Baking is incredibly predictable and I’m comfortable admitting that the predictability is perhaps the activity’s appeal. When you read a recipe you know what you’re getting yourself into. Cookie dough is doughy, yeast makes breads rise, icing goes on/in/all over cake, we all lick the bowl sometimes and occasionally even the whisk, and so on. When you attempt The Spoon Cookie don’t be alarmed when your entire baking experience is turned upside-down in service of the most delicate, flaky, buttery, rich sandwich cookie of (maybe) ever.
Not that I regret attempting this recipe, but we should have been mentally prepared. The first warning sign was in the text of the Gourmet Magazine article from Celia Barbour in December 2005: “I sometimes find myself wondering… why I’ve bothered.” Granted the author is discussing mass production of these cookies as Christmas gifts, but still, perhaps we should have considered ourselves forewarned. The second cause for alarm was the consistency of the dough. After refrigeration (we* followed the recipe exactly; no fooling around here) the dough appeared hard as rock and then crumbled once we tried to scoop it into the desired spoon shape. With some cajoling, the dough did in fact come together inside the mold of the spoon to form delicate oval shapes. Don’t even think about trying to remove these from the baking sheet until way after they’ve cooled. They’ll crumble at the slightest touch and you’ll be forced to eat the cookie crumbs left behind to hide the evidence. On second thought, maybe broken cookies aren’t so bad.
You didn’t scare us off, Celia Barbour. Nice try though.
*we = my mom and I. Hi, Mom.
Recipe from Celia Barbour, Gourmet Magazine
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup fruit preserves (I prefer raspberry. Strawberry tasted great too but the little hunks of fruit got in the way when sandwiching the cookies)
1. Mix flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
2. Take cold butter and heat in a saucepan over medium/low heat. The butter will brown and start to smell nutty after about 10-12 minutes on the stove top. Stir occasionally. Watch for little brown flecks to form at the base of your pot. The butter will foam a few times during this process so you may need to peek under the bubbles to see the browning occur. When the butter has begun to brown remove the pot from the flame and put the entire pot into cold water. I used a larger pot filled half way with water and some ice cubes. Stir the browned butter continuously for about 4 minutes; it will start to turn opaque.
3. Mix the sugar and vanilla into the browned butter. Pour the warm butter mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon or fork until combined.
4. Form the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Let sit in the refrigerator for about an hour. Dough will feel solid.
5. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a teaspoon (the kind you have in your dinner set not a measuring spoon), break off bits of the dough and press into the bowl of the spoon. The dough will crumble but when pressed with your fingers into the spoon it will hold together and mold to the spoon’s shape. Slide each rounded cookie off the spoon and place (rounded side up!) on the baking sheet. Place cookies about 1/2 inch apart.
6. Bake for 14-16 minutes at 325 degrees until slightly golden around the edges. Do not touch the cookies to check the bottoms (if that is your habit). They will break. Let the cookies cool for at least an hour before attempting to remove them. Preferably wait over night for maximum sturdy-ness. These little guys are delicate.
7. Heat 1/3 cup of jam and spread a thin layer on half of the cookies. Create sandwiches. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the warm jam to cool and the cookies to hold their sandwich shape.