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Eagle County Cookie exchange: The stove vs. the store

Marty Meitus
Rocky Mountain News
newsroom@vaildaily.com
Eagle County CO, Colorado
Homemade versions of store-bought cookies. Food. (ELLEN JASKOL/ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS)
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS | ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Some years ago I was at the Taste of Vail and a bakery was showcasing its cookies. Not just any cookies, but re-created packaged cookies using bakery ingredients. Instead of Fig Newtons, the cookie was billed as fig puree wrapped in shortbread. Instead of Milanos, the cookie was chocolate ganache sandwiched between two buttery wafers.

I thought it was a great idea: Instead of processed this or that, you’d know just what was in this cookie.

It seemed like an even better idea when Mother’s Cookies announced they were bankrupt a few weeks ago and their poor little iced circus animals would no longer have an arena. (Since that time, Mother’s has been bought by Kellogg’s and the cookies will be back in production.) Aficionados know that Mother’s circus animals aren’t just another sugar cookie.



Our goal: re-create six popular cookies in the kitchen. Besides the Mother’s Circus Animals, we tried Oreos, Milanos, Fig Newtons, Pecan Sandies and Nutter Butters.

Reproducing those packaged cookies at home is a challenge. Manufacturers use ingredients that make the product shelf-stable and, more important to them, consistent from batch to batch.



Nevertheless, I liked the idea of creating something recognizable and familiar, yet in such a way that the “processed” taste would be eliminated. At the very least, we could use pure vanilla instead of a cheaper substitute.

In locating recipes, all roads led back to Todd Wilbur, who has made a career with Top Secret recipes ” that is, copycat recipes of mass-market foods and restaurant items.

Using recipes from Wilbur, various Web sites and cookbooks ” many of which were variations on Wilbur’s recipes ” I began testing. I combined a little of one ” say, Wilbur’s Oreo filling ” with a little of another recipe, plus a different recipe for the sandwich cookie. I made changes where necessary to taking into account our altitude, as well.



The Nutter Butters were the most difficult because it’s hard to produce that type of thin, crispy cookie at home.

The tasters in the office decided that the cookies were pretty close to the real thing in many cases. Even diehard packaged cookie fans loved the results. Regardless, we can guarantee: Forget about your Snickerdoodles this year. These celebrity impersonators will be the talk of the holiday cookie exchange.

* Homemade advantage: Easy to make, and you can be the ringmaster of your own menagerie, with a circus pig and dinosaur.

* Disadvantage: To get the “waxy” icing, you need to use candy coating, with its laundry list of processed ingredients. Royal icing, a stiff icing that you make yourself, is not an acceptable substitute if your goal is to come close to the original.

* Homemade advantage: How can you go wrong with a buttery cookie and a rich ganache filling?

* Disadvantage: The cookie part of the sandwich is puffier than the original and less crisp.

* Homemade advantage: The peanut butter filling is tastier than the original and you can control how much to put in each cookie.

* Disadvantage: Hard to duplicate the crisp snap of the processed cookie.

* Homemade advantage: You slice and bake these from a refrigerator-type roll so you can keep them at the ready for company.

* Disadvantage: Hard to match the original’s sandy texture.

* Homemade advantage: The cookie is richer and more buttery than the original. Newtons come in a variety of flavors, including strawberry. You can substitute your own filling if you don’t like figs.

* Disadvantage: You can’t easily re-create the look of the real thing, which is a softer cookie with rounded edges.

* Homemade advantage: Has the kind of crumbly feel of the real thing. The filling is really a good clone.

* Disadvantage: For the filling, you have to use solid vegetable shortening, which many people avoid. The Oreo is America’s best-selling cookie, so you may not please true Oreo lovers.

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 large egg

Filling:

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup shortening

3 tablespoons hot water

Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375 degrees.

In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix all dry ingredients for the cookies. On low speed, or while pulsing the processor, add butter and then the egg.

Continue mixing until dough comes together in a mass. It will be a very stiff, very dry dough; this is what it’s supposed to look like.

Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking.

The cookies will look puffy; that’s OK. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool and thump them slightly to make the cookies “deflate” or press them down with the back of a spoon.

To make filling: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Form the filling into balls about 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter.

Place a filling ball in the center of the flat side of a cooled cookie and press with another cookie, flat side down, until the filling spreads to the edge.

” recipezaar.com and More Top Secret Recipes, Todd Wilbur

Serves 30.

Nutritional information per serving: 173 cal., 7 g fat (4 g sat), 17 mg chol., 26 g carb., 1 g pro., 1 g fiber, 131 mg sodium

1 2/3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup softened unsalted butter

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg at room temperature, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Candy coating or pink and white candy melts

Colored sprinkles

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.

In stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed for several minutes until light and fluffy.

On low speed, gradually add the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined.

Add the flour mixture gradually. Mix until fully incorporated and the dough is smooth.

Divide dough into 2 pieces and flatten into 1/2-inch thick discs. Wrap dough and refrigerate for 2 hours.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease several cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and dust with more flour.

Gently roll the dough 1/8 inch thick.

Using a cookie cutter, cut out cookies and place on sheets about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden brown.

Transfer cookies to wire racks with a metal spatula to cool completely.

Once cookies are cooled, melt the candy coating.

Ice the cookies, finishing with colored sprinkles.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Nutritional information per serving (without candy coating): 45 cal., 3 g fat (2 g sat), 13 mg chol., 4 g carb., 1 g pro., 0 g fiber, 89 mg sodium

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Ganache, for filling

In a large bowl, beat sugar and 1/2 cup butter until light and fluffy. Add milk, vanilla and egg; blend well. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; mix well.

Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 3 hours or until firm.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Using cloth-covered rolling pin and well-floured pastry cloth, roll out 1/3 of dough at a time to 1/8-inch thickness. Keep remaining dough refrigerated.

Cut with floured 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter. Sprinkle tops with sugar. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 425 degrees for 3 to 5 minutes or until edges are light brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheets; cool completely.

In small bowl, combine all filling ingredients, adding enough liqueur for desired frosting consistency.

Spread 1 teaspoon filling between 2 cooled cookies.

” Pillsbury

Yields 2 dozen sandwich cookies.

Nutritional information per serving, not including ganache: 77 cal., 4 g fat (3 g sat), 19 mg chol., 9 g carb., 1 g pro., 0 g fiber, 137 mg sodium

1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup hazelnut liqueur

1/4 cup heavy cream plus 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons corn syrup

Chop chocolate into small pieces; place into a bowl. Chop the butter into small pieces, add to chocolate.

In a small saucepan heat the cream, liqueur and corn syrup until the cream comes to a boil. Immediately pour over the chopped chocolate and butter and stir until smooth.

Chill until the chocolate is firm enough to spread. Leftover chocolate can be warmed and served over ice cream.

– Adapted from Elise Wiggins, Panzano

Makes 1 cup.

Nutritional information per serving: 38 cal., 3 g fat (2 g sat), 3 mg chol., 3 g carb., 0 g pro., 0 g fiber, 1 mg sodium

1 3/4 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 pinch salt

1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons whipping cream

2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt.

Add cold butter pieces; cover and pulse until mixture is crumbly. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk, whipping cream and vanilla.

Add to mixture in food processor; pulse until dough starts to come together.

Turn out dough on a flat working surface. Using your hands, shape dough into a log 2 inches in diameter. Wrap log in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Cut log into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place slices on cookie sheets, spacing evenly. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Cool on cookie sheets for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool.

– Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Desserts

Makes 24 cookies

Nutritional information per serving: 81 cal., 4 g fat (2 g sat), 18 mg chol., 14 g carb., 1 g pro., 0 g fiber, 107 mg sodium.

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons peanut butter

1 1/2 cups flour

Filling:

1/2 cup peanut butter

3/4 cup powdered sugar

About 3 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar with electric mixer. Add the egg, salt and peanut butter and beat until well blended.

Add the flour to the mixture and blend well. Roll cookies and shape with an oblong cutter or round cutter. Place on parchment-lined or greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until light brown.

While the cookies bake, combine the filling ingredients, adding milk until spreadable consistency.

When the cookies are cool, spread a thin layer of filling on the cookie and press another on top.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

” bigoven.com

Nutritional information per serving: 143 cal., 8 g fat (3 g sat), 19 mg chol., 16 g carb., 3 g pro., 1 g fiber, 186 mg sodium

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 whole egg

2 egg yolks, divided

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2 1/2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon whole milk

Filling: Fig puree (available in jars at the grocery) or any kind of jam

In a mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium until fluffy. Add whole egg and one yolk, vanilla and zest; mix well. Add flour and salt; mix on low just until dough comes together. Divide dough in half; wrap each half in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Dust a large piece of parchment paper with flour. Roll out half of the dough to slightly larger than a 9-by-14-inch rectangle, chilling as necessary if dough gets too soft.

Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Spread fig filling (or jam) evenly over pastry. Roll remaining dough to cover filling. Trim excess pastry to make a rectangle. Chill 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat remaining egg yolk and milk; score dough lightly into 1/4-by-3-inch bars; brush with egg.

Bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on rack. Cut into bars.

” Martha Stewart’s Cookies

Makes 24.

Nutritional information per serving, without filling: 138 cal., 8 g fat (5 g sat), 47 mg chol., 14 g carb., 2 g pro., 0 g fiber, 194 mg sodium


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