Saturday, March 16, 2013

Gluten Free Black and White Cookies

My sister Rachel has lived in New York several different times (for internships and things) and she would usually come back bearing gifts . . . usually Black and White Cookies.  Black and White Cookies are a New York City specialty.  (Well, my brother spent a couple of years in upstate New York, and he said they were also sold there . . . but they certainly don't sell them anywhere in Utah.)  They are . . . amazing. It's almost like someone cut the top off a cupcake, flipped it upside down, and covered the flat part with smooth, smooth vanilla and chocolate deliciousness.  Okay, that doesn't sound nearly as yummy as it really is.  I tell you, these things are FABULOUS.  The cookies are really good on their own, but (for me, anyway) the fondant icing pushes them over the edge of good into spectacular.  (Have I used enough superlatives yet? Probably not.  I don't think there ARE enough superlatives to describe these cookies!)

There are all sorts of recipes for Black and White Cookies floating around the web.  Rachel and I tried a couple a few years ago and then gave up in despair.  They were never right . . . especially not the icing part.  Most of the recipes tell you to combine powdered sugar and stuff to make a vanilla glaze.  DON'T DO IT!  IT'S VILE!  Blech! Blech! Yucky!  Shudder!  Ewwwww.  It may be easy to do, but it's so gross to eat that it's just plain pointless.  Plus, it ruins the cookies underneath.  Those icing recipes dissuaded Rachel and me from trying to make Black and White Cookies from scratch.  Ever. 

Well, Rachel went back to NYC in January and I almost immediately started craving Black and White Cookies again.  Unfortunately, I knew that she would not be coming back for at least 4 months.  So I decided to do a little more research.  I looked on YouTube for videos about making B&W cookies.  I googled recipes.  I discovered that the topping that was really needed was a poured fondant. I also discovered that poured fondant takes a little time and effort to get it right - but it's SO worth it.  I have made these cookies about a dozen times in the last 3 months.  I have also eaten WAY more of them than I ought to have.  But they are SO good, they're practically irresistible.  Besides, look how cute I made them look on Valentine's Day:

So . . . recipe.  I'm going to put the fondant recipe in its own blog post because it really is its own thing.  (I'm going to use fondant to make lemony petit fours as a birthday treat this afternoon . . . just because I can.)  I'll link it back here, though, so you can easily find it when you are making these.

Gluten Free Black and White Cookies

3 3/4 c. EGF all purpose flour mix
2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. well-shaken buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. lemon zest (dried or fresh)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour, xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.  Combine buttermilk and vanilla in another bowl (or measuring cup . . . whatever).  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and lemon zest and mix well. 

Alternately add flour and buttermilk to the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour.  Mix well after each addition, scraping sides occasionally.  Mix until smooth.

Place 2 - 4 Tbs of cookie batter on parchment-paper-lined cookie sheets.  (The cookies that you buy in New York are really big . . . probably four inches in diameter.  If you want to make them that big, you'll need to use 4 Tbs. of batter.  I usually make them smaller so I can spread the joy farther.)  Bake 13 - 15 minutes (smaller cookies bake faster), or until the edges are starting to brown.  (The undersides of the cookies should be a golden brown, but the tops of the cookies will still be rather pale. They shouldn't collapse if you lightly touch one, though . . . being careful not to burn yourself, obviously.) Remove from oven and transfer to a baking rack to cool.

Once cookies are cool, ice the first half of the cookies with Vanilla Poured Fondant.  After you've finished icing the vanilla halves of all the cookies, make the rest of your Vanilla Fondant into Chocolate Poured Fondant.  Ice the other half of your cookies.  Allow fondant to set up.  Enjoy!

And I thought about years; how they take so long and they go so fast.

 So.  It's been a while.  This is what I've been working on for the last year and a half or so: 

Not the costumes, the children.  I did make the costumes, but that's beside the point.  Those only took up a couple of days.  The children, on the other hand, take up all sorts of time . . . especially the smallest one.  She's getting more independent all the time, but she still smiles ecstatically when I walk in the room . . . it is probably a ploy to keep me paying attention to her, but it's still irresistible. 

See how cute that is?  Ooooh, and look at this one: 

Who can resist that sort of a face?  I sure can't.  So I have neglected this blog shamefully. 

It's not that I haven't been cooking, because I have.  But I just haven't taken the time to write anything down.  Well, this morning I got up and made crepes for my daughter's birthday breakfast and I decided that I should put it up on the blog.  Whee!  So I took some beautiful pictures and got on to type up a post and wrote all the preceding and then decided I should check and see if we had already posted about crepes.  And we have.  :(  So I guess I won't retype in the recipe.  But here's a new picture:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Poured Fondant

Now, the first thing we need to clear up is that this is NOT a recipe for a rolled fondant.  This is not the sort of fondant that you would find in a thick white (generally inedible) layer on the outside of a wedding cake. The texture of this is more like the chocolate topping on doughnuts . . . something that isn't quite icing and is smooth and rather firm. It's fabulous stuff, and because it is just sugar, water, and corn syrup it stores quite well at room temperature for a long time.  Some of the YouTube videos I watched said it was good for several months.  I don't know for sure that that is true because the longest a double batch has survived my B&W cookie making binges is 2 weeks.  But it was still fabulous after two weeks, for what that's worth.

The second thing that you should know is that it takes a little practice to get this right.  Well, it took some practice for ME to get this right.  Hopefully the things that I have learned over the last few weeks will make your learning curve less steep than mine.  But the point is, don't give up if it doesn't turn out quite right the first time.  It's totally worth the effort.

Poured Fondant

2 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. corn syrup

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan. (I have found that a non-stick pan is helpful when washing sugar crystals off the sides of the pan.)  Cook over medium high heat until it boils, stirring gently the whole time.  (Try not to splash up on the sides of the pan.  Sugar crystals that don't get thoroughly dissolved into the syrup will cause problems with your fondant.  Any undissolved crystals that remain in the final syrup will quickly cause the rest of the syrup to re-crystallize . . . thus undoing all your hard work.)

Once the syrup has come to a rolling boil, decrease the heat to medium, attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, and stop stirring.  Use a pastry brush or a very wet paper towel to wash any stray sugar crystals down from the side of the pan.  Let the syrup boil until it reaches 238 degrees.** (**Remember that, when cooking candies, you must decrease the temperature by 2 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet above sea level. Here in Utah County I only cook this syrup to 228 degrees.) 

Once the syrup reaches 238 degrees, remove it from the heat and allow the syrup to cook to 140 degrees.  (This takes 30 - 50 minutes, but it's really important.  If you try to move on without allowing the syrup to cool you will end up with little rocks of sugary stuff and then you will be unhappy.  I think it does that because all the moisture steams out of it so quickly when it is that hot. One of these days I'm going to try letting the syrup cool on a cookie sheet and then transfer it into my mixer because I'm sure it will cool faster and I'm always really impatient . . . but I haven't done it yet and so I can't guarantee that it will work.)

Once the syrup has cooled to 140 degrees, transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer. Turn the mixer on low.  (I use a K beater attachment for this).  The syrup will first turn yellow and then white. As soon as it turns white, pour it into a ziploc bag that you have stretched open over a glass measuring cup or something. (Don't beat it too long after it turns white as it will harden very quickly and then your mixer might seize up and you will be unhappy again. It really only takes a couple of minutes to turn white, so don't walk away from your mixer while you are doing this.)  If it gets rather firm while you are removing the beater, just scrape it out of the mixer bowl with a wooden spoon . . . it should be okay.

Seal the fondant air-tightly and store at room temperature. 

Vanilla Poured Fondant - Make a simple sugar syrup by bringing 4 Tbs. sugar and 2 Tbs. water just to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Place between 1/2 c. and 1 c. of fondant in a double boiler*. (*I make a pseudo double boiler by putting 1 1/2 cups of really hot water in my 4 cup glass measuring cup, then placing my 2 cup glass measuring cup inside it.)  Add a Tbs or so of the simple syrup to the fondant and stir it with a spoon until smooth, adding more simple syrup as necessary.  (You'll have to rather chop at the fondant at first, but it will thin down and become easier to stir soon.)  If you add too much syrup, the only way to fix it is by adding more fondant, so be careful not to overdo it.  Once the fondant is smooth and spreadable, add about 1/2 tsp. vanilla.

Chocolate Poured Fondant -  Add a couple of Tbs. of dutch processed cocoa to your vanilla fondant.  Stir well.  Add more simple syrup as needed to make it spreadable. 

If you need more information on Poured Fondant (or want to see some pictures), this blog post by Joe Pastry is very helpful.  I also found some great information at this site, although I don't agree with some of the information provided there (I've tried cooking it quickly and it always seemed to crystallize into a thick crust almost as soon as I poured it out of my pan).