Saturday, November 14, 2015

Orange and Pistachio Sandwich Cookies with Mascarpone Cream

Over the summer I decided to treat myself to a cooking class, sort of like a graduation present to myself. I had several classes in mind, but I settled on "Cooking Without a Recipe". My confidence in throwing together a meal from whatever ingredients are around has improved over the last couple of years, but I still felt that I could benefit from a class on flavor pairings and techniques. It was an all-day class, with a demo in the morning and then cooking in groups after lunch. For some reason, I thought a few hours of watching someone else cook might get boring, but it was awesome. Food Network live, but you get to eat the food.

We were in groups of three for the afternoon session. We were handed a list of ingredients and told to sketch out a menu (we did three courses). At first, I had really wanted to work with meat, because I feel that that's a weakness of mine, but I was itching to bake that day. I saw oranges and almonds on the list, which reminded me that I wanted to try that combination with a basic slice-and-bake recipe. I almost went for it, but then I saw pistachios. I knew oranges and pistachios were a classic combination, although I don't think I'd ever had it. In my "flavor imagination"*, it seemed like a combination that could elevate a plain sugar cookie to a fancier dessert. Then I saw the mascarpone, without much conscious thought, I decided these would be sandwich cookies with mascarpone cream.

Near the end of the class, we served our food to the instructors, and then each other (both within and among our groups). My cookies were really well received, which made me proud. I'd never made mascarpone cream before, nor had I ever put my own twist on a basic recipe. But what really made my day was that the instructor (a professional chef), called them "phenomenal". I have no desire to go into cooking/baking as a career, but it was still gratifying to hear someone tell me that I'm good at it.

I hope you enjoy these as much as my instructor did!

* I sincerely hope someone out there has come up with a better term than "flavor imagination".

Orange and Pistachio Sandwich Cookies with Mascarpone Cream
Yield: A ton of cookies. Maybe about 30-40 sandwich cookies - I honestly didn't count.

Ingredients
For the cookies:
1 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 T orange zest
2 T finely chopped pistachios (from about two heaping tbsp whole pistachios)

For the filling:
8 oz mascarpone cheese
2 T finely chopped pistachios
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp orange zest
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. In a mixer, a food processor with a dough blade, or by hand, cream the butter and sugar.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add this to the wet ingredients and mix until well blended.
  5. Mix in 1 T orange zest and 2 T pistachios.
  6. Scoop dough by the teaspoonful onto cookie sheets, and bake for 10-12 minutes.
  7. While the cookies cool, mix together all of the filling ingredients.
  8. Once the cookies have cooled completely, spread some filling on the bottoms of half of the cookies, and then top it with another cookie.
Notes:
  1. Depending on how much filling you put on each cookie, you may run a little short on the filling. I prefer these with a small amount of filling because otherwise I find that the cream overpowers the orange flavor in the cookie. But if you fill them with more cream, the leftover cookies that don't get cream are still delicious.
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