Yet another successful ATXswappers party a couple of days ago. In case you have not had the pleasure yet, Megan from stetted.com and Kate from Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking host a monthly food swap that is one of the hottest tickets in town. Go to their Facebook page and get on the mailing list if you want to give it a try. But you have to be quick as the event fills up almost immediately and latecomers get put on a wait list hoping for someone to drop out. It operates similar to a cookie swap but participants can bring whatever homemade goods they wish to exchange. I promise to do a separate post dedicated to the fun but I got such a great response from my offering this month that I wanted to post a link to the recipe.
One of my favorite food blogs is Serious Eats for many reasons. The writing, the recipes, the pictures, and the reviews are all well researched and fun. I especially love the science geek plus foodie nerd that is Kenji Alt. There is a new food blogger on the team that specializes in recreating childhood favorites like Oreos and Dairy Queen Blizzards. Her name is Stella and she goes by BraveTart.
Stella has a blog at Bravetart.com, runs the pastry program at a restaurant in Kentucky, and contributes to Serious Eats which is where I discovered her. She is passionate about faithful recreations and not prettied up or “improved” versions of recipes. Her writing is also outstanding. Check out her first article for Serious Eats that introduces the Fauxreo recipe. She likens her quest to Culinary Time Travel and paints a vivid picture of the history of the Oreo.
I have tried Oreo recipes from other sites that were delicious but not quite right. Not only are the cookies a faithful recreation of the not sweet, almost bitter, impossibly dark Oreo, BraveTart also gives tips on getting the filling to the right consistency, and bestill my OCD pastry heart, goes to the lengths of piping a cornelli design on the cookies to give it a similar texture. After making these a few times, I have a few tips and observations of my own.
Almost all of BraveTart’s recipes come with directions for a gluten free version. With the Fauxreos, it was a straight substitution of rice flour for wheat in the cookie. Although I do not usually bake gluten free, I knew some of the swappers were gluten intolerant, so I thought I would give it a whirl. I made both the versions for the Austin Bakes for Bastrop benefit a few weeks ago and found them to be very similar. The gluten free dough was slightly more crumbly but the flavors were almost identical. The only textural difference is in how I eat my Oreos. I prefer to dunk mine in milk until they reach full saturation and then melt in your mouth like those last few bites in a cereal bowl. The gluten free do not get soggy but I find a bite of a cookie followed by a slurp of milk is acceptable. Told you I was OCD.
Make sure you roll the dough thin enough, especially if you try to pipe a design on top. I actually found it easier to use a tiny scoop and then press them out with my hand or the bottom of a glass dipped in cocoa.
Although I really liked the concept of the cornelli design giving the look of the Oreo, I found my piping skills totally lacking and skipped this step after the second batch. If you are really committed to the whole Oreo aesthetic, need to practice your piping, or are just simply a masochist, give it a try. I found the piped cookies to be a little too thick and with the regular version, it overworked the dough and led to a tough cookie. Again, my fault, not the recipe’s but so you know it is not totally necessary.
My last hints involve the ingredients. The recipe calls for a LOT of cocoa. I used Valrhona which is Dutch processed, very dark, and very expensive. It gave the right color and taste, worked perfectly. I know you can get the “black” cocoa at specialty shops which is supposed to be similar to the cocoa they use in Oreos but I have no experience using it, so not sure of results for that. I do know that using cheap cocoa will unfortunately not work. Cheap chocolate in any form gives a subpar product. We are making Oreos here, people, not Hydrox or some other knock off brand.
For the filling I use a blend of about 2/3 lard to 1/3 butter for a texture similar to the original Oreos instead of the filmy mouthfeel you get from the current version which uses all vegetable shortening. The lard is for texture and the butter is for flavor. Very important to follow the directions to let it whip for five minutes for ideal color and fluffiness. I like a lot of filling in mine, so I usually double it for a single batch or triple it if I am making a double batch of cookies. A little leftover filling is a good thing. Believe me, you will find uses for it.
My final baking secret is my favorite Mexican vanilla, Danncy. This is really my baking secret for most things. I know the flavor of pure Madagascar vanilla beans is ideal for a sophisticated taste but a healthy dose of Danncy’s is what I reach for when I am looking for a more homemade flavor. Best source I have found for Danncy is to buy several bottles off Ebay and split them with a friend. And not all Mexican vanillas are the same. Most are pretty gross, actually. Stick with Danncy. It has an almost floral aroma of vanilla with just a hint of cinnamon. A good shot of it in a White Russian does not suck either.
As a matter of fact, I think I’ll go make myself a Caucasian right now to dip my cookies in.