Lavender Fields Forever! Milano Cookies – Daring Bakers

July 27, 2009 at 8:45 am 60 comments

I don’t like a lot of store-bought, commercial cookies. I’ve never really liked Oreos, Chips Ahoy, or Mother’s cookies, preferring instead to make my own sandwich cookies and chocolate chip studded sweets. But when I saw July’s Daring Bakers challenge – a version of the Pepperidge Farm milano cookie – I knew right away I would like it.

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

The original plan was a lemon and basil milano – lemon cookies and a basil ganache.  At first I decided to use a shell shaped cookie mold, but it was too deep and the milanos came out more like madeleines. I realized that the cookies did indeed have to be very thin to be crispy enough. I tried to follow the instructions exactly and used the remaining batter to pipe out milanos.

Oh man. They looked like amoebas. Seriously. Not two the same size and shape.

So I tried again. I decided to make ginger milano cookies. Instead of piping, I decided to trace outlines on parchment paper and spoon the batter on top. I thought this might help make more uniform cookies, especially since I could be sure to use the same amount of batter for each one. This sort of worked, but not really. They were still coming out like special and unique snowflakes… that is to say, quite unappealing.

I got more and more frustrated as my dad came up behind me and handed me something he’d made – a stencil. He’d cut it out of a paper plate, leaving part of the rim attached, so it was like a little handle. I tried this out, using a teaspoon to get the same amount of batter each time. I had such high hopes as I slid the pan into the oven.

But they came out still oddly shaped. I tried again, and this time I chilled the stenciled milanos. And then, what the heck, it couldn’t hurt, I decided to bake the tray on the highest oven rack possible. I pulled out the pan, and to my surprise, I had a batch of perfectly shaped cookies, barely golden brown around the edges. The only complaint? No ginger flavor. So much for ginger milanos.

They did taste lemony (I would think so considering the amount of extract,) and I pondered the flavor of the ganache. I didn’t feel like chopping basil, which had been the original plan. I stood in the kitchen with the eggs in one hand and the butter in the other, feeling blank. I’d never waited this long to do a challenge before, and I was not feeling much of a creative spark. Suddenly, I remembered the lavender.

My grandma had read about a lavender farm, Mountain Meadow Lavender, in the News Tribune. So my mother and I took a day off work and drove to Roy, Washington. It’s a beautiful drive through dark green trees and grassy fields full of grazing cows, who lift their heads lazily as the cars go by, long stalks bobbing between their lips. When we got there, we met one of the owners, Barbara Hulscher.

Barbara owns 600 lavender plants, a big barn for drying lavender, and a little gift shop. She lives right next to the garden – or, I suppose it would be more accurate to say, the lavender farm is her home. And really, it’s a beautiful home. The lavender is in neat rows, every stem long and waving slightly in the breeze. You can smell the lavender from a distance. Even for someone like me, terrified of bees, it was easy to forget about all that as I took a tour of the farm.

Inside the gift shop, Barbara showed us all the different lavender products she offered. Lavender sachets, lavender soap and lotion, lavender pillows… When I came across lavender tea, lavender jam, and lavender baking mixes – for lavender chocolate chip cookies and lavender poppy seed muffins – my interest was stirred. We began to talk about lavender in baking, and I told her I’d made Lavender Ice Cream and it was delicious. She went inside and came back with recipes in her hand for lavender cakes, muffins, and crumbles. I thanked her and mentally made a note to get cracking on some lavender recipes.

We left with some lavender plants for our garden and this – a jar of ground culinary lavender.

It couldn’t have been easier. I added a tablespoon to the cream and didn’t even bother to strain it out before combining it with the chocolate. I grabbed the prettiest milanos from the last two batches and spread half of them with the ganache.

Wow. The lavender pairs so, so nicely with the chocolate, and the cookies were crisp and the whole thing just worked. I couldn’t have been more surprised considering how many mistakes and failures I’d had throughout this challenge, which I had expected to be simple.

The verdict? It was not a pleasant recipe for me to make, especially not twice. But the cookies were delicious. And the lavender… Fragrant, flowery, and prepared to slip into more baked goods in the future.

Since the ginger flavor was nearly nonexistent, I’m not including it in the name or recipe. However, you can try it yourself if you’d like. I used 2 teaspoons of ground ginger, and it was definitely not enough. As for the final cookie, we found it tastes better after being popped in the freezer for five to ten minutes.

Lavender Milano Cookies
Adapted from Gale Gand

Cookie
12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon extract
1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour

Ganache Filling
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon ground culinary lavender

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.

Use a teaspoon to spoon batter onto parchment lined sheets. Spread with finger or use stencil to make milano shape, leaving 2″ between each cookie. Chill sheets briefly, then bake on the highest possible oven rack for 10 minutes or until slightly golden brown around edges. Cool on cookie sheets.

To make ganache, scald cream and ground lavender in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour over chopped chocolate and stir to combine. Let ganache cool and, while still soft, spread a small amount on one cookie and top with another.

Printer Friendly Version – Lavender Milano Cookies

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60 Comments Add your own

  • 1. lisamichele  |  July 27, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Elissa, the stencil idea is brilliant. I just used as steady a hand as I could when piping, but only maybe half came out perfect. It got better as I went on, but I still had maps, weird shapes etc..lol
    Yours look AMAZING, and although I’m not a huge lavender fan whren it comes to my my food (tastes like baby smell or grandma’s pperfume, to me..lol), I would try yours in a heartbeat. They look gorgeous and delicious! Well done!

    Reply
  • 2. kai  |  July 27, 2009 at 10:02 am

    hey!

    those look amazing. let me know if you have left overs from any amazing baking projects you’ve been working =] the lavender in particular looks wonderful.

    i miss you and your baking! <3

    Reply
  • 3. Jesse  |  July 27, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Your stencil idea reminds me of how I make tuiles. I am a fan of lavender and chocolate.

    Reply
  • 4. katie  |  July 27, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Oooh, I love lavender in chocolate. So tasty!

    You’d never guess you had a hard time making these cookies, they’re so sweet!

    Katie xox

    Reply
  • 5. Lauren  |  July 27, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Wow! Your cookies look amazing =D. I love the sound of lavender and chocolate – Yum!!

    Reply
  • 6. Kim, Rambling Family Manager  |  July 27, 2009 at 11:38 am

    These look FANTASTIC and I love your story about the lavender farm. You are one talented woman- you can bake, take great photos, and write so that I felt like I was there with you. :)

    Reply
  • 7. Dolce  |  July 27, 2009 at 11:50 am

    My my my… One day, when I am daring enough (and have the whole day to tackle the matter) I may consider doing one of those!

    Reply
  • 8. Charisse  |  July 27, 2009 at 11:53 am

    These sound amazing. And I love that you told the WHOLE story about your mesups, as well as the final, amazing, end product. I can almost smell the lavender…

    Reply
  • 9. CookiePie  |  July 27, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Your cookies are gorgeous!! So perfect looking. Great job!

    Reply
  • 10. Amanda  |  July 27, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    The lavendar farm sounds like a great day trip diversion. I bet it smelled fantastic for miles. :)

    You are so persistent to redo the cookies when they didn’t work the first time. Unless I have people waiting on a cake or something, I usually just blog about the disaster and give up!

    Reply
  • 11. Sis  |  July 27, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    I’ve never baked with lavendar before – I’ll have to give it a try. Your cookies look perfect.

    Reply
  • 12. nutmegnanny  |  July 27, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Such a creative use of lavender! These looks lovely:)

    Reply
  • 13. isabelle  |  July 27, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Wow! Lavender such a wonderful idea!
    Your cookies are beautiful, delicate and extremely tempting! Great job!

    Reply
  • 14. Julia @ Mélanger  |  July 28, 2009 at 3:11 am

    I so love lavender. Great idea to include in these cookies. I only made the mallow ones, but which I did both!

    Reply
  • 15. Erin  |  July 28, 2009 at 5:18 am

    An absolutely outstanding post Elissa! My favorite one yet. You just keep amazing me with your unique baking talents and lovely stories.

    Reply
  • 16. Valérie  |  July 28, 2009 at 6:03 am

    Culinary lavender always makes me think of a friend of mine who once ate a chocolate muffin that was saturated with lavender. Her brilliant comment was: “I feel like I’m eating bedsheets”.

    Having said that, a hint of lavender goes wonderfully with chocolate. Not only that, but your milans are absolutely perfect! I think we all had problems with getting homogenous cookies, but you are the only one I’ve seen so far who kept on trying until she found a solution. Excellent job!

    Reply
  • 17. Shannon L  |  July 28, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Hi Elissa,

    I made the Milanos too and mine were just atrocious! I piped them and none were the same size. I couldnt get them to bake properly without getting overly brown when getting crispy. I lowered the lemon extract and it made them less lemony and the semisweet in the ganache wasn’t my favorite. I tried trimming the cookies to the same size but that made them uglier and I was just so frustrated I threw them out and didnt even take a picture.

    With summer school online, to get ahead, I didnt have time to remake them so even though I made them and it is my first DB challenge, I have to not post this month!

    Great job making them work, btw!

    Reply
    • 18. Elissa  |  July 28, 2009 at 5:53 pm

      Shannon L – I feel your pain. I was getting so snappy and frustrated as I made them for the second time. I also thought the lemon extract was over the top and reduced it to a tablespoon for my second batch. Best luck on the August challenge and your classes! :)

  • 19. chelsey1016  |  July 28, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    These look incredible!
    I’ll have to try to make these one day.

    Reply
  • 20. lola  |  July 28, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    ooh, i love milanos and i never would have thought of making my own. yours look fantastic!

    Reply
  • 21. swee  |  July 28, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Waking up to the smell of lavender is probably the next best thing.. Great photos :)

    Reply
  • 22. Bakerylove  |  July 29, 2009 at 4:54 am

    WOW, these are definately awesome! It looks very tempting!

    Reply
  • 23. Marian  |  July 29, 2009 at 5:08 am

    I admire your tenacity and determination Elissa… It was worth it wasn’t it! Your cookies look so perfectly lovely! Coupled with your great photography and interesting story-line; the challenge has got to be yours!!

    Reply
  • 24. flory  |  July 29, 2009 at 6:04 am

    oh god, i know the feeling of failure, especially trying the same recipe over and over again without success. but the milanos look pretty damn delicious in any case – who says it has to be pretty to taste good anyway? (:

    Reply
  • 25. Barbara  |  July 29, 2009 at 8:03 am

    Thank you for sharing your stencil idea! Your cookies look perfect and your photo is so lovely with the tea pot! Your trip to the lavender farm sounds so fun.

    Reply
  • 26. Sweet Kitchen  |  July 29, 2009 at 9:50 am

    What a great idea to chill the cookies before baking them! I wish I had thought of it when I was baking mine. These look absolutely stunning.

    Reply
  • 27. Marta  |  July 29, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Oh Elissa!!! What a gorgeous and elegant creation!!!! You are really talented, I just can’t stop being impressed with your creativity and ability. These cookies look great, sorry you had to make them so many times, I’m sure it was worth it, though. Lavander and chocolate are a wonderful pairing. I don’t like storebought sweets either, never have… with just one exception… Milanos!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  • 28. Basht  |  July 29, 2009 at 10:33 am

    thanks so much for your sweet comment.
    yours look so pretty and i can’t say how jealous i am of your trip to the lavander farm. fresh grated ginger might pack a bit more punch, i think i might have to try these now :)

    Reply
  • 29. Angela  |  July 29, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Beautiful milanos! Your photos are lovely — I love the one of the lavender hanging to dry, just gorgeous.

    I tried the stencils, too, for my first few batches, but it didn’t help much. Chilling might have helped me, too. Great job!

    Reply
  • 30. Kenna  |  July 29, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Gorgeous photos, Elissa. I’m so jealous – wish I could take pics like that! Your milanos look delicious.

    Reply
  • 31. Rosa  |  July 29, 2009 at 11:49 am

    Your Milan Cookies are perfect! They look so delicious! I love that flavor combo…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    Reply
  • 32. art and lemons  |  July 29, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Wow! Perfect wafer-thin milans, your technique is a success. While I love your initial thought to make lemon basil milans, the lavender is even more of a surprise tucked inside the chocolate ganache.

    Reply
  • 33. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella  |  July 29, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Just gorgeous! I love cooking with flowers and lavender, violet and rose are my favourites :) Beautiful job!

    Reply
  • 34. elra  |  July 29, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    Hoe perfect is that!. I’m impress, your Milan cookies are so thin!
    Bravo!

    Love lavender, I plants rows of this in my backyard.

    Reply
  • 35. Celeste  |  July 29, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Your milanos are pure perfection!!! CONGRATS on an awesome challenge! :)

    Reply
  • 36. awoz  |  July 29, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Your pictures are beautifull and I am wondering how did your milano taste with that touch of lavender…

    Reply
    • 37. Elissa  |  July 29, 2009 at 6:54 pm

      Awoz – They were great! The lavender was very, very present but not overpowering at all, and it paired really nicely with the chocolate.

  • 38. alana  |  July 29, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    My friends make fun of me because I like to put lavender in everything- but I didn’t think of using it here- what a great idea! I love this post- great job and thank you for taking us to the lavender farm.

    Reply
  • 39. BitterSweet  |  July 29, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Stunning photos… And the sound of that lavender flavor is so enticing!

    Reply
  • 40. Rachelle @ "Mommy? I'm Hungry!"  |  July 29, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Hi Elissa,

    I love the lavender flavor you added! I’ve used it in a few baked goods too, and love it!

    I’ve awarded you with the Kreativ blogger award! Stop by and pick it up!

    http://ldylvbgr.blogspot.com/2009/07/kreativ-blogger-award.html

    Reply
  • 41. Shelly (cookies and cups)  |  July 30, 2009 at 6:37 am

    Great adding the lavender. I have wondered how much this would actually add to a recipe, or would it make your food taste like a candle or something. Glad to hear that it works!
    I will give it a try…and btw, your cookies do not look like amoebas, they’re great!

    Reply
  • 42. Christina  |  July 30, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Lavendar and chocolate sounds absolutely lovely! Beautiful job!

    Reply
  • 43. Anita  |  July 30, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    That’s quite a few tries… but they look gorgeous! Lovely to use the lavender too!

    Reply
  • 44. Tina  |  July 31, 2009 at 5:44 am

    Even though you had a a couple of failures, your cookies came out looking perfect! Love your pictures!

    Reply
  • 45. Baking Monster  |  July 31, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Elissa! Your amazing. I’m not as talented as you though so when I saw this post the other day I went and bought them from the store. :) but great job!

    Reply
  • 46. Aparna  |  August 1, 2009 at 4:56 am

    Looks like your dad’s stencil and the refrigeration worked, because your cookies look perfect to me.

    Reply
  • 47. Bumblebutton  |  August 1, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Wow…what a memorable way to get the whole family involved. Lovely job, and lovely experience!

    Reply
  • 48. Sabiilaa  |  August 2, 2009 at 1:49 am

    Wow! Perfectly thin milans! just gorgeous!! They look so delicious! I love that flavor!..Thank you for dropping by =)

    Reply
  • 49. asti  |  August 6, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    yummm.. lavender is one of my favourite flavours, especially in cookies. Too bad is not in season here at the moment. Well done, everything looks lovely.

    Reply
  • 50. Talita  |  August 9, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Your cookies look so thiny! Love them! Surely were delicious!

    Reply
  • 51. Barbara Hulscher  |  August 25, 2009 at 10:34 am

    I tried your cookies!! They were great – I have told alot of people about your blog and your trip to our lavender farm. Thank you so much for your interest. You are very talented.

    Reply
  • [...] Lavender Milano Cookies [...]

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Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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