Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Retro Desserts, Part III: Double-Stuffed with Nostalgia . . . Will the Real Faux-Oreo Please Stand Up?


I'll say it again, in case you missed it . . . "Oreos?"

Spoken as a question, that one little word murmured just about anywhere in the U.S. almost always engenders an immediate affirmative response. You don't have to elaborate. You'd probably never have to actually say, "Hi . . . um . . . would you like to have a Nabisco brand Oreo sandwich cookie? It's made with two crunchy chocolate wafers that are filled with sweet white stuff. It's really good." Such details are rarely, if ever, required. Most commonly, in response to the one-word offer, one hears something akin to, "Oh, are you kidding, I LOVE Oreos!"

And love them we do. The shy Oreo, petite though it is, carries on its tiny shoulders a heap-load of responsibility. Afterall, it is one of those distinctly American foods that tend to evoke our most idealized vision of America in the 20th Century, right up there with hot dogs and apple pie. The Oreo connotes brown-bag lunches packed lovingly by our moms, picnic baskets hauled to the beach, cookie jars, and the more positive aspects of a typical suburban childhood.

As an icon, I'd say it even tops the warm-hearted personage of Betty Crocker (sorry Betty). Though it's surely one of the shiniest and most lucrative golden eggs in Nabisco's mighty basket, we're not scared off by the specter of its parental corporate-giant. No, we don't care about that aspect in the least. Oreos have been a part of our culture for decades and, clearly, we'd be mighty upset if they went the way of the dinosaur. Lucky for us, that just ain't gonna happen.

As for today's recipe, it's my stab at a homemade version. I read through quite a number of faux-Oreo recipes before I settled on trying this one. It hails from a website called Nosheteria.com (for full recipe attribution info see the very bottom of this post under, "Recipe Full Disclosure!"). The cookies are yummy, though they will certainly never be confused with the original. That's okay, though. I had fun making them this afternoon, and I just had even more fun watching my younger son chow one of them down. I asked him if he thought they matched up to the real thing at all. He pondered the query thoughtfully for a moment and, mouth stuffed with cookie, remarked seriously, "Well . . . sort of. They're good anyway." And that's good enough for me.

Faux Oreos

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

For the chocolate wafers:

1 and 1/4 cups All Purpose flour (I used bleached)
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa (I used Penzey's brand)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg

For the cream filling:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups confectioners' sugar (I didn't bother to sift it, as the recipe indicated, but it was just fine; if you're going to be squirting the cream filling out of a piping bag--not something I did--you'd need to sift this sugar)
1 and 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract (the recipe called for 2 tsp. but I really think that'd be overkill)

In a medium-sized mixer bowl, with paddle attachment, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar on low speed to combine. Add in the butter on low speed, and then the egg. Mix until the dough comes together.

Scoop rounded teaspoonfuls of the dough onto parchment lined cookie sheets, spacing them about 2" apart. (I used a portion scoop that held slightly over one tsp. and it worked out fine. I tried chilling and then rolling out this dough, but it's really way too sticky for that. Scooping is the way to go.) Flatten the balls of dough with the dampened palm of your hand, or use something flat like a metal spatula that's been very lightly greased, or dusted with cocoa, or dampened with water to prevent the dough from sticking.

Bake the cookies about 7 minutes and then check on them, baking longer if it seems necessary. They shouldn't look wet or feel mushy. Try not to overbake them or they'll be not only pretty hard but also taste kind of burned. They're pretty thin, so they bake quickly. Keep an eye on them. Cool them on the cookie sheets until they can be moved without breaking.

To make the cream filling:

In a medium mixing bowl, with paddle attachment, at low speed, mix the butter and shortening until well combined. Gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar and the vanilla. Beat on high for a minute or so, until the filling looks fluffy.

To assemble the cookies:

When the cookies are completely cooled, use a small spoon or scoop to put about a teaspoon of cream filling onto the least attractive side of one wafer. Cover it with another wafer, exposing the nicest side up, and press down gently so the cream is pushed to the edges of the cookie.

And voila, you have faux oreos! Now get a cold glass of milk, or a cup of coffee, and treat yourself to one. Oh, and don't forget to mark your calendar for 2012, because little Mr. Oreo's gonna have one heck of a 100th birthday party!

Recipe full disclosure! Within the site Nosheteria. com, this recipe is credited to a cookbook called Retro Desserts by Wayne Harley Brachman. I changed the recipe very slightly, and rewrote the instructions my way!

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