On Sunday, thirty self-proclaimed sugar-tooths gathered at the Bell House to see whose confection could take home the glory of the 2nd Annual Cookie Takedown. The event, hosted by Matt Timms of the long revered Chili-Takedown, drew amateur and professional bakers alike toting ski parkas, ear muffs, and goodie bags containing 250 samples of their finest cookie morsels.
Spirits were high as attendees sipped eggnog spiked with a heavy-handed dose of bourbon, compliments of sponsors Bulleit Bourbon, and they piled their plates high with the thirty different varieties of cookies--from Stoner's Delights dotted with rainbow colored candy morsels, to Not Yo Mama's Chocolate Cookies, which were packed with add-ins and the perfect balance of salty sweetness. Many cookies sought to turn traditional combinations on their head, like the Oreo Cookie Cookie that took an everyday chocolate chip cookie, but instead of chips, added crushed up Oreos. And others seemed to mimic our cookie, putting a sweet spin on savory favorites, like the "Nacho Mama," which sandwiched orange buttercream between triangular sugar cookies.
In the weeks leading up to the event, we went back and forth with a dozen different ideas, trying to gauge what would survive the short trip on the F train, wow the judges with creativity and, most importantly, satisfy the masses' craving for ultimate cookie satisfaction. Cara took the role as executive cookie creator, while Phoebe was in charge of mass appeal factor, since her previous experience as 3rd place audience-choice winner in the November Chili-Takedown (with Brisket Pumpkin Chili) gave her great expertise.
Our conversation began with coffee-toffee cookie sandwiches, but without a conclusion on how to create the right filling or cookie texture. A small part of us was dying to make ice cream cookie sandwiches, but the smart part of us realized this was not practical.
Eventually, at a brainstorming session (aka Hanukah party) with her extended family, Cara hit on a very cool idea. Or rather, credit where credit is due, Cara's Uncle Michael hit on a very cool idea: dumpling cookies. He makes to-die-for chocolate eggrolls for his kids, but we were sure those would actually count as cookies. So with Uncle M's dumpling press in hand, Cara spent the week tweaking brownie batter and wrapper dough, and bringing them to Phoebe, until she came up with a viable plan.
The dough, which wound up resemble pasta dough in more ways than sugar cookie, could be rolled quite thin. The brownie batter, too soupy at room temp, she discovered worked best straight from the fridge. And to complete the picture of a dumpling platter--and add one more delicious note--she developed a sweet, buttery "dipping sauce" with a not-so-subtle kick of espresso.
We met on Saturday afternoon to roll out 250 rounds of dough and gently stuff, crimp, and brush the dumplings with egg wash. As we awaited the coming snowstorm, we rolled, pressed, and baked--again, and again, and again. Lastly, Phoebe recruited her friend Salima's freakishly perfect handwriting for our very enticing sign. I mean, who doesn't want a mouthful of brownie batter dumping?
We may have come away without victory, but we did leave with our backpacks happily full of complementary bourbon, our stomachs stuffed to the brim with our peers' cookie concoctions, and our heads brimming with ideas for next time. (The winning cookie, a chocolate crinkle sandwich had the perfect filling texture and flavor--cream cheese icing! Duly noted.) For the full list of winners, Matt Timms has the recap here.
--Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine of Big Girls, Small Kitchen
Brownie Batter Dumpling Cookies with Espresso Sauce
Makes about 40 cookie dumplings
For the "wrapper":
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1-3 tablespoons walter
In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt, and pulse to combine. Add the butter, egg, and a tablespoon of water, and pulse again. The mixture should quickly become a big ball. If it doesn't slowly add another tablespoon or two of water. Cover the dough and let it rest for half an hour at room temperature or for as long as you'd like in the fridge.
For the batter:
4 tablespoons butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon instant espresso
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons flour
Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave or over a low flame on the stove. Don't let the mixture boil--take it off as soon as it's melted. Add the sugar, molasses, espresso, and vanilla, and stir to combine. Beat the egg in a small bowl, then add to the chocolate mixer and quickly mix it in. Next, add the flour and the salt, and fold them in until combined. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until ready to use.
For the espresso "dipping sauce":
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
Combine the butter, sugar, salt, and cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil slowly, stirring constantly, then boil for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly and making sure the mixture doesn't boil over. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla and espresso. As soon as it's cool enough to taste, check for flavors, adding more salt, vanilla, or espresso as necessary.
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1 small bowl of water
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Roll out the wrapper dough very thinly. It should be almost transparent. Then, using 2.5" round cookie cutters, cut out as many circles as you can. You will need to gather up and re-roll the dough a few times.
Brush one half of a wrapper lightly with water. Just off center, place about 1 teaspoon of brownie batter. Carefully fold the wrapper back over the brownie, pressing to seal. Using the tines of a fork, press all along the edges to seal and achieve a dumpling-like appearance. Brush lightly with egg wash. Repeat with as many dumplings as will fit on a baking sheet.
Bake for 5-6 minutes, until the wrapper dough has firmed up. The cookies should have barely browned.
Serve a big pile alongside a bowl of espresso dipping sauce, slightly warmed.