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Saturday, 18 April 2015

Dulce de Leche Rosemary Shortbread Sandwich Cookies

What?!!?11?11? You're a Star Wars fan?!?!111?1!1

Sorry to burst your bubble...but unfortunately I do not know much about Star Wars. I just knew that I needed these Star Wars cookie cutters when I first saw them online. I knew I wanted make the Yoda ones matcha flavoured, the Darth Vader ones would be flavoured and coloured with ground black sesame, chocolate espresso for the Chewbacca, and something simple for C-P3O. I used my trusty shortbread cookie recipe as the base for all these flavoured cookies and played around with the proportions of ingredients that added the flavours and/or colours of each character cookie. Note to self: don't just add additional spoonfuls of ground black sesame without adjusting the proportions of other dry ingredients. The cookie will turn out way too dry. 
I made these Star Wars cookies for a friend quite a while back and kept some of the leftover dough in freezer. (Yes, you can freeze cookie dough for later use.) I found that shortbread dough freezes really nicely, but dough for cookies that are meant to be softer and chewier does not freeze as nicely. The chewy cookies lose some of that...chewy factor once the dough has been frozen for a while. Remember to keep the dough sealed properly if you do decide to freeze it. Let the dough soften up just a bit at room temperature when you take it out of the freezer so it is easier to work with. 
Anyways, this post is not about the differently flavoured shortbread cookies (sorry, if you were expecting that). They are Yoda-shaped though just 'cause they are more fun that way. This post is about my favourite shortbread cookie, my go-to, my I'm-not-sure-what-to-give-you-so-I-made-you-a-jar-of-cookies kinda cookie.  It is a sweet and savoury rosemary shortbread cookie. There is just something about the balance of the sweet, the savoury, and the earthy notes of the ingredients when they are all combined. I like to think of these as a grown-up, mature version of a classic all-butter shortbread cookie. If the classic shortbread cookie was the girl next door, these rosemary ones would be the mysterious new girl in the little black dress that just moved across the hall. 
The recipe for these rosemary shortbread cookies is probably the recipe that I have used the most. I have made them so many times that I have the recipe memorized. Every time I make these cookies without having to refer to the recipe I have written down, I say to myself, 'If I were on some cooking TV show and the challenge was to make a cookie on the spot, I would be in really good shape!' I have that exact same thought every. single. time. I watch The Food Network way too religiously. 
These cookies are really good by themselves, sans filling, without the frills and thrills. But if you are craving something a little sweeter, or maybe you are just a super big fan of dulce de leche (let's be honest here, who isn't a big fan of dulce de leche), feel free to sandwich some of that heavenly goodness in between two of these bite-sized cookies. Now they are pretty much a salted caramel cookie with a subtle rosemary note. What's not to love?

Dulce de Leche Rosemary Shortbread Sandwich Cookies

Rosemary Shortbread
225g (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

115g (1 cup) powdered sugar, sifted

2 teaspoon finely minced dried rosemary

1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

300g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
Olive oil (optional)

Dulce de Leche 
1 can sweetened condensed milk
(Or cheat and just buy a jar of it at the store. I won't tell. I promise.)

Rosemary Shortbread:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on low speed until smooth. Add the sugar, rosemary and salt. Mix on low speed until well combined. Add the flour and mix on low speed until just uniform in texture. 

Gather the dough into a ball. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper, cover with a second piece of parchment and flatten to form a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 5 days. If you are running low on time, just throw it in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the dough into whatever shapes you like and place them on the lined baking sheet. These won’t spread too much, if at all.

Bake until golden around the edges, approximately 14 - 16 minutes. When I am making these cookies without the filling, I like to brush a coat of olive oil on the cookies right when they come out of the oven. When filling the cookies with something sweet like dulce de leche, you can omit this step.

Dulce de Leche Filling:
Honestly, with the time and effort (did I mention time?) that it takes to make your own dulce de leche, whether you're using a can of condensed milk or making it from scratch, it is much more efficient and practical to buy already-made dulce de leche from the store. But if you do want to make your own, this is the sweetened condensed milk route.

Remove the label from the can and place the can on its side in a large pot. Fill the pot with room temperature water and make sure the water level rises at least two inches above the top of the can. It is extremely important that the entire can of condensed milk stays fully submerged in the water during the cooking process. The water level should never get any lower than one inch above the can as it cooks, so make sure to check on the water level every half hour and be ready to add more boiling water as needed.

Simmer the can for two to three hours, depending on how dark you want the dulce de leche to be. The only downside of cooking condensed milk in the can is that you cannot really tell how dark the dulce de leche is until you open the can. Always let the can of condensed milk return to room temperature before opening it. Do not open the can while it's still hot, as the hot dulce de leche may squirt out because of the pressure inside the can. Oh yeah, the can will be piping hot. Use tongs. Please.

Transfer some of the dulce de leche into a piping bag and used it to fill the cooled cookies. You can simply use a spoon but I used a piping bag to make it a tad bit less messy. You will have some dulce de leche leftover after filling the sandwich cookies. This is not a bad thing. Drizzle it on everything you eat for the next three meals. You can thank me later. 

This recipe makes 50 - 60 two-bite individual shortbread cookies or 25 - 30 sandwich cookies. You can easily halve or double the recipe. I would suggest doubling, because these sweet and savoury cookies, even on their own, are extremely addictive.

Photography & Editing || Victor Yuen

Friday, 10 April 2015

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches (Behind the Scenes + Styling)

As I promised, here is the second part of the ice cream sandwich shoot! If you missed the first part of this ice cream sandwich project and would like the recipes for the funfetti and peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, you can find the link here. If you are here to take a sneak peek of the behind-the-scenes dealio of what went down that day, you are in the right place.
I met Lucy before we decided to collaborate on this project together. We met through Instagram and shared a crepe and some Earnest Ice Cream at our favourite neighbourhood cafe quite a while back. Roughly a month or two ago, Lucy suggested that we work on a shoot together, where Victor and I can do our usual thing and she will go ahead and do the styling for the shoot. I have never had anyone style me before, so this was a whole new (fun!) experience.
Lucy got in contact with a few jewellery designers and an online high quality consignment shop to pull a few looks for me. The jewellery Lucy brought that day were dainty little pieces that she thought matched my personal style. She knew exactly what kind of jewellery I like, despite only meeting me a few times. She also got this beaaaautiful blue dress which I know I could live in forever. 
Lucy even managed to get Earnest Ice Cream to agree to provide all the ice cream we needed that day to make the lovely ice cream sandwiches. We had quite a hard time choosing which flavours we wanted for the cookie sandwiches, because let's be honest, all the Earnest flavours are to die for. We went with my favourites whiskey hazelnut and a classic, the Tahitian vanilla. 
Having Lucy change my outfits and jewellery in between shots was something I had to get use to, but something I did not mind at all. Working with both Victor and Lucy was a lot of fun. We spent an entire afternoon playing with dresses, bracelets, rings, and ice cream - what more could I ask for? 

I hope you enjoyed the ice cream sandwiches if you got a chance to make them already, the lovely photos Victor took of them, and this set of behind-the-scenes photos as well. I also threw in some tripod selfies at the end here. They are my favourite. 

Photography & Editing || Victor Yuen
Styling & Clothing || Lucy Yun, Closet Crows
Jewellery || Foe & Dear, C for Charlotte, Sarah Mulder Jewelry
Ice Cream || Earnest Ice Cream

Monday, 30 March 2015

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches (with Funfetti + Peanut Butter Cookies!)

Apparently national ice cream sandwich day 2015 is on August 2th. In my humble opinion, every day should be national ice cream sandwich day. Especially if the ice cream sandwiches are homemade with freshly baked cookies. Freshly baked soft and chewy funfetti and peanut butter chocolate chip cookies that is. 
This homemade ice cream sandwich project was a really special one. Lucy joined Victor and I on our Monday shooting/blogging adventure. Lucy did not come empty handed. She brought over a few pints of Earnest Ice Cream in the Tahitian vanilla and whiskey hazelnut flavours, cute outfits, and a whole collection of beautiful jewellery for our shoot. If you live in Vancouver, I am pretty sure you would have heard of/tried Earnest Ice Cream before. Their ice cream is some of the best and every little glass jar of ice cream starts with the use of local milk and whole food ingredients. Their flavours? All of them are completely amazing. My favourite are whiskey hazelnut and the matcha green tea. 
To pair with the ice cream, I wanted cookies that were simple and would showcase and compliment the ice cream flavours. The whiskey hazelnut ice cream is paired with a simple soft and chewy funfetti cookie. I kind of like how the seemingly more adult ice cream flavour is paired with a playful and whimsical looking cookie adorned with rainbow sprinkles. The Tahitian vanilla ice cream is paired with my favourite chewy peanut butter cookie with a handful of marbled chocolate chips thrown in there. If you know me, I much prefer a soft and chewy cookie over a crispy cookie any day.
Taking photos of ice cream sandwiches is no simple task. It's messy, it's sticky, but completely worth it in the end. We took so many photos of the mis en place, the ice cream sandwiches, and behind the scenes styling that it took a solid hour or two for me to go through the batch Victor edited and sent over my way. I decided to divide up the batch of photos into two blog posts. This post will focus more on the making of the ice cream sandwiches and the recipes for them. The second post, which will be coming your way really soon, will focus more on the behind the scenes and styling shots. I am so excited for you to see all that we did that day!
For now, I hope you enjoy these cookies and ice cream sandwiches. If you think assembling them is too much of a hassle, just scoop out large scoops of ice cream into a bowl and have the cookies on the side. Just as delicious. 

Soft and Chewy Funfetti Cookies
115g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
190g (1 1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sprinkles (Jimmies are better than nonpareils as they tend to 'bleed' less)

In a large bowl using stand mixer with paddle attachment or a hand-held mixer, cream the softened butter on medium speed. Add the sugar and continuing cream on medium speed until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. 

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cream of tartar. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. 

Once combined, fold in 1/2 cup sprinkles.

Scoop two tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Repeat. Use the remaining 1/4 cup of sprinkles for pressing on top of rolled out cookie dough balls.

Chill the balls of dough on the cookie sheet for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. This step will prevent the cookies from spreading too much in the oven.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and bake chilled cookie dough for 8 - 9 minutes. The cookies will appear under-done and very soft. Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes before moving them to a wire rack.

Makes 14 - 16 large cookies.

Amy's Favourite Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies
115g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g (1/2 cup) packed brown sugar
50 g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
185g (3/4 cup) peanut butter
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
160g (1 1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

In a large bowl using stand mixer with paddle attachment or a hand-held mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together on medium speed until well combined. Add the peanut butter, egg, and vanilla and beat until smooth. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Turn the mixer to low and slowly pour in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix until combined and a dough is formed. Gently fold in chocolate chips.

Scoop two tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Repeat. 

Chill the balls of dough on the cookie sheet for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. This step will prevent the cookies from spreading too much in the oven.

Bake cookies on a baking tray lined with parchment, for 9 - 10 minutes or until very lightly browned on the sides. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack. 

Makes 14 - 16 large cookies.

Ice Cream Sandwiches
Cookies of your choice
Ice cream of your choice

Take ice cream out of the freezer and let it soften a little bit at room temperature, roughly ten to fifteen minutes. As ice cream is softening, take a baking tray or casserole dish and line with parchment paper. Spoon the soft ice cream into the baking tray lined with parchment paper and create one even surface of ice cream that is roughly 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Return ice cream to freezer and let ice cream firm up. 

Once cookies have cooled (this is very important!) take the sheet of ice cream from the freezer and use a cookie cutter to cut out perfectly round discs of ice cream. Sandwich an ice cream disc between two cookies.

Alternatively, you can just spoon spoonfuls of ice cream between two cookies and skip the freezing and cookie cutter steps. You will have a more "rustic" looking ice cream sandwich. I like the clean lines the cookie cutters create. You can also roll the edges of the ice cream sandwiches in sprinkles or crushed nuts for extra fun.

I recommend assembling the ice cream sandwiches right before you eat them. You can freeze the ice cream sandwiches, but I think the cookies are better (aka softer and chewier) at room temperature.

Photography & Editing || Victor Yuen
Ice Cream || Earnest Ice Cream