These days we find ourselves often looking out the kitchen window toward our friend Bridgette’s house. She, her husband, and her four very blond children (Scando Kids) defected in June — okay, well, she graduated from Uni with her law degree, and has moved to San Francisco to pursue the rest of her happiness.
The day we said goodbye, we met in the middle of the street in a flurry of hugs and well wishes. It occurred to both of us, then, that we had neither one been inside the other’s home, though we’d met last Spring.
Here’s the thing about everyday life: if you let it, it will make you into a terrible, terrible friend. You get busy. You get mired in routine. You get hung up on your own little grumpies and insecurities. You stay home. You never go downstairs, cross the street, and buzz the neighbor to come over for tea.
Granted: Bridgette and D. are students. Bridgette’s four kids are students. Bridgette’s husband and T. are very busy with their own business and interests, and all of our paths have diverged in nineteen different directions. Still…
Missing Bridgette waving from the window across the street is a little pinch — well, really, a little kick in the behind — that reminds us to be better friends to the people we have around us.
We finally had our friend C. over, and had our delayed Christmas-in-July dinner, and in honor of that, we made homemade sandwich cookies. Now, The Gluttonous Vegan calls them No-Reos, and Smitten Kitchen just called them handmade Oreos. To us, they’re just too sweet to be that classic cookie, and they’re also far too soft — but they’re yummy, and they look a lot like the cookies on which you see Cookie Monster chowing down on Sesame Street. Next time we make them, we’ll cut the oil required in half — we want a dryer, crisper cookie — and cut the sugar another third to give a greater contrast between the filling and the cookie itself. Also, we’ll make up the filling and add a drop more mint than we think we need, because the flavor seems to evaporate in the face of the sugar.
Here is the recipe, as it stands — we hope you fiddle with it and share your variations
Mini Monster Sammich Cookies
- 1 1/4 cup plain/all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- scant 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup sugar (Seriously? You can get away with 3/4 c.)
- 1 cup butter or margarine, softened (Seriously: you can get away with less.)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. milk
Sift together your dry ingredients, except for the sugar. In a small bowl cream sugar with your margarine, vanilla and milk, then add dry ingredients, a little at a time, until you have a dark, fragrant and smooth blend. This may give your hand mixer a run for its money; it’s quite a sticky dough.
We rolled out our dough between two layers of plastic wrap, then scored them so that we had four rows of nine squares. With moistened hands, we took each small square and rolled it, placing it about an inch and a half apart on the Silpat. (Parchment paper or a plain pan will do, too.) When our pan was filled with little balls of cookie dough, we lay a plastic wrap over the lot of them, and flattened them with a bench scraper. (If you want to flatten your cookies to an individual thickness, a guide like a pair of chopsticks comes in handy. We used these for the large cookies.)
Because Oreos are stamped (actually they’re probably baked in a pan with concave lettering so it stands out on the cookie when it’s baked) with words, we thought we’d make our own cookies specific and Christmas related. From T’s box of rubber stamps we located (and thoroughly washed) a star stamp, and used it to mark each cookie. The stamp must be one with a simple pattern and a lot of deep grooves to work.
We baked these cookies at 350°F/175°C for nine minutes per batch.
The filling of the cookies is easy enough — but we cheated. We had leftover cream cheese frosting from D’s workplace going-away-party cinnamon buns, so we added icing sugar to that and a bit of mint extract. For a from-scratch cookie filling, we’d suggest
2/3 c. of butter,
about a cup and a half of powdered or icing sugar,
a scant teaspoon of mint, orange, or almond extract. Or a high quality vanilla, if you must.
Cream the butter and add the sugar a little at a time, on a low speed, until you have a fluffy frosting.
We used a parchment paper bag and piped a half-inch circular schmear of frosting on a single cookie, and twisting on the cookie caps. We ended up with far more frosting than we needed, and tried to open the cookies and add more — be careful! The cookies want to stay together, once the frosting is set. A gentle twisting motion will reopen them as necessary, but it’s better to err on the side of adding too much filling instead of too little. Too much will at least squish out!
You needn’t wait to have friends over to make these. Heck, you can make these, shove them in a box, and just take them across the street, ring the bell, — and run away. Or, take them to work, and worry your coworkers with why you’re being so nice. Or, leave a box in the mailbox for the postman, or feed them to your kids with a glass of ice cold almond milk. We took a load of ours to friends with a new baby – and hope they enjoy eating them as much as we enjoyed making them.
Look up from your routine – and see the people around you. The sweet possibilities for friendship are endless.