(This article appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)
There are some types of pastry that are held in high regard either for their difficulty to master or for their pure decadence of ingredients or cost. The category that I want to bring to light today is one that is deceptively simple, yet requires attention to detail and imagination to execute at a high level. This item is none other than the sandwich cookie.
The sandwich cookie, by name, became popular here in the United States due to the overwhelming success of the Oreo chocolate sandwich cookie between 1937-1974. If you think about it, many of our favorite store-bought cookies are sandwich cookies. Many pastry chefs have used store-bought cookies – such as Nutter Butters and Milanos – as a source of inspiration. That said, the practice of gluing two cookies together with a delicious filling has been around for an exceedingly long time. I would suggest that the French have been producing the most celebrated sandwich cookie of them all for years, the lovely macaron.
So why are sandwich cookies so amazing? Why are they capable of creating high level pastry art? Let’s look at the actual construction and design of a sandwich cookie. The first most important element is the cookie itself. It must be firm enough to hold a filling, and be decorated without being too dry or heavy when doubled up. A tender sugar cookie or shortbread cookie is an example of what will work well when sandwiched.
Secondly, there are many options for fillings. Sandwich cookies may be filled with ganache, jams, buttercreams, or nut butters. It is possible to use double fillings, as well. The most important thing to bear in mind when selecting the filling is that it pairs well with the cookies. I always do the hard work of testing finished cookies with a dollop of several filling options to find the best parings. Fillings must not be too soft, or the cookies will slide apart, and not too sweet.
The third and final step to the sandwich cookies is the finishing. Whether dipped or drizzled, the top finish adds finesse and flavor. Perhaps this is why petite sandwich cookies are almost always found at a high tea. Finishing touches must set well so that the person enjoying the cookie can easily pick it up with their fingertips, leaving minimal sweet evidence behind.
With these three elements in play, many exciting combinations can be created. Hey, Sugar (www.heysugargeneva.com/) is a coffee shop based in Geneva, Illinois. This upscale coffee shop and Instagram-able bakery has added Milano cookies to their bakery display. They even make them with pink or baby blue chocolate dips for a ‘gender reveal’ surprise.
These are also efficient during holiday cookie making, where one batch of piped spritz cookie can create piped rosettes as well as flat oval cookies. The rosettes can be jam filled and the ovals ganache filled. Either can be dipped or drizzled in white, dark or colored chocolate. Sandwich cookies can be enjoyed plain or lightly dusted with powdered sugar or cocoa powder.
Jimmy MacMillan is a celebrated pastry chef, food writer, and award-winning videographer. Working under the label Pastry Virtuosity, his mission is to inspire and nurture pastry chefs and sweet businesses one project at a time. For more information, visit: www.pastryvirtuosity.com.