Monday, September 21, 2015

Oreos and the Grand Rheological Study of Frosting


Recently, after talking to a friend, I was left wondering what I would sell if I could market any of my crafty confectionary crafts. As difficult as this may be to believe, my favorite treats to bake are Whoopie Pies and not Cupcakes, so I started pondering just how viable of a product they could be. While I think the flavor is top notch (especially the coffee version), they do have a tragic flaw in that the filling is far too soft for longevity and transport outside of being nearly constantly refrigerated. Clearly, the best way to approach this would be a comprehensive scientific experiment comparing how various filling respond to stress, shear, and warmth. Or I could just make two different ones, eat a bunch of cookies, and let my stomach brain decide.

Oreos
Chocolate, sugar, and butter. Yes please.
Adapted from Flour owner Joanne Chang
Servings: ~ 20-25 oreos
Time: 4 hours (inactive for 3)

Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
Fluffy buttercream
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Buttercream Filling
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk
Pinch of salt


Your log of dough presented without further comment...
  1. Whisk the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl until combined. Then whisk in the vanilla and melted chocolate. Stir in the egg until fully incorporated.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together.
  3. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mix with a wooden spoon until a thick dough forms. 
  4. Realize you forgot to add half of the butter, hastily add the rest, and pray to God it doesn't affect the final results, but vow to not let your readers make the same mistake by actually writing how many sticks it is...
  5. Cover and set aside for 1 hour at room temp until firm.
  6. Put the dough on a long sheet of parchment paper and roll it out into a rough log approximately 10" long by 2.5" in diameter. 
  7. Laugh at what your rough log looks like because you are an adult.
  8. Put the log at one of the edges of the parchment paper. Then roll it up and into a nicer log fully covered by the parchment paper.
  9. Refrigerate for 2 hours. You may need to re-roll it every 15-20 minutes or so to maintain its shape. I highly recommend you just be lazy and roll the dice. 
  10. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  11. Cut the dough into 1/4" thick pieces. Then place the slices on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and space them ~ 1" apart.
  12. Bake for 17-20 minutes. Take them out when they are firm when touched in the center. Let them cool on the cookie sheets so they firm up slightly more. Be careful not to overbake them. 
  13. Make the filling by beating the butter on low speed in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 30 seconds. Add in the vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in the milk and salt until you have a somewhat thick yet spreadable mixture.
  14. Put ~ 1 tbsp of filling in between two fairly consistently shaped cookies and make your cookie sandwich.
  15. Prepare the other filling 
They look so lonely without the cream filling.
Let's start with discussion of the cookies. These were super tasty Oreo substitutes that were definitely worth the effort. I did find them to be a little salty, but that could be a major plus for those who are super into the whole salty-sweet combo (or you could drop the salt to 1/2 tsp if that's not your thing). The chocolate really came through, and the resulting taste was a beautiful mix of brownie and traditional Oreo. Structurally, the cookies highly resembled their Oreo counterparts, so be careful as they may be somewhat brittle if you try to break them or cut them up. The accompanying crunch was just begging to be counterbalanced by delicious creamy filling, and fortunately, we had two options.

Oreo Filling
Also the world's most delicious caulk.
From King Arthur Flour
Servings: just barely enough
Time: 5 minutes

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cold water, or enough to bring the filling together

  1. Beat together the sugar, shortening, salt, and vanilla until you have large dry crumbs. 
  2. Add the water and beat until stiff but spreadable. 
  3. This is best used by first rolling into a ball and then smushing between two cookies. 
Traditional Oreo filling that is resistive to the elements

The much fluffier and sweeter buttercream counterpart
Each filling presented its own unique strengths and weaknesses. The buttercream filling from Flour was by far the sweeter and tastier of the two, which worked wonders with the aforementioned salty cookie. However, it was still like any other buttercream and would likely not respond to warmth as well, although it did handle being out in room temp for an entire work day pretty well (and much better than my usual cream cheese based ones would have). On the other hand, the more traditional, shortening based Oreo filling was an almost exact rendering of the product we all know and love. It was essentially a brick wall when it came to heat and force to deliver the best prospects for future sales. Unfortunately, it was the clear loser in the taste department (although still quite good) as the buttercreams disappeared far more rapidly. With some tinkering, though, I think this could be exactly what I was looking for. Perhaps some hybridization of the two would provide exactly the balance I seek, or maybe some additional flavors being incorporated could sweeten things up just the right amount. Despite some remaining questions, this was a rare experiment where everyone came out a winner.

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