for a key lime tart in Alice Medrich's Flavor Flours.  Unfortunately, I only had lemons on hand and no condensed milk so I couldn't make it.  But, I could use the recipe for the crust. Not surprisingly--since this particular recipe book explores baking using just about any flour other than wheat flours--it doesn't call for my beloved graham cracker crust.  Instead, it pairs itself with another tropical fruit, the coconut. Both shredded coconut and coconut flour join forces to create the base for this tart.  The result is essentially a crust that tastes like a macaroon.  And since the recipe for the crust is just about the same as one for macaroons, it's not all that shocking.  The only difference is that it uses coconut flour. I think macaroons are pretty amazing so eating a crust in the form of a giant one is by no means a chore.  

My only trouble with making this coconut crust was that it wasn't exactly the most structurally sound crust.  Macaroons are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  But this crust was just chewy all over.  So when I cut into the tart, it was more pliable than anything else so I never got a clean cut.  I always ended up having to scrape off some of the crust from the bottom of the pan.  Nevertheless, I think that if I baked it a bit longer, that issue would have been resolved.  

In my mind, pairing two tropical fruits like this just seems to make perfect sense.  And truly, they go together well--it was an excellent crust.  I'm not saying I'm going to totally give up on a graham cracker crust for a key lime pie but it's certainly a nice alternative to have in your back pocket.  


Crust via Alice Medrich's Flavor Flours

40g (1/3c) coconut flour
100g (1c + 1T) unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
85g (6T) unsalted butter at room temp. and softened
100g (1/2c) granulated sugar
1 large egg white

First, preheat the oven to 350 F and then grease a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Next, using a large bowl combine all of the ingredients together until everything is well incorporated. After that, press the mixture into the bottom and sides of the tart pan--making sure that every inch is covered well and that the sides of the pan are thicker than the base.  Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake it in the oven for at least 15 minutes.  I baked mine for 15 minutes and I felt that it wasn't done so maybe in the time range between 15-20 minutes depending upon your oven.  I would touch the bottom of the crust and if it seems fairly firm then it will probably be good.  Once, the crust has baked, remove it from the oven and let it cool completely before making the filling.


100g (1/2) granulated sugar
2T corn starch
1/8 tsp salt
1/2c water
1/4c milk
2 large egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
1T unsalted butter
1/4c fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest

First, preheat the oven to 350 F.  Then using a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks until lighter in color and set it aside.  In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, corn starch, salt, water and milk. Set the mixture over medium heat and whisk constantly until the mixture just comes to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour about a third of the mixture into the egg yolks and quickly whisk to combine. Pour that mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk mixture. Set it over low heat while whisking constantly and cook just until it thickens and it starts to slowly bubble. Remove it from the heat and add the butter, lemon juice and lemon zest and whisk to combine.  Place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the filling and set aside while you make the meringue.


2 large egg whites
50g (1/4c) granulated sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, start whisking the egg whites on medium speed until they are foamy.  Then slowly start pouring in the sugar.  Whisk the whites on medium-high speed until stiff glossy peak form.  Set the meringue aside while you assemble everything.


Pour the slightly cooled filling into the cooled tart shell and make sure it's evenly distributed.  Next, either spread the entire meringue over the tart or pour it into a piping baking with a plain tip and pipe any sort of design you wish.  Once that's done, bake the tart for about 12-15 minutes until it is set and the meringue peaks have just started to brown.  Remove the tart from the oven and let it cool completely before slicing into.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Black and White Cookies

I've been feeling fairly unmotivated lately with respect to baking.  Nothing seems to really capture my attention.  I think part of it comes from the fact that I did a lot of it over the holidays and I feel a bit burnt out.  I scoured all of my cookbooks and then through my list of saved recipes and baking to-do's and still, nothing really stood out.  It was sad.

I want to bake but maybe it's just too soon... Or so I thought.  Last night I had a budding inclination to make something.  I still felt just so so about the idea but I mustered through my lackadaisical countenance and found at least one thing that gave me some inkling of motivation allowing me to break out my mixer's paddle attachment.  And for whatever reason that inkling of motivation manifested itself in the form of black and white cookies.  I mean the idea of making them just popped into my head without any discernable suggestion.  But I went with it.

Admittedly, I see black and white cookies around quite a bit but never pick one up. Although, they always appeal to me. They have the best of both worlds--both white and chocolate icing.  At the same time they remind me of those yellow smiley-faced cookies they sell at gas stations and convenience stores.  And those I'm not into so much.

Actually, those are appealing too--mostly because of all of that icing they have slathered over them--but they're also fairly disappointing to me. The cookie is usually too hard and the icing tastes like nothing.  So I just assume that the black and white cookie will be that way too.  Yet, what I began to understand from some of the recipes and background information on the black and white cookie is that it's actually supposed to be more of a cakey cookie. Obviously this threw my mind through a whirlwind.  I was confused.  Distraught.  Everything I had assumed about these cookies was suddenly askew.  Luckily I rebounded quickly and just made the damn cookies.

As promised they were cakey and soft--not necessarily as I expected them to be--which was good. The icing on the other hand wasn't much to write home about--it's sugary sweet and good of course but it's not like it's the most amazing icing you'll ever taste.  There weren't any added flavorings added to the white icing side and the chocolate just tasted liked chocolate icing--good but well...sugary.  In the end, the thing I took away most from the black and white cookie is that it's a simple cookie.  It's a good simple cake-like cookie.  There's not much flair to it.  It's iconic.  And it's black and white on top.

Recipe slightly adapted from: 

I halved the recipe which made about a dozen 3 inch cookies.

What you need for the cookies:

175g granulated sugar
113g unsalted butter softened
2 large eggs at room temp.
3/4c whole milk at room temp.
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp lemon extract
140g cake flour
177g all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt

To make the cookies, first preheat the oven to 375 F.  Then, line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Using a medium bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda and salt together and set that mixture aside.  Next, in a large bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy--about 5 minutes.  Then add in the eggs, milk and both extracts to the creamed mixture and mix until fully combined.  Then in a few batches, add the flour mixture--mixing on low speed just until it is incorporated.  Once all of the flour has been added, remove the bowl from the mixer and begin scooping the spoonfuls of batter onto the baking sheets. You'll want to scoop about 2 tablespoons of batter for each cookie and place them at about 2 inches apart from each other.  Finally, bake the cookies for about 17-20 minutes or until the edges are slightly browned.  After they are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool completely before icing them.

For assembly....

Make the white icing first using:

113g confections sugar
1/8c boiling water

In a small bowl, mix the boiling water and confectioners sugar until completely smooth.  Then spread some of the white icing over half of each cookie.  The quicker you work the better because the icing will start to harden as time passes--which will make it impossible to spread.

Then make the black/chocolate icing using:

113g confectioners sugar
1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/8c boiling water
1/2 tsp light corn syrup

Place all of the ingredients in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water and stir until smooth and fully combined.  Working quickly--because the same will happen to this icing as well if you let too much time to go by--spread the black icing over the other half of each cookie.  Let the icing set and then enjoy the cookies!