Saturday, February 7, 2009
I think you'd have to agree that a homemade chocolate sandwich cookie does say "I love you". I mean, making this cookie - while there is no question that it tastes infinitely better than a store-bought sandwich cookie - does not save you a single cent. What it does buy you, though, is the respect and admiration of your significant other, closest friends, or family. Notwithstanding the dollar-for-dollar inequity of making the cookie yourself rather than purchasing a pack, it is well worth the effort to bake, cream butter for frosting, and assemble these decidedly sophisticated sandwich cookies. There is a bit of salt in the chocolate shortbread, which contrasts nicely with the chocolate, and the buttercream frosting tastes like a premium vanilla ice cream. And yes, if you wanted to skip the ten or so minutes it takes to make the buttercream frosting, you can just as easily jam a cookie or two into a scoop of vanilla ice cream and call it a night.
With Valentine's Day fast approaching - admitting first that I am a Valentine's Day geek - and thinking that you may want to stay in for dinner this holiday and conserve your resources, this dessert would make a wonderful, very sophisticated, intended-for-adult-palates treat, and yet it doesn't take terribly long to make.
Chocolate Sandwich Cookies for Lovers (I did say I'm a geek about this, didn't I?):
For the Chocolate Cookies:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is fluffy and pale, approximately 5 minutes.
While the butter and sugar are mixing, combine the flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a mixing bowl, stirring well to combine the ingredients. The last thing you want is one or two cookies with an inordinate amount of salt in them and nearly no salt in the others.
Once the butter and sugar are creamed, add half of the flour mixture. When you first add the flour mixture, if using a stand mixer, start on the "stir" setting to avoid a cloud of cocoa and flour dust floating around your kitchen. Once the first half of the flour mixture is completely combined with the butter mixture, repeat with the second half of the flour mixture until the dough comes together, approximately 2 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a sheet of waxed paper cut to the approximate size of a large baking sheet. Form the dough into a rectangle in the same aspect ratio as the waxed paper. I've worked a long time in television, so aspect ratio, which is an everyday term in television, in this case means that the dough should be in the shape of a rectangle, with the long side of the dough being the same as that of the waxed paper. Sure. There was an easier way to say it, but really, aspect ratio jumped into my brain and wouldn't leave. So you now own it, too.
Cover the dough with another sheet of waxed paper with the dough between the waxed paper, roll the dough out with a rolling pin to approximately 1/4-inch thickness. Gently place the waxed paper-dough sandwich onto a large baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes to make the dough easier to handle when cutting circles out of it and moving those rounds to the baking sheet.
After the refrigeration period is over, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Set an oven rack in the middle position. Transfer the waxed paper-dough sandwich to the counter and line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut rounds out of the dough and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet, approximately 1/2-inch apart. These cookies do grow, but not very much, and even if you have some kissing (see? Geek.), it won't be a problem, they come apart pretty easily.
Bake cookies on the middle rack for 15 minutes, rotating the pan midway through the cooking time. Bear in mind that these are dark brown cookies, so you may question whether they are done at 15 minutes, but I can assure you, they are. You don't want to burn them, that would be very not-sexy. Remove from the oven, allow to cool on the baking sheet for 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack until completely cooled.
For the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, and cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
2/3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
I would undertake this process while the cookie dough is refrigerating. The making of the buttercream takes but 10 minutes, including assembling the ingredients, and it needs to refrigerate before you spread it on the cookies, so why not make good use of the in-between time?
Place the butter, vanilla extract, egg yolks, and confectioners sugar in a large mixing bowl and mix on medium speed until creamed. Approximately 5 minutes.
Could it be any easier? No, I didn't think you'd think so. So now take the buttercream, transfer it to a container for refrigeration, and let it chill for at least as long as it takes to bake and cool the cookies.
Once the cookies are cooled completely, bust out with the vanilla buttercream. Using a knife, spread approximately 1 tablespoon - or your desired cream filling amount - of the buttercream on the bottom of one cookie. Take a second cookie, place the bottom side against the buttercream and press gently to level out the frosting. Refrigerate until just before serving. Perhaps you want to place just one on a white plate, sprinkle some confectioners sugar over the plate, and then drizzle some chocolate sauce around the edge of the plate for optimal Valentine's Day presentation purposes. It's just a thought. Then surprise Lover with news that there are 16 or so additional homemade sandwich cookies in the 'fridge. That ought to get you in Lover's good graces if you weren't enough already.
Dinner tonight: Cinnamon-pepper Roasted Chicken in an Orange-Cinnamon Sauce with Roasted Carrots and Fregola (Sardinian pasta in a large cous-cous form, but toasted. Yum.). Estimated cost for two: $8.41. The chicken is large, 4.37 pounds, and at $1.39 per pound was $6.07. We will eat no more than half of it, so that's $3.04. The cinnamon for both the chicken-seasoning and the sauce will be around 20-cents. I never count salt and pepper, so there you have that. The Orange-Cinnamon Sauce will consist of a shallot, so 25-cents, a couple tablespoons of olive oil at 22-cents, a cup of orange juice, which in the size OJ I bought will run me around 70-cents. I am using raisins in the sauce as well, so at $1.99 for 8 ounces, I'll use around 2 ounces, and that's 50-cents. The carrots will be no more than a pound from a 5-pound bag that cost $3.99, so that's around 80-cents. The oil for the carrots will be an additional 22-cents. You know, I might toss some cinnamon on the carrots, too, so let's add another dime. The Fregola was a gift from my brother and his wife - yes, I get food gifts, and, you should not be surprised - I love food gifts. However, I know that it costs around $3.30, and we will use half of that, so that's $1.65. I have a sad-looking pear hanging around the house, so I think I'll throw that into the Fregola, and back when that pear was much more attractive-looking, it cost me 73-cents. Always thinking about how to not have food go to waste, I am. Now, if only I had eaten the pear when first purchased, I wouldn't be in that predicament, but even an over-planner such as myself can run amok once in a while. For 73-cents. I think I'll let that go, and I'd appreciate it if you would as well. Deal?