Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Knockoff Cookies

I had mixed feelings when I read about this month's Daring Bakers challenge. We were given two recipes that were "copycats" of popular store-bought cookies: chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies, and Pepperidge Farm Milanos. On the one hand, it didn't seem too daring. On the other, summers get busy, and whipping out a few batches of cookies seemed manageable in the midst of all the other craziness.

Turns out there were a few flaws in my reasoning. Firstly, I didn't take into account my ridiculous OCD that requires me to make every task at least 64% more difficult than it needs to be. Making marshmallow cookies? Best not to make just one flavor--why not five different batches? That seems like a great way to make this task go faster. I made two different flavors of the cookie base (chocolate and vanilla) and ended up with lemon, mint, toasted coconut, hazelnut, and cinnamon-almond marshmallows.
The mint mallows went on a chocolate base. These were my favorite flavor combination, but they were the ugliest cookies--I'd done the mint marshmallow first, and didn't beat the marshmallow stiff enough, so it ended up drooping and sagging. Still tasted fab, but I wanted them to have the cute "kiss" shape that the rest of the cookies had.

The chocolate-hazelnuts were another favorite. Set on a chocolate cookie base, I smeared some Nutella on the cookies before piping the hazelnut marshmallow onto them.
The cinnamon-almond marshmallow cookies were a big surprise! I wasn't sure what to expect, but the flavor was really nice. I used almond extract and ground cinnamon in the marshmallows, and they blended nicely and weren't too strong. The tips of the cookies were dipped in melted cinnamon chips, which gave them a nice little flavor boost.
The lemon version was the only one I dipped in white chocolate, because I thought it could use a little more sweetness. I made the marshmallows substituting lemon juice for some of the water--no problem there. But then I got a little carried away adding just a pinch of citric acid--whoops--and they had a definite citrus "zing." Or more like a ZING. But when taken with the sweet cookie base and the white chocolate, they turned out nicely sweet and tart.
I am a sucker for toasted coconut, so these cookies were another favorite. I used coconut extract in the marshmallow, and tried them on both regular and chocolate cookies (I think I preferred the regular, in the end.)Would I make them again? Maybe (but just one flavor!) It's a lot of work for "just a cookie," but it's also a nice combination of soft and chewy and crunchy, and they look really cute, so I can see doing them for a special occasion--holiday sweets platter, gift basket, etc.

And now, on to my arch-nemesis, the Milano knockoffs. I was actually really excited about making these, because I luuuuurve me some Milano cookies. Especially the mint ones. And orange. And raspberry. Okay, I love them all. But I didn't realize that 1) the recipe is a big fat liar and yields about a MILLION cookies, 2) it takes ages to pipe and bake said million cookies, and 3) said cookies have a shelf-life of approximately 10 minutes, before they go from being deliciously crisp to disgustingly soggy.

So I literally spent several hours painstakingly piping little cookie fingers (and not-so-little fingers--1 inch long?? I imagine it would take days to get through all the batter that way. Mine grew to about 2.5 inches) and baking them off, then waiting for them to cool, spreading them with chocolate-orange ganache (nom nom nom) and then dipping some of them halfway in chocolate. Which was okay, because I ate a lot of the ugly ones during the baking process, so I was in a sugar coma that took the edge off of my angry impatience.
But then, when I went to taste some (and give them away) the next day, they were soft. Like, spongy-mushy-melt-in-your-mouth-but-not-in-a-good-way soft. Noooooooo! What a lot of work and time for a product that was really not tasty.

So overall, this month was kind of "meh" for me. The cookies, when taken together, were just okay, and I thought the written recipes were downright bad--unclear in some areas, and very inaccurate when it came to how much they would yield, and with matching the amount of marshmallow needed to the amount of cookie base, etc.

Sorry to be such a downer. Tomorrow is vanilla bean ice cream extravaganza, and I promise it will be nothing but glowing praise and sticky ice cream-flavored air kisses.

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. Recipes after the jump.

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies
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

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
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.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

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.

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.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
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.

Milan 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.


  1. Anonymous3:56 PM

    Ooh...i love all the different flavors you made of the mallows. I've actually never had one (store bought or homemade). They look great.

    Too bad about the Milan cookies.

  2. I remember seeing them on the forum! You went a little crazy, eh?! But in a great way! I want one of each!!!

  3. absolument fanstatique ! un défi, brillamment réalisé, bravo :)

  4. I don't know what the store-brought cookies are meant to look like but yours look fantastic!

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  6. omg - i'm in awe of you. that must've taken SO much time!!! very impressive though. wow... you're amazing. :)

  7. Umm, I have a whole new understanding of why your summers are busy. I must say there isn't a single flavor/cookie I would be able to resist. They're all gorgeous and sound delish. Even the soft meh ones. I can wait for the ice cream report!

  8. Wow. That's all I can say. Wow. And I thought I got creative with mint marshmallow. ;-)

  9. I've read someone else who mentioned that the recipe lied and made a TON and the same problem with the Milano cookies. Sorry and wow, that is a lot of work with so many different flavors. No matter, the flavors sound awesome and look great!

  10. Hi! I have to agree with you about the milano cookies - I was really disappointed with the results!

    Your mallows look great though! (I didn't make those...can't stand marshmallows)

  11. Girlfrient, you are an overachiever! I love all of the flavor varieties on the mallomar knock offs.

  12. All of your marshmellow cookies look incredible. Where DID you find the time??

    I agree with you on the milanos. They were disappointing. Mine only made 1/2 million cause I only made 1/2 a recipe. Still have dough in fridge and ended up throwing some cookies away **AARRGGHHHH**

  13. You really went all out on these!! Great job!! I'm bookmarking your post for flavor ideas, when I finally try these for myself!

  14. They both look delicious!
    Wow, I’m impressed with all of the flavor you made!
    Sorry for the Milano.

  15. My, you are an overachiever, aren't you? Can I come live at your house? I made one kind of marshmallow cookies and one kind of Milanos (and I agree with you about those, by the way -- too mushy). Those marshmallow cookies are absolutely amazing!

  16. Oh wow, that cinnamon almond variation sounds to-die-for! Bonus points for crazily doing so many flavors too!

  17. Eye candy! I'd like to thank you for your OCD because all of these cookies look fantastic!

  18. Great Post.I like the link.Now expecting some good ideas from your upcoming post.