This month Daring Bakers’ Challenge was Gale Gand’s cookies, and there were two different varieties to choose from – Milan cookies (ganache-sandwiched thin crispy cookies) and chocolate-covered marshmallow cookies. I intended to make both, and I still do. The marshmallows are in production, four different kinds. I just simply couldn’t finish them on time due to a bunch of circumstances. I will probably post the rest within a week, since dear Nicole from the Sweet Tooth, the host of the challenge, generously extended the posting date. Meanwhile, here’s my interpretation of the Milan cookies.

First ones are lemon-flavored cookies filled with white chocolate and raspberry ganache. I wanted to figure out a perfect formula for white chocolate and fresh berry/fruit puree ganache. I liked the idea to tame the chocolate sweetness with sour fruit. So, I experimented. And the final result was satisfying in every way – flavor was great and the texture was extra-creamy.

The second kind is coconut cookies sandwiched with dark chocolate coconut ganache filling. I used unsweetened coconut milk and a bit of rum in the ganache. It was very nice, but the coconut flavor could be more pronounced. Although, once placed between two coconut cookies, it seemed to get interesting enough.

I loved them both. The cookies were the best (the crispiest) the day they were sandwiched together. I would definitely recommend assembling them the day you plan to serve and keeping the leftovers in the refrigerator.

Makes about 6 dozen total (3 dozen each flavor)

For the cookies:

  • 6 oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups (11 oz) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 7/8 cup egg whites (210 ml), room temperature
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

For the lemon cookies:

  • 1 tbsp pure lemon extract
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour

For the coconut cookies:

  • 1 tbsp pure coconut extract (optional)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup ground unsweetened coconut

For the white chocolate-raspberry ganache (adapted loosely from Sherry Yard’s white chocolate ganache):

  • 6 oz good quality white chocolate, very finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp (45g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, softened
  • 2 tbsp whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp fresh raspberry puree
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup
  • Scant 1 tbsp Chambord
  • A drop of red food coloring (natural preferred), optional, if you wish to enhance the color. I didn’t use it.

For the dark chocolate-coconut ganache:

  • 4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp (15g) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup unsweetened full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup
  • ½ tbsp dark rum

Make the cookies:

Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 350F. Line a large baking pan (or pans) with parchment or silicone baking mat (preferred). Set aside.

In a bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until the mixture is light. Gradually, beat in the egg whites, followed by the pure vanilla extract.

Divide the mixture in half between two bowls (weight to be precise). Into the one portion, whisk in the lemon extract and ¾ cup flour, mixing just until incorporated. Into another portion, whisk in the coconut extract (if using), ½ cup flour and ground coconut.

Transfer the batter (obviously, one at a time) into a large piping bag fitted with a ¼-inch round tip. Pipe 1-inch rounds onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart (the cookies will seriously spread).

Bake, in batches, until the cookies spread and become light-golden around the edges, for about 10 minutes. Cool the cookies on the sheet on a cooling rack. Once cooled, the cookies can be filled. Store the unfilled cookies in an air-tight container at room temperature for several days. Sandwich with the ganache close to a serving time.

Make the white chocolate-raspberry ganache:

Pour about 1-inch of water into a frying pan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and wait for a couple of minutes to cool. Place the chocolate into a medium bowl, then place the bowl with the chocolate into the hot water, just for a moment, to premelt the chocolate and buffer a shock of adding the hot liquid later. Remove the bowl from the water bath, add the butter.

In a small pan, bring to a boiling point the cream, raspberry puree, and corn syrup, stirring. Pour the hot mixture over the chocolate and let sit for two minutes without disturbing. When the time is over, gently stir the mixture with a rubber spatula in circular motion (from the center to the sides of the bowl) until the chocolate melts and the ganache is smooth. Gently stir in the liqueur. Let cool to room temperature and thicken. Pipe or spread over the cookies.

Make the dark chocolate-coconut ganache:

Follow the directions above.