When you think about it, everything is blending into a melange of on par these days. I mean, not just in terms of fall, although everything will soon be fading into a state of mushy browns and gray, but everyone.
Think about it. Before you knew what this thing called a BBS or an internet was (providing you were actually born before 1990), things far away seemed exotic. Texan accent? Exotic. Mission style burritos, exotic. That one kid in your school whose mom was from New York and named him SalvaTORE, not SalvaDOR even though all your classmates had never been past Idaho. You get the idea. Since we were really only connected by letters and phone calls, card catalogs and books, there was a touch of distinction to our regional backgrounds. Now I can order Cheerwine by the case without leaving my chair.
So I showed up late to the game on one of New York’s old school food stuff, but I’m tickled to see how many people here go ape poop over them about now. Mallomars. Tiny hockey pucks of graham and marshmallow depicted with luscious dark chocolate flowing over, they’re only available to shove in your mouth half of the year. Move over pumpkin bender, you’ve got a serious contender for the season.
I noticed these little puffs in the grocery store the other day while hungrily shopping and decided that now was the time for some investigative journalism. The whole wall seemed to be an endless brick structure of yellow boxes that were moving fast, so I had to jump into the game. Along with my other questionable moment of hunger choices (green olives and licorice allsorts? Really?), I happily ran home to see what the fuss was about. I opened up the box, pried open the airtight chamber and…
SWEET BABY JESUS THESE COOKIES WERE THE REASON FOR LIFE WORTH LIVING.
Here’s the thing. Mallomars aren’t overly sweet. The airiness of the overall cookie floated on my tongue and between my teeth just so. The graham cookies had long since gone soft and crumbly and the chocolate shell was nothing but a wisp, but they just worked together perfectly. They were just enough to say that it was sweet, it was going to be okay until my next meal. These were my new jam of the week. But why couldn’t I get them all the time? Was it to save me from a life of a shut in, surrounded by empty safety yellow boxes?
No. Its all in the history of the cookie.
Mallomars aren’t revolutionary in the cookie world. Marshmallow cookies have been produced for hundreds of years, dating back to Denmark in the early 19th century (at least). All over the world people have their own varieties of marshmallow cookies, which vary in size and shape and perhaps slightly in texture. For example, in Scotland you can get Tunnock’s Teacakes after a blood transfusion any time of year. (Tunnock’s features a shortbread base and Italian meringue.) In Israel, you’d be in the market for a Krembo when you wanted a marshmallow cookie, which are oftentimes seen as a wintertime alternative to ice cream. Germans love their schokokus cookies, domed high with marshmallow and not so much cookie. They’re ubiquitous, the UN of snacks.
Although marshmallow cookies are common all over the world, we obviously don’t have the same climate everywhere. So when Nabisco started rolling out the Mallomar in 1913 regionally, it was seen as a fall and winter cookie because the fragile chocolate shell wouldn’t stand up to the brutal heat of the New York metropolitan area summer. Although these days the Mallomar production line is actually based in Toronto (not known for its searing temperatures), the tradition stuck and now people have to just make do with what they can get from October until April.
However, there is an upside to this (speaking of Canada). As mentioned before, marshmallow cookies aren’t regionally unique and the little Nabisco ones are made by our neighbors to the north. If you head straight up from New York, way up to the tippy top, way beyond the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Finger Lakes, a long drive beyond the short A accents, then you’re going to hit Montreal- home of the Whippet. Whippets, unlike Mallomars, are produced all year round because it’s not as hot up there in the summer. So, if you’re in a bind for a few months, you have options.
Anyways, Nabisco claims that 70% of the domestic Mallomar consumption is actually from the New York metropolitan area. (I’m assuming the other 30% is a melange of Pennsylvania and Florida.) The first box of Mallomars ever sold according to MY Mallomar box say that it happened in West Hoboken, New Jersey. As the cookies don’t really ship that well due to their delicate nature, they stayed a regional favorite since that first sale in ‘Boken as they are today. Until 1930, we even had a Nabisco factory in Chelsea, ensuring their local status of the Mallomar. Personally, I cannot recall ever having seen them west of the Mississippi at any time in my life ever, so I guess it must be true.
Anyways, now that I’ve been exposed to the world of marshmallow cookies, my life is forever changed. No longer will I be content with a clunky, heavy s’more. My once favorite Moon Pie has simply become a sliver of what it once was in the night sky. I have begun to seriously consider the muu-muu lifestyle, free to let my hips widen with every box of pillowy goodness from now until April.
Damn you Nabisco, damn you to hell.
So a few weeks ago when I did that Taco Bell Experiment, I failed to mention that it wasn’t my coupe de grace with stoned eating experiences. Oh noooo. Not by a country mile. That title goes to Coldstone Creamery on University Avenue in Seattle circa 1995.
Drag up a chair, children, I’m about to tell you a tale that makes me look like a total ass. And also how I came to make an ice cream sludge today. Read the rest of this entry »
Fondant. A sculptured sugar base for many a modern cake midwestern housefrau Ace of Cakes monstrosity that is steeped in the history of cake making time. This classic icing has been with us for over 450 years, traceable back to the days of the renaissance. I’m sure people have been rolling their eyes over many pop culture reference cakes ever since the days of yore.
Love it, hate it or think its a parlor trick, fondant isn’t going anywhere. At the same time, this icing is perceived as being amazingly difficult to make when it’s really just an amalgam of different forms of sugar and perhaps gelatin. Working with the finished product may be more difficult to figure out than the actual making of fondant. Ever wonder what this sugary wunderkind is? Lets find out. Read the rest of this entry »
This happens sometimes.
Last night, as I was riding my bike home over the Williamsburg bridge, I was trying to think of something to write about for today’s post. Sundays, generally speaking, I like to post recipes. I figure that its the day when people are relaxed, not looking for any of my usual flippancy, just wanting to read a simple post and get on with their week. So as I peddled up the incline, I went through my roster of recipes that I would like to tinker with in comparison to the raw materials I had on hand.
Peanut butter eggs? No, too soon after Easter. Oil cured olive shortbread? Where the hell would I get oil cured olives at 10:30 at night in Greenpoint? My task, combined with the added oxygen intake from my gulping breaths, became quite a challenge. Then, out of nowhere, it came to me. A vision of genius!
I would make cornmeal based cookies. Of course! Sophisticated, easy, and unique. I bet that nobody had eve Read the rest of this entry »
Tomorrow marks an important day in iconic American snack foods. It will be a day of paying homage to the sweet delights of childhood, to the salutatory snack of the bored (and quite possibly high) television connoisseur, to the savior of twelfth step meetings. March 6th, 2012 is a day soon not to be forgotten by young or old, rich or poor, black.. or white. It could be considered a 12th federal holiday this year as it’s that important.
Yep. The Oreo is turning 100 on Tuesday.
I know that you’re sitting out there in internet land reading this and thinking to yourself that Americans, as a whole, are going to be celebrating a scam on Tuesday. You’re going to be shaking your fist at your screen yelling “Curses! The Oreo is a rip off of the less popular and now discontinued Hydrox cookie!”
Or maybe that will be just me. Either way, Oreos aren’t the first chocolate sandwich cookie that were rolled out by the ton. Nope. That honor goes to the Hydrox cookie produced by the (now defunct) Sunshine Biscuit Company. Hydroxes took the credit for OG sandwich cookie back in nineteen hundred and motherloving eight. Which means that the Oreo, the grande dame of American snacktime food, is skating by on the treacherous road paved by its underloved forefathers.
The Sunshine Biscuit Company was formed in 1902 by a group of three midwestern bakers, John H. Wiles, Jacob Wiles and Joseph Loose. The Wiles were bakers who had a vision of opening baking plants filled with sunshine, while Joseph Loose was a wealthy industrialist and former NABISCO shareholder. Together the three men formed the Wiles-Loose Biscuit Company in Kansas City (which became The Sunshine Biscuit Company in 1946) and began competing with the rapidly growing NABISCO corporation. The Wiles-Loose Biscuit company started rolling out the Hydrox cookie on August 21, 1908- almost four years before the Oreo was to be seen.
Oreo cookies were first produced in 1912 and soon eclipsed the Hydrox cookie in popularity even though they were slightly different. The taste of a Hydrox cookie, supposedly, was different from the Oreo in that it was less sweet than the NABISCO variety and featured a crispier cookie better suited for dunking in milk. The Hydrox cookie also featured a “tangier” creme filling flavor than Oreos, which also happened to be kosher compared to the original Oreo recipe (which contained lard).
Ultimately, Hydrox cookies never really stood a chance against Oreo cookies. As The Sunshine Biscuit Company was an independent and smaller baking company than NABISCO,, they couldn’t compete with the advertising that Oreos received. As time went on, more people thought that Hydrox cookies were a ripped off version of the Oreo cookie. ( I myself can remember turning up my nose to a Hydrox cookie as a child, thinking that they were on par with generic, tasteless sandwich cookies.) Apparently millions of other people did as well, The cookie was eventually discontinued in 1999 and has not been seen since, save for a brief window in 2008.
Throughout the twentieth century Sunshine and NABISCO created many similar products. For example, Sunshine produced Trumps Cookies while NABISCO created a similar cookie called Aces. NABISCO created Uneeda Biscuits while Sunshine created “Takhoma” crackers. Despite the close competition, The Sunshine Baking Company was the third largest producer of crackers and cookies in the United States until it was bought by Keebler in 1996. Keebler sold Sunshine to Kellogg’s in 2000 and most of the original products have faded into the sunset of people’s memories. The competition was over, NABISCO had won again.
So tomorrow, when people are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Oreo with milk in hand, take a moment to remember the fallen before twisting off the cap of that Double Stuff cookie. Then tear into that sleeve appropriately.
I’m just going to be the first to admit this one and blow up my own spot. I wanted to get one last cookie in for the “Sinner and Saints” cookie series under the sinner subheading and I was under the gun. I knew that I wanted to make a graham cracker sandwich, but I didn’t want to include the cliched marshmallow and/or chocolate filling as that would just be a cold s’more. Naturally, I just decided to use the second best filling (peanut butter), which would then make them a de facto nutter butter. I figured I would give it a salty sounding name and boom. Done. Darkside accomplished. Flufferless Nutters. Nothing could go wrong with that, right?
Wrong. So, so wrong. Everything went wrong with these cookies.
The first problem was that I over thought the entire process. I did some research on graham cracker recipes and discovered that EVERYONE from David Chang down to Smitten Kitchen had basically the same recipe for those iconic little squares. I personally do not care to just reinvent someone else’s wheel, so I did even more digging. Eventually I found one recipe that was slightly different, one that paid homage to the OG Graham while still sounding tasty. I did some tinkering with the recipe to my liking, whipped up a batch and discovered that when I rolled out the dough the next morning that I had conveniently created a sawdust loaf. Straight up. Stiffest dough ever. I powered through it though and made them up anyways.
I did get enough rolled out to test out the recipe and photograph them (fortunately). The filling came out fine, much like the original nutter butter, but it was engulfed by two slabs of my rendition of a sweet Breton cracker. Not so good.
Long story short, I’m going with everyone else’s recipe for the graham cracker as it’s probably the best shot I have. I admit it, I failed a bit in that department. But the idea for the cookie is good and with a name like “the fluffer” just about anyone with a wordplay sense of humor will probably enjoy it. So there you go. Happy Valentine’s Day.
-2 1/2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
-1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
-7 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
-1/3 cup honey
-5 Tablespoons milk
-2 Tablespoons vanilla
-1 cup smooth natural peanut butter
-1 cup confectioner’s sugar
-2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Sift the flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt into a large bowl.
2. Add in the butter and cut it with a pastry cutter until it resembles a fine meal.
3. whisk together the milk, honey and 2 Tablespoons of vanilla.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. (It helps to have a mixer with a paddle attachment for this.)
5. Divide the dough into 4 parts and press each of them into a 1″ slab. Wrap them all tightly in plastic.
6. Refrigerate the dough 2 hours or overnight.
7. When the dough is chilled to your liking (or convenience), preheat the oven to 350 and line some cookie sheets with parchment paper.
8. Working in quarters, roll out each slab of dough on a well floured surface until they are 1/8″ thick. Cut the dough into squares, prick the tops with a fork and transfer them to the cookie sheets.
9. When one sheet is full, transfer it to the refrigerator and repeat step 8 on the second, third and fourth quarters.
10. Bake the first and second sheet for 15-18 minutes, until they are firm to the touch and golden brown.
11. While the cookies are baking, make the filling. Combine the peanut butter, butter, confectioner’s sugar, salt and vanilla in another bowl.
12. Using an electric hand mixer, beat everything together until a stiff dough forms. Gather this together and wrap it all in plastic tightly.
13. Refrigerate the filling while the cookies bake.
14. Cool each batch of cookies until they reach room temperature.
15. Working quickly, remove the filling from the refrigerator and roll it between two sheets of plastic until about 1/8″ thick as well. Divide it in half carefully and put one half back in the fridge.
16. Sandwich the cookies by laying down a grid of cookies, cutting the excess filling and squishing another cookie on the bottom. A bench scraper makes this process much handier for lifting the cookies if the filling is getting sticky.
17. when you run out of filling, use the second refrigerated sheet. Continue until all the filling is gone.
18. Viola! Sandwich cookies. Store in an airtight container, preferably refrigerated as well.
Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. Even though this year I don’t have anyone to shower with retchworthy affections, Valentine’s Day is still a decent excuse for me to bake up some wink-wink worthy treats for my
fellow single ladies of a certain age friends.
So this year with nothing special going on, I got carried away with things and went for a full on “Sinners and Saints” theme for Valentine’s cookies. The first in the series falls under the more interesting side with the sinners. Think meaningless flings met at cheap dive bars inspired by one too many Brandy Alexanders. The intensity! The darkness! The regret in the form of a massive hangover from all those shitty drinks from the night before! It’s all here, conveniently, in a cookie. (Aspirin and coconut water chaser not included.)
Now quietly find your shoes and figure out where exactly you are this morning before anyone wakes up. Enjoy, tiger.
Brandy Alexander Wh-Oreos
Ingredients For The Dough:
-1 1/3 cups unsweetened dutched cocoa powder
-1 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
-2 cups granulated sugar
-2 large eggs
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Ingredients For the Filling:
-3 cups Powdered Sugar
-1/4 cup unsweetened dutched cocoa powder
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
-1 stick butter, softened
-1/2 cup shortening
-1 teaspoon brandy or brandy flavored extract (Your choice. I used extract.)
1. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, spices and salt together for the dough. Set aside.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together for the dough until they are light and fluffy.
3. Add in each egg, one at a time, and continue to beat them until everything is incorporated.
4. When everything is thoroughly beaten, add in the sifted flour in increments. Beat until a stiff dough forms.
5. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill somewhere between an hour and a week. This dough keeps very well.
6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325. Line 2-4 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
7. Roll out the dough to about 3/16 inch thick on a generously floured board and cut the dough into whatever shape you like. Put them on the cookie sheets with very little room to spare between the cookies. (They will not spread out.)
8. Bake the cookies 20 minutes.
9. While the cookies are baking, cream the filling ingredients until everything is incorporated. Load the filling into a pastry bag fitted with a wide. round tip. (I know, I know, that’s what she wrote.)
10. When the cookies are firm to the touch and fragrant, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. The cookies will become more brittle as they cool off.
11. Pipe about a 1″ blob of filling into the center of half of the cookies.
12. Rest the rest of the cookies on top of the filling blobs. Then squish them down with satisfaction. (It’s actually quite fun.)
13. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Sadly, the inspiration for these cookies came from one of those “I would rather not admit that I eat that (but I really do)” foods. Sure, they’re just peanut butter cookies, not that big of a deal. I agree. Peanut butter cookies are a joy in life. However, the inspiration for these came from one of those super high protein baking company cookies, which are made to serve a purpose rather than a pleasure. I am sad to say that they were actually REALLY good.
There’s reasoning for my shame. You see, I despise vegetarian food products that are made to emulate their nonvegetarian counterparts. I deeply loathe TVP laced foods. I wish products with names like “chick’n” and “faux dogs” were wiped off the face of the planet. In all my years of not eating meat, I personally have never been out one night only to be struck with the overwhelming urge to gnaw on a buffalo wing- a need that only a plasticky, chemical laden tofu thing will satisfy. It. Just. Doesn’t. Happen. There was a reason a vegetarian gave up meat, I can’t see why one would need to go and fake it.
Anyways, in my mind, foods made to replace a meal by making it a bar, roll or ball get lumped into this category of foods that I give the stinkeye to. I’ve choked down plenty of them over the years when I’ve had no time to cook anything or while in training seasons. Crispy bars. Chewy ones Fruity and nutty ones. Chocolate covered bars of every sort. Bars with peanuts, bars with pretzels embedded on the top. Fake brownies, fake cookies, a host of energy balls. I’ve probably eaten every malitol soaked meal replacement that The Vitamin Shoppe carries two or three times over. I’m not proud of this fact.
So the other day I was hungry while out running around on my lunch hour when I ended up at a local deli. I mindlessly grabbed a tiny package of pretty looking cookies, sighing with resignation that I’d most likely regret my meal choice dictated by the simple need to get a need met despite how attractive my poison of choice looked at that moment. I slipped my dollars to the lady behind the counter (without meeting eyes) and slunk away.’ The deal was done, this was going down. That is how I first encountered my secret pleasure.
I quickly discovered that those protein laden peanut butter cookies were shockingly good. Even more surprisingly, the bête noire in my hands contained very little of the afore mentioned products that I hated. The cookies were simply a regular peanut butter variety with the addition of whey protein isolate and ground oats rather than flour. They were dense, chewy, had a good mouthfeel. I could improve them, I thought, make them less artificial. So I did. Two ways.
I feel better now.
Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
-1 cup natural peanut butter, smooth
-3/4 cup white sugar
-1 large egg
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookies sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl using an electric beater, cream the sugar and peanut butter. Then beat in the egg.
3. Roll into small balls (about 1 inch across) and set them on the cookie sheet about an inch apart.
4. Create criss cross shapes on top of the cookies by pressing a fork lightly on top.
5. Pop the cookies in the oven for 10 minutes, or until firm to the touch.
6. Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack.
Spiced Peanut Oatmeal Cookies
-1 cup natural peanut butter, smooth
-3/4 cup white sugar
-1 large egg
-1/2 cup rolled oats
-1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon ginger
-1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg and cloves
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookies sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl using an electric beater, cream the sugar and peanut butter. Then beat in the egg and spices.
3. Lastly, by hand, stir in the oats.
4. Roll into small balls (about 1 inch across) and set them on the cookie sheet about an inch apart.
5. Create criss cross shapes on top of the cookies by pressing a fork lightly on top.
6. Pop the cookies in the oven for 10 minutes, or until firm to the touch.
7. Remove from the oven, cool on a wire rack.
Okay, so remember how I was saying that I make a lot of holiday cookies and whatnot in December? I wasn’t lying. In addition to making all of those things for people back in New York, as soon as I got off the plane to visit my parents it seems like I was back in the kitchen making MORE holiday goodies. Thank the sweet baby cheeses the holidays only come once a year, I don’t think the tensile strength of my pants could take this all year round.
That being said, I also should mention that although I love making holiday foods I despise those recipes that come from women’s interest type magazines this time of year. I despise them with a passion. They represent just about everything that I can’t and really don’t care to relate to- premade foods as ingredients, spacious kitchens with granite countertops, anything described with the tagline “the kids can help”. I’m okay with not relating.
But sometimes, just sometimes, you come across something from one of those awful magazines that happens to be really pretty tasty. My mom made these really good graham cracker-marshmellow-sweetened coconut-caramel things that were surprisingly reminiscent of something. You know what they were like? An exotic version of Girl Scout Caramel Delight cookies. Remember them? These cookies that she made were like that. My mother’s cookies were good and stuck out of the crowd, but they weren’t great. I knew that I could turn the dials to eleven on these and knock them out of the park. So… I did.
Those Really Good Almost Heavenly Graham Cracker Cookie Things
-12 sheets of honey graham crackers (or go rogue and make your own first!)
- 1 cup toasted almonds, chopped
-9 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
-3/4 cup misson figs, chopped roughly
-3/4 cup packed brown sugar
-1 stick butter
-1 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
-1 teaspoon ground allspice
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Lay out all 12 sheets of the graham crackers on the parchment so that each edge touches. Set the cookie sheet aside.
3. in a large saucepot, combine the butter and brown sugar. Turn the heat of the pot on low.
4. Stir the pot constantly until the butter is melted and everything is bubbly. Cut the heat.
5. Add the coconut, nuts, figs and spices to the butter. Stir the pot vigorously until everything is incorporated.
6. Spread everything over the graham crackers evenly. It’ll be sticky, but try to get the paste all over the crackers, even the edges.
7. Bake the graham crackers 15 minutes.
8. Remove the cookies from the oven, allow them to cool and snap into irregular shapes. Store in an airtight container.
Not really on either count. I just wanted to get your attention and it also happens to coincide with the first night of the Festival of Lights. (It worked, didn’t it?) But I was thinking that it might be nice to lay off the Christmas cookies for a hot minute here as well. So, there you go. Rather than making more Christmas cookies, they’re now Hanukkah treats. Everyone is happy!
Also, just as a completely unrelated tangent, these are macaroons. They are pronounced “macaroons”. Those French almond flour cookies that everyone is going nuts over right now are macarons. They are pronounced “mahcahron”. Like this. If I hear one more person going apeshit over those cookies du jour but calling them “macaroons” I swear I’m going to slap them with a phonetic lesson. Hard.
At any rate, you should really try these cookies out. They’re the perfect marriage of spicy, sweet and crunchy. They’re also gluten free and fairly low in sugar, so truly everyone (except the vegans) can be happy with this recipe. Shalom!
Ginger Peanut Macaroons
-6 egg whites, at room temperature
-12 ounces or so shredded unsweetened coconut (I liked Bob’s Red Mill variety)
-1 cup candied ginger, very small dice
-1/2 cup toasted finely chopped peanuts
-3/4 cup sugar
-1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Begin by creating a meringue. In a bowl with a hand mixer, quickly whip the 6 egg whites until soft peaks form. Then introduce your cream of tartar and slowly begin adding your sugar. Keep beating the eggs until stiff peaks form.
3. When the meringue is ready, beat in the ginger and peanuts. Then start to add in the coconut, making sure that the cookie dough doesn’t get too dry. (You may use 9 ounces of the coconut, but play it by feel.) The goal is to get a dough that holds its shape well but isn’t too wet.
4. Mound the dough onto the lined cookie sheets in little haystacks. I used about 2 ounces per cookie, making them slightly larger so as to keep the centers really moist.
5. Bake 15-20 minutes, until the coconut is golden and toasty. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.