CRANBERRY VIENNESE SANDWICH CREAMS
The crochet side-pate is from Dishes Only.
THEY ARE THE COOKIE-VERSION OF A FEEL-GOOD MOVIE, EMOTIONALLY EQUIVALENT TO A BOX OF GOLDEN TWIN-PUPPIES EACH HUGGING A HAPPY GIGGLE.
This is what I’ve been busy with for the past 7 days, recreating Mark & Spencer’s Viennese raspberry sandwich creams. What does that say about me, spending 84 hours scrutinizing a processed junk-food from a super chainstore, I don’t know. But I had to make it.
If you ever had childhood experience of reaching into a tin-box, and sneaking one of those buttery nuggets of vanilla cookies into your mouth as your first memory of pure foodgasm, then I guess, you can sort of understand. But this, this is better, upgraded. You can either go to your nearest M&S to see for yourself, or you can stay here and do it at home. But how I got here, however unexpectedly long it took, was no vanilla road. Checking out all the trusted recipes that were already out there, which, affirmingly, were all very similar to one another, let’s just say that I thought it was gonna be easy. If they all agreed on it, it must work fine, right? Humppphhh…
I made my first batch last weekend. Well, it did work fine… how do I put it… wonderfully just okay I guess. Wonderful in the sense that, flavor-wise, it was exactly what Viennese cookies are supposed to taste like, fireworks of buttery crumbs exploding in a vanilla sky. No doubt about that. But just okay because, and maybe I was being obsessively anal about it but still, I had a major textural issue with them. It was one thing to have cookies with so much butter that they “melt in my mouth”, but it was something else entirely when they could barely hold themselves together even under the slightest pressure of a finger. Like, I was scared to touch them… like literally, they eroded on my fingers. I mean, if that sounds like a “dat a problem?” to you, then great, but I might add that they also had a paste-like and almost glue-ish texture in the mouth that… I just couldn’t quite get over.
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But the struggle didn’t stop there. Can we also talk about my unhealthy fixation on that pinkish raspberry filling, too? First I tried mixing raspberry jam with powdered sugar… NOPE, unless a gloppy syrup without a trace of raspberry flavour is what you like. Then I tried the good-old boring white frosting with a layer of raspberry jam, as how it was mostly accomplished by the norm but… Still NOPE, because, obviously, duh, that was just cheating. I want it all-in-one! I want that vibrant pink! I want that berry-flavour! But how do I induce a prominent amount of berry-ness into a butter frosting without compromising its texture?
So, I tested again (and then again… and possibly again), slightly reducing the butter-ratio in the cookies and adding just a small, but significant, tablespoon of creme fraiche to act as a textural scaffold. As for the frostings, I realised that the answer so conveniently corresponding with the season approaching was, all along, finely ground dried cranberries. Or dried raspberries if you can find them but you know, I’m going to cut myself some slack. It makes for the most gorgeously thick, pink-hued frosting with a glossy sheen. OH right, and then salt, yes salt, in the cookies and also sprinkled on top and in the frosting as well. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why a lot of the other recipes didn’t include it. Major difference.
And there, I have it. Fifty-plus whirls of tiny vanilla heaven with delicate and buttery crumbs, sandwiching an oozy layer of tart and sweet frosting smiling with a blush. They are the cookie-version of a feel-good movie, emotionally equivalent to a box of golden twin-puppies each hugging a big giggle. I would almost sell you on the whole, perfect-holiday-season-gift-that-will-forever-put-you-on-the-guest-list potential of it, but I’m not gonna. Because truth is, you probably wouldn’t want to part with them. You’ll probably feel a bit attached. It’s OK. If anybody could, I understand, as I’m trying to fish out the crumbs that are now falling in between my keyboard.
I should probably stop. Talking to you that is.
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Viennese whirls recipe adapted generously from BBC Food
- 1 cup (125 grams) dried cranberries
- 3 tbsp (42 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 tbsp (51 grams) creme fraiche
- 1 1/2 cup (180 grams) powdered sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 cup (220 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp (16 grams) creme fraiche
- 2 cups (248 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (67 grams) potato starch or cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 + 1/8 tsp salt
- Flakey sea salt to dust
- TO MAKE THE CRANBERRY BUTTER FROSTING: In a food-processor, pulse dried cranberries for about 2 min until it comes into a paste-like consistency. Add the unsalted butter and run until the mixture is evenly blended. You should NOT be able to see bits of butter in the mixture. Add the creme fraiche and run again until smooth, then add the powdered sugar and salt and run until evenly mixed (you may have to scrape the sides/bottom a few times). Transfer into a bowl and set aside.
- TO MAKE THE VIENNESE WHIRLS: Preheat the oven on 350 F/175 C. Rinse the food-processor bowl and blade under hot tap-water until clean, then dry with a clean towel. Add the unsalted butter and powdered sugar, then run the machine for 3~4 min, scraping the sides/bottom a few times in between, until the butter is extremely soft and silky. It should be in a consistency where it does not clump up at the side of the food-processor bowl, but is able to move fluidly in the motion of the blade. Now add the creme fraiche and run just until evenly mixed, then add flour, potato starch (or cornstarch), vanilla extract and salt. Pulse a few times in the beginning to get it going, scraping the sides/bottom a few times, then run continuously for about 30 seconds until the cookie-paste is very smoothly blended.
- Transfer the cookie-paste into a piping bag attached with a small star-shaped tip (if you don't have a star-shaped tip, just a round hole will do fine). I find it much easier to pipe when the bag is only filled half-way, then refill later. Squeeze and knead the cookie-paste inside the piping-bag as you push it towards the tip. This softens the paste further, making it easier to pipe, and also eliminates air-bubbles and makes it a smoother paste. Rub a bit of vegetable oil on a baking-sheet then line with parchment paper (the oil sticks the parchment so it doesn't move, which makes the piping a lot easier). Pipe the cookie-paste into small rounds about 1 1/4" (3 cm) in diameter, with about 2" (5 cm) of space in between.
- Sprinkle a few specks of sea salt on each, then bake in the oven for 16~18 min until the edges are slightly browned. Let cool on the sheet for 5 min, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat with the rest of the cookie-paste.
- TO SANDWICH THE COOKIE: Place a generous nub, about 1heaping tsp of the cranberry butter frosting between 2 cookies, then gently press them together until the filling extend to the edge. Try not to eat them faster than you can make them, as you finish with the rest.