Homemade Oreos: Even better than the original

February 1, 2012 § 6 Comments

“Dainty, where have you been?”

Well, I um … I’ve been around.

“Around? I haven’t heard from you in ages. What’s up? I mean, is something wrong? We’ve been kinda worried. Is it us? Did we do something? Or not do something?”

What? No! No no no. I’ve just been … well, remember when I said I wanted to read more? I’ve been reading. Every morning for an hour. And that was usually the time I hung around here.

“Oh. Well, what about switching it up to some other time?”

Yeah, about that … I’ve also gotten really into yoga. Like, every day or as much as I can. It’s exactly the thing I’ve been missing in my life and I love it. Time’s tight …

“No kidding. Well, what about that – yoga. Good for you. So … you’re here again … ”

I am. Absolutely. Here again. With some changes in the works over the next month or so. I know … I know, I teased y’all about that before. “Major stuff in the works!” But this time the ball is rolling – actually rolling – and there will definitely be bigger and better Dainty stuff to interest everyone in the coming weeks.

I promise.

Meanwhile, let’s talk homemade oreo cookies. It could be the most awesome childhood-memory-inducing cookie ever. That’s to Joanne Chang at Flour Bakery in Boston … literally at the end of my block … adults now have a decadent deep-chocolately lustful version to dream about. Seriously good stuff.

Now, with food blogging, printed cookbook recipes are shared all the time. And I really don’t like publicly posting recipes from bakeries in my neighborhood or who I kinda/sorta have a connection with. They gotta make money, right? How can they do that if their recipes are out in Googlespace?

BUT … I’ve made Flour’s version of oreos—and with several different additions—for several events now and I keep getting requests for the recipe. I owe it to my peeps to share. So, Joanne, please do forgive me for what I’m about to reveal.

A note before I get started: I make a Christmas version of these with 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract in the cream filling. And for my most recent batch—whose cream filling was made in an ice bucket in a hotel room in Louisville (no kidding)—I omitted the milk and added a full shot of bourbon. And believe me, the chocolate pairs really well with bourbon.

bourbon oreos

A shot of bourbon in the cream filling pairs really well with the chocolate.

So, with full credit going to Joanne and her sheer brilliant baking skills, here’s the recipe.

Homemade Oreos ala Flour Bakery

Chocolate Cookie Ingredients and Recipe

  • 1 cup (2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
  • 150 g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 200 g semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled a bit
  • 1 egg
  • 210 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 90 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt (kosher)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend butter and sugar with the whisk attachment. Add in the vanilla and chocolate, then the egg, and mix until thoroughly combined.

2. In a different bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. With the stand mixer on slow, carefully add the mixed dry ingredients. Turn up to low-medium for a bit until the dry and wet ingredients are well combined. Let the mixture sit at room temp for about an hour so it firms.

3. This is the tricky part so pay attention. Where going to take this dough and make it into long logs. And from these logs  you’ll slice off individual rounds that’ll bake up into the chocolate cookies. Got it?

First, let me say that Joanne makes these logs with a diameter of about 2.5 inches. That’s a pretty big cookie—and a fine cookie size, actually. But when I bake these, I am typically taking them to a party or something, and I find that smaller bite-sized cookies are better suited for partytime. That said … once the dough is firm, I split the dough into three or four equal piles. Place one pile onto a half-sheet-sized piece of parchment paper or waxed paper. With your hands, shape it into a log of about 1 or 1.5 inches in diameter. Roll the paper around the log a bit and roll it along the counter to make it a bit smoother, trying to get the air bubbles out (you can see them through the paper). Repeat with the remaining piles of dough, and then place the rolled dough into the refrigerator for 2 hours. You might find it helpful to reroll the logs a few times during the 2 hours so keep that log shape.

4. Preheat the oven to 325 and position a rack smack-dab in the middle. Prepare a couple of half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Remove a log from the fridge and unwrap. You might want to trim off both ends of the log so they are flat. Then slice the log into 1/4-inch thick rounds. With a 1 or 1.5 inch log, you’ll end up with about 30-35 slices. Place the slices onto the parchment paper about an inch apart. I can fit one whole log’s worth of cookies onto one sheet.

5. Pop them in the oven. For Joanne’s 2.5 inch cookies, they bake about 20-25 minutes. These smaller cookies will be done in 18 minutes. They’ll just be firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes, then put them onto cooling racks. Chocolate cookies: Done.

Cream Filling Ingredients and Recipe

Peppermint oreos

Slightly overfill the oreo so the filling oozes out a bit, then roll in crushed candy canes. People won't stop calling you Martha.

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 230 g confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • suggested additions: 1/2 tsp peppermint extract for Mint Oreos; a shot of bourbon for Derby Oreos (omit milk)

This is awesome and easy to do while your cookies are hangin’ out and cooling.

1. Remember that stand mixer? Wash out the bowl, give it a dry, attach the paddle to the mixer and then beat the butter on low for about 30 seconds. You want it to be smooth.

2. Carefully add the confectioner’s sugar (you don’t want to make a cloud of it!) and the vanilla and beat until it’s perfectly smooth. Add the milk and salt and beat yet again until smooth. At some point the concoction will go from a butter yellow color to a whitish, and it’ll be stiff. You’re done!

Note about adding bourbon: I made two batches with bourbon. The first I included the milk and the filling was too soft. The second batch sans milk was much better. You need about a shot’s worth of liquor in order for the flavor to be apparent.

3. Now the fun part: filling. What I do is pair lay out the cookies – top side down – and match them up in pairs, hopefully getting them partnered with someone about their same size. I then put the filling into a Ziploc bag, seal it up, and push the filling down into one corner, creating a makeshift piping bag. Cut the corner, and carefully pipe out however much filling you want – about 2 tsp should do for a small cookie – onto one cookie in the pair. Top with the other and there you have it—an actually homemade oreo cookie.

Use a great-quality chocolate chip, vanilla and other flavorings and these can be orgasmic. I’ve had nothing but raves. These are truly a spectacular cookie. Thanks, Joanne!

Given the realm of possibilities here, what flavorings would you add to make these cookies your own? Leave a comment and let Dainty know.

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Zucchini and Corn Salad

August 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

You can’t cook. I mean, you just can’t cook.

It’s 105F in the shade. It’s hot. The thought of lighting that pilot light and having a controlled fire on your stove top makes you break out in hives.

Or …

Or you’re in my friend Katherine’s position and don’t currently have a working kitchen due to home remodeling. Home “modeling,” I should say; her condo is so brand-spanking new, there are no appliances yet. But wait. She has an electric wok and maybe a microwave. Thank god, that’s something. She does dishes in her shower, I hear.

So, Katherine, this recipe is for you and all those other folks who can only make a meal the pre-discovery of fire way. Yes, it calls for you to eat corn and zucchini in their raw states. But it’s surprisingly good, and refreshingly cool.

Zucchini and Corn Salad (adapted from a Martha Stewart Living recipe)

Zucchini and Corn Salad

  • 3 ears corn, shucked
  • 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced or matchsticked
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

-Remove kernels from corn cob. Martha had a great suggestion: Cut off the cob ends, and stand cob up in a shallow dish. Take a sharp knife and, starting from about the middle of the cob, slice off the kernels in a downward motion, working your way around the cob. Don’t slice off too much of the cob – you want just the nice milky kernel. Flip the cob over and do the other half.

-Recipe calls for two medium zucchini. Not sure about you but my zucchini in the garden this time of year only come in the “extra large” size. I’d say you’re looking for 2-3 cups of zucchini, sliced thinly. Or, make matchsticks: I slice 1/4-in. thick rounds of zucchini and then run them down the large, single-slice side of my stand-up grater. Okay, it’s not the small, square-sided wooden matchsticks; more like the slim matches in those paper booklets. But matchsticks, nonetheless. Add the zucchini to the corn in that small shallow bowl.

-Add lime juice, evoo, cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Letting it sit for about an hour before serving lets the flavors develop. Pop it in the fridge if you’d like for a nice crunchiness.

Bread Cracking in the Oven—Solved!

March 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Last summer I discovered the joys of bread baking. I guess you’d call it my hobby now. And I say hobby because … well, unlike putting a Pop Tart in the toaster and waiting for the ding, there are levels of complexity at every step. There’s practice and skill and problem-solving and continual learning from mistakes. Described that way, it seems more like a sport. And, considering  I currently have three different sourdough ferments tucked snuggly in the warm and draft-free microwave, perhaps I’m also a collector.

Yesterday, I had one of those “Aha!” learning experiences. I made a batch of Country Sourdough from the Amy’s Bread cookbook. It was my first time making this recipe and considering my firm levain wasn’t so firm and I substituted in my sourdough starter, I wasn’t so sure the recipe would work properly.

I made the dough, let it autolyze, formed it into a ball, let it rise, punched it down, let it rise again, separated into two doughs, formed boules and let them rise again – seam side down – in floured baskets. The dough looked and felt great. So far, so good.

Now, in Amy’s instructions, typically once you get to this point in the recipe it’s almost as if they copied and pasted the remainder of the instructions for each and every recipe. At least for the handful of recipes I’ve tackled so far. BUT, this time she had a slightly different twist in the instructions. She said to tip the boule out of the basket onto the prepared parchment paper so the seam was now on top. Hmmm … I had not encountered that in previous recipes. All others were seam side down. Why would you put the seam up?

I had two boules – I thought, “Let’s try one seam side up, one seam side down, and see what happens. I scored both loaves on top, put them in the oven, and let them go.

Here’s what came out of the oven. Can you guess which one was which?

sourdough boule

Seam side up on the left, seam side down on the right.

The one on the right was the seam-side down. Even though I scored the top, the steam escaping the loaf escaped through the seam on the bottom, causing it to tear.

For the boule on the left, the scores through the seam on top let the steam escape. Not having a weak spot—a seam on the bottom—prevented the bottom from bursting.

I tried to seal that seam as tightly as possible, but apparently not enough. This doesn’t happen with all of the breads I’ve made, but I have had this happen before. And now I know why. Problem solved.

Lentil Soup with Spinach

March 14, 2011 § 2 Comments

It turns out—now that we are paying attention—a number of our on-hand recipes are vegan. While it’s nice to cruise online looking for appropriate recipes for our new two-thirds vegan lifestyle, we need only turn to our own recipe collection to find something without meat, fish, dairy, etc.

Jennifer’s Red Lentil Soup with Spinach, for example. She collected this recipe from a local adult-ed class on soup making she attended 10-15 years ago. She just recently found it again, after I had made a batch of the Moosewood lentil soup. Lentils are pretty friggin’ amazing, if you ask me. It’s my favorite dry bean, if only because you don’t have to soak it any more than 30 minutes, which you can easily incorporate into the cooking process (see below). The addition of the spinach is inspired, tasty and I am sure, good for you, as well.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 TBS evoo
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed (I guess green would be fine, too)
  • 4-5 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp EACH of thyme, oregano, basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 lb. spinach or Swiss chard, torn into pieces

-Saute the onion in the oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery and saute another few minutes until just soft.

-Add the herbs, lentils and 4 cups of the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom. If it’s too thick for your liking, add up to a cup of water.

-When lentils are soft, add the salt and spinach. Stir. Cook for another 2 minutes.

Jennifer likes to add a swirl of sherry vinegar on top of her bowl of soup. I add a dash of balsamic vinegar. Try it without the vinegar first, then with the vinegar. The addition really pulls out the flavor of the lentils and adds an acidic brightness. You’ll also want to keep a slice or two of fresh bread on hand for dunking.

You may want to double the batch. This soup is even better in subsequent days, and is nice as your vegan lunch dish.

Hello, ‘cello

January 5, 2011 § 5 Comments

Sunshine in a bottle.

'cellos give any gathering a citrusy kickoff

That pretty much describes the essence of lemoncello and orangecello (and limecello and … ), that quintessential citrus aperitif  of Italy. (Did I just say “quintessential”? Who am I?)

In Dainty-speak, these ‘cellos rock it. For a bunch of reasons:

  • They give alcohol a tasty, refreshingly clean kick in the pants.
  • They bring back memories of an awesome tour through the Amalfi Coast. (Never been? It’s a must.)
  • And, best yet, they can be made at home – no distillery needed. That’s brilliant!

Not that I’ve made ‘cellos, of course. But they’ve been given to me, as recently as this past holiday. It was a double gift – lemoncello and a blog post in the making. I like that.

During our New Year’s festivities in Provincetown, where 11 compadres destroyed convened on our friends’ home, Karen gave out a bottle of the liquor – made in her very own kitchen – to everyone in the crowd, with a spare to give New Year’s Eve a celebratory kick start.

The goods:

  • 12 decorative bottles purchased at The Christmas Tree Shops (i.e. inexpensive and cute!)
  • 100% proof good-quality vodka, enough to fill said bottles
  • oranges and lemons (how many? she didn’t tell me), zested separately

The low-down:

  • Soak the zests (one batch orange, one batch lemon) in the alcohol for four to five days
  • Strain out zest and discard
  • Add simple syrup* to infused alcohol
  • Bottle and insert cork!

You’re wondering, “Yo, dude, what’s the ratio of alcohol to simple syrup?” I had the same question. Here’s a direct quote from the ‘cello maker herself:

“The mixture of alcohol and simple syrup is a matter of taste and courage … the more you mix, the sweeter and lower alcohol content you have. The less you mix, the more lethal it becomes!”

Gift-giving tip

Karen made both lemoncello and orangecello. Which bottles contained what? The ribbed bottles were filled with one flavor, the bumpy bottles had another flavor.

*A simple simple syrup recipe: Boil together 1 cup water and 1 cup white sugar until sugar is dissolved. Cool. You’re done. Make more or less depending on how much you need. Keeps for a few days in the fridge.

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