When I first saw this month’s Daring Bakers’ challenge, I thought “Oooh, goodie, cookies! I can handle cookies, no problem!” After all, everyone’s made cookies at some point, right? How hard could this be? After the Daring Cooks’ challenge, it was nice to be back on familiar territory. In the end, it wasn’t quite as easy as I had expected – this was a challenge, after all! But, as always, I learned from my mistakes.
I was quite excited at the idea of creating homemade versions of two of my favourite childhood storebought cookies: Milan cookies (a.k.a. Milanos) and mallows (a.k.a. Whippets). I hadn’t tasted either in a long time, and was very much looking forward to the experience.
I made the Milans first, because they seemed easier: just regular egg-white cookies, sandwiched together with a bit of orange-flavoured ganache.
However, I had forgotten that I’m a horrible piper. I hate using pastry bags, and the pastry bags hate me right back. As a result, none of my cookies were the same shape or size, and pairing them together was like playing a game of Match the Cards (or its laundry variation, Match the Socks). Also, I had to put a rush on this job, hence the scarcity of pictures.
The Milans were a big hit with everyone – which surprised me a little, because I really thought I could have done a better job. I really liked the citrus note, which came from the orange zest in the filling and the lemon extract in the cookies. I had never used lemon extract before, and I loved the fresh taste it added. However, I wish my cookies had been a bit less chewy: even though I had left them in the oven as long as I could without burning the bottom, the center felt like it was underbaked. I definitely remember Milanos to be crispier than that.
I would have liked to make the Milans again, this time trying to bake them longer at a lower temperature – but I still had to make the mallows. Our host had told us we could settle for just one recipe, but I did want to try my hand at both.
There are three components in mallows: the cookie base, the marshmallow center, and the chocolate glaze. The cookies were unproblematic, although I think the oven was too hot in this recipe as well. I ended up with way more cookies than the recipe had indicated (about 150, as opposed to 24), but apparently this happened to most of the other Daring Bakers. Plus, I may have made them smaller than I should have: they were literally bite-sized. I didn't have enough marshmallow to top them all, but I had enough chocolate... Weird, but not too big a deal.
However, when I tackled the next step, I experienced a giant MARSHMALLOW FAIL. I had never made marshmallows before, but I soon discovered that they are rather like meringue with gelatin and corn syrup; I’ve made meringue very often, so there shouldn’t have been a problem. Despite that, something went terribly wrong: my mixture simply refused to stiffen. My guess is that I didn’t whisk the egg whites enough, a rookie mistake that I hadn’t made in ages. But, there you have it. I came out of the kitchen sore, humbled and terrified of egg whites forever.
OK, maybe not forever. A couple of days later, I tried again, this time being careful to whisk the whites stiff and add the syrup slowly, and everything went perfectly: I obtained a thick mixture that held its peaks. Since I still hate pastry bags, I used a tiny spoon to top the cookies with marshmallow.
Two hours later, the marshmallows had set enough for me to dip the cookies into the chocolate glaze. It was a lengthy process, and it took even longer for the chocolate coating to set: in fact, I left the cookies out overnight, and some of them still hadn’t set by morning!
There seemed to be two kinds of cookies: those whose coating had set, but which had developed “spots”, and those which were still shiny, but hadn’t set. There didn’t really seem to be a logic to it, either. But I know from experience that chocolate coating can be tricky, and I’ll save that particular challenge for another time: just making proper marshmallows was enough for now. I ended up popping the mallows in the fridge, and the glaze finally set. Obviously, I kept the nicer-looking ones for the pictures.
The final result really surprised me: these cookies really do taste like the storebought ones! I was a bit skeptical of incorporating cinnamon into the cookies, but it turned out to be necessary to complete the flavour. The texture was pretty darn close to what I remembered from the last time I ate a Whippet, except that my cookie/marshmallow ratio was a litte off. Next time, more marshmallow!
So, there you have it. I didn’t do any daring variations this month, due to lack of time, so I’ll just point you all to the Daring Kitchen to go look at the wonders everyone else came up with. A big thank you to Nicole for this fun challenge!