White lovers and eggy milkshakes
2009 September 12
Well, the Yukster’s birthday is coming up and we are broke and so I am jumping on the “cheap-but-thoughtful-homemade gift” wagon. Namely, my ventures so far have been tackling the mysterious shiroi koibito (literally, “white lover”). These are a brand of cookies that are commonly brought back as souvenirs from Hokkaido and every since I first went to their factory in Sapporo in 2001, I have been a total convert. I only normally get them once every couple of years, but I never forget the taste. They are made up of small tabs of white chocolate sandwiched between two thin and delicate langue de chat or lengua de gato, depending if you’re coming from the French side or the Filipino. The cookies are crunchy, but not so crisp as to be hard or sharp in anyway. They definitely aren’t cakey, though, and that seems to be the real challenge when making proper langue de chats. I wasn’t totally satisfied with my results and they definitely aren’t up to shiroi koibito standards yet, but they are quite yummy.
Shiroi Koibito 白い恋人 (first draft)
I cobbled this first draft together after reading dozens of different variations for lengua de gatos and a couple for langue de chats. I’ll keep modifying it before I’m satisfied, so this is for a small batch — I got around 36 small cookies out of it, which I then sandwiched together.
60 g Salted butter (should be unsalted and you should add salt separately, but for the life of me, I could not find unsalted butter at the ICA)
45 g Confectioner’s sugar
1/8 tsp Vanilla extract
50 g All-purpose flour
1 Egg white (30-40 g)
Now almost every recipe I have read had different orders for mixing; some said to beat the eggs until stiff, others said to barely incorporate them, some sift the flour in last, others said eggs last… there doesn’t seem to be too much consensus. The reason seems (to me) because different people want different things out of their cookies. Some are aiming for the delicate crisp all the way through, but others want a delicate, cakey center. Since I wanted crisp, I followed closer to Filipino versions of lengua de gato.
Make sure your ingredients have been returned to room temperature before beginning!
With a rubber spatula, mix the butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Try not to eat any! You’ll also want to start your oven preheating at around 200 degrees celsius.
Next sift in half the flour. Once it is well incorporated, add the egg white. A few recipes said to beat the egg whites until stiff, but most don’t say a thing about it, so I just half-arsed it and whipped them up until foamy. Next time I think I may try to actually get them stiff; I feel like they would hold up their shape better but without being too heavy.
After you have slowly mixed in the egg, sift in the remaining flour and mix until just incorporated. Ugh, just look at all that butter. Together with the heavy smell of the sugar and vanilla, I just wanted to eat spoonfuls of it. To this day, I have not outgrown my childhood belief that the cookie dough always tastes better than the actual cookies.
Next you’ll want to pipe the cookies out. Spoon all of your dough into a frosting bag (or if you’ve got an undersupplied kitchen like me, any strong plastic bag with one corner snipped off). The general guideline for lengua de gato is to pipe medium lines to around two to four inches, depending on your preferences — but I’ve seen people make them teaspoon shaped, heart shaped, write their name with them… whatever you are daring enough to try. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to duplicate the perfect squares of shiroi koibito, so I just went with the classic shape. Thought they’d look best in a decorative jar anyway.
Then pop them into the oven for something around five minutes. I saｙ “something around” because it could be four and it could be eight — but these cookies will go from “just right” to “thin flakes of ash” in about a minute. I literally squatted in front of the oven and watched them bake, taking them out just as they were starting to brown around the edges.
Move them off the cookie sheet, so that they don’t continue to cook, and then let them cool. I then started to melt my white chocolate to sandwich my lopsided little preciouses together.
Of course you should melt your chocolate in a heat bath. And you should also know — and I should have also remembered — to add some paraffin wax or similar substance if I ever wanted my chocolate to stiffen up again.
Things that I have learned:
3) Chocolate may melt easily, but it sure won’t go back.
It seems like a great metaphor for sticky relationship problems. Anyhow, the problem is that chocolate — in it’s delightful crunchy solid state — is fixed into a particular crystalline structure, on the itsy-bitsy chemical level. But as I have to always keep reminding myself, heat changes things (cf. Things that I have learned #1) and in this case it changes that nice crystalline structure into one that is not so inclined to stay stable at room temperature. Do I sound like I understand molecular physics? Well, I don’t — but the clever people at Discover do. Basically, if you want to try to return it to it’s original state, you’ll need to carefully temper it back down to it. The clever people at Discover also have an idea for seeding the crystal to help your chocolate want to return to its crunchy state, but it didn’t work for me this time, so I may just try to find some cooking wax.
At any rate, I slapped some chocolate on them, sandwiched them together, and left them out to harden. And then waited. And waited. Because, as mentioned, chocolate isn’t terribly inclined to harden again after being melted. After about 24 hours the chocolate had finally stopped being sticky to the touch, but it still definitely wasn’t hard. So there is a lot of room for improvement, but the taste is close to the cookies in my dreams of Hokkaido. Next time I may try to mix it up with a decent recipe for Pepperidge Farm-style Milano cookies, if I can find one, since they are similar in texture to what I’m going for, though a bit heavier…
…But then I was left with just one egg yolk, and I didn’t feel like anything savory, so I made a nostalgic, Japanese-style “milkshake” (ミルクセーキ or mirukuseeki)
Eggy milkshake ミルクセーキ
1-2 egg yolks
2-3 tbsp sugar
300 ml milk
This is really too simple to even call a recipe. Simple mix your egg and sugar together until smooth, then slowly mix your milk in by thirds. If you wish to, you can strain it to make it extra smooth, but I normally don’t bother or notice any difference. And yes, I eat raw eggs here as I have in every other country I’ve lived in and still never once gotten sick from it. Buy them fresh and use them within a couple of days if you want to use them raw, otherwise just cook them up and you’re all set!
And there he has his cookies and his mini pineapple, waiting for him to arrive back home on his birthday! I didn’t have anything to decorate with, so I just printed out a nice pattern from the internet and used that. His other presents will be wrapped old-school-style in interesting newspaper, I think. 😉