Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Homemade Oreos

I dreamt about my maternal grandma the other night. She had a fall or a hemorrhage, something serious. Then, there was a blur of my parents hurriedly packing a suitcase, announcing they were flying to Hong Kong to see her. I rarely see my grandma in my REM sleep, we were never close.

My strongest memories of her were the way she rapped her chopsticks on the dinner table, scolding me for holding mine improperly, or how I could never understand anything she said, her Cantonese masked in a thick village accent. I got into trouble when she asked a question that required a detailed answer, like, “What time is it?” I’d look at her dumbfounded, begin to nod hesitantly, as if I knew what I was doing, but she'd get angry because a bobbing head had nothing to do with the time. She gave up, threw her arms up in the air and let out a sigh of exasperation (in my defense, my dad also couldn't discern what she said either and got the same punishment).

I’ve been working in nursing homes for the past months and I love love LOVE it. The older age group is enjoyable to work with, their gratefulness and big smiles make my day. Even though sometimes they act like children, (picky with their food, refuse to sit with so and so, call each other nasty names, require a nurse to spoon feed all their meals and drinks), there's also the heartbreaking stories of families who dump their parents into a nursing home--against their will--or the seniors who rarely get a visit from their families and stay in their room, alone with a TV. It bothers me that some people could treat their parents with neglect and disrespect.

There are a few patients that I spend extra time with, they have a great sense of humour and I know how lonely they are. One lady always looks like she just came from the hairstylist, envious grey curls sit on her head and twinkly blue eyes that sparkle when she talks about her husband. She flashed me by accident once and giggled, “Oops! Didn’t mean for that to pop out!” Other days, she weeps, complaining about her pain. I know it’s not only physical pain, but loneliness too, so I take her hand and soothe her with some hot tea. Spending time with old folks makes me think of my grandparents. My grandpa died young with a sudden bout of pneumonia and my grandma suffers from Alzheimer’s disease that is so advanced, she barely recognizes my mom. I like to think being at the nursing homes make up for the time I didn't have with my grandparents.

On a happier note, I have a soft spot for Oreos: Oreo cheesecake, Oreo milkshake, crushed Oreos in my McFlurry, a plate of Oreos with milk while watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory. I’ve tried making homemade Oreos before but they ended up looking like monster whoopee pies, the cookie was too fluffy and lacked that signature snap. These cookies however, are crispy and intensely chocolatey and make a fine accompaniment to creamy vanilla filling (or a chocolate filling for a double chocolate threat).

The filling by itself is too buttery and cloying sweet but slathered between chocolate cookies, they are perfect. My favourite part is the oozing filling with each greedy bite. They make spectacular Valentine’s Day treats too; use heart-shaped cookie cutters or add a few drops of red food coloring to the filling to make pink-filled Oreos. If I brought my grandma a few of these, she'd interrogate me, "What kind of cookies were they? What was in them? How did I make them? When did I make them?" I'd just tell her to give them a try and without a doubt, she would love them and eat two or three all at once, her blood sugar skyrocketing.

Chocolate Wafer Cookies
Adapted from Epicurious
1 stick plus 6 tablespoons (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
1 extra-large egg
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1¼ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (plus more for rolling out the dough)
½ cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon extra fine sea salt

In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking soda, and salt.

Using a stand-mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the egg and vanilla, blending well after each addition. Gradually add the flour mixture. Beat until mixture becomes thick and doughy.

Split the dough into two or three pieces, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until firm. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Once the dough has chilled, remove one of the pieces of dough from the refrigerator. Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour and roll out the dough in to a round shape until about 1/8 inch thick. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.

Preheat the oven to 325°F, set rack to the centre of the oven. Place all of the dough back in the refrigerator, still wrapped in plastic and chill for another 15 to 20 minutes or until firm again. Working with one piece at a time, cut rounds of cookies with a 2-inch round cookie cutter. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. Gather the scraps of dough, roll them flat, chill, and cut more rounds.

Place the rounds of dough on the baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets and bake for 4 to 6 minutes more, until firm but not burned.

Cool the cookies for 5 to 10 minutes on the baking sheets. If they are too soft once they have cooled for 10 minutes, put them back in the oven and bake for another 2 minutes for to make sure they are crispy. Once the cookies are baked and cooled, transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Creamy Vanilla Filling

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cup icing sugar
teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
A pinch of extra fine sea salt

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until completely smooth and soft. You can also use an electric handheld mixer or wooden spoon.
Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is perfectly smooth. Add the milk and salt and beat until smooth. The filling will look like white spackle and feel about the same—like putty. You should have about 1 cup. (The filling can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.)

Assembling the Oreos
Scoop about 1 rounded tablespoon of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie. Top with a second cookie, flat side down, then press the cookies together to spread the filling toward the edges. Repeat with the remaining cookies. 

Recipe here!

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