Blogger-turned-author’s stuffed cookies are delicious from top to bottom
Rancho Santa Fe resident Heather Mubarak’s new cookbook, focusing on sandwich or filled cookies, will have readers craving sweet, savory and everything in between
Whether you’re an experienced baker or novice, or just a wannabe who loves cookbooks and baking books, there’s something for everyone in Heather Mubarak’s new book, “Stuffed: The Sandwich Cookie Book,” a collection of 65 sweet and savory cookie recipes and 30 mix-and-match accompanying fillings and ice creams.
Her book is also beautiful, handsomely packaged with a padded cover and filled with mouthwatering photos of sandwich cookies that Mubarak created and shot herself in her home studio in Rancho Santa Fe.
As an experienced cook/baker and French cooking school grad, I tend to be a bit skeptical of most cookbooks. They need to offer something new or wow me in some way to gain my appreciation. With so many baking and cookie books on the market, a book requires a clear differentiator to shine.
Mubarak’s book has a distinctive angle: It’s unusual in focusing on sandwich or filled cookies, both sweet and savory, although, she explained, hers are equally good consumed as singles rather than pairs. Her fillings are versatile and readily adaptable for other purposes. You can use her buttercreams to ice or enhance a cake, serve her tasty ice creams solo or use her savory fillings as spreads or stuffed into veggies for appetizers. Or stuff her cookies with store-bought ice cream.
“I like a nice, basic cookie that’s really good and approachable, using elevated ingredients, but nothing weird,” she explained. “I wanted (the cookies) to be accessible to everyone, with just a few ingredients.”
Her cookies are wonderfully delicious: Photographer Eduardo Contreras and I sampled her snickerdoodles and sablés during our photo shoot and left hungering to try more.
Her book won me over through her clear and thorough introductory chapters and well-written recipes. In addition to providing a list of 13 essential tools and 10 pantry “must-haves” for baking success, she explains the different types of flour, sugar, chocolate and cocoa powder used in baking and makes recommendations for specific ingredients.
What impressed me was the clear case Mubarak makes for using a digital cooking scale — among my favorite tools — to weigh ingredients to ensure accurate and consistent baking results. She also explains how to measure flour and other dry ingredients more accurately with measuring cups and spoons. (Consider investing in a good kitchen scale: a highly rated Escali digital scale costs under $30 online from Milk Street or Amazon. It’s also a great tool for portion and weight control.)
Did I learn anything new? Yes, indeed.
Among my favorite tips and tricks was how to make cookies a consistent size and round shape. Mubarak uses a cookie scoop to measure the dough and weighs the dough balls. After baking, just after the cookies come out of the oven, she employs a larger cookie cutter to “scoot” them around the baking tray to ensure their identical size and roundness. Another tip was to use disposable pastry bags, available online, for piping fillings to avoid washing difficult-to-clean reusable pastry bags.
Mubarak, 50, a mother of three cookie-loving daughters, ages 16, 20 and 21, has always loved to bake. She grew up in Solana Beach in a family of excellent cooks with a grandmother renowned for baking. While her mother preferred cooking to baking, her mom’s steady supply of Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies inspired Mubarak to experiment and develop her own recipes.
“I’m inspired by magazines, Pinterest, other blogs and travel. I love visiting bakeries while traveling,” she explained. She collects ideas and then creates her own version.
A self-taught baker, recipe developer and photographer, Mubarak is a first-time book author but a longtime baking blogger, the original “blondie” in her well-established blog, Browned Butter Blondie, with about 200,000 Instagram followers.
“I love browned butter. You melt it and let it cook until it’s brown. It adds a whole level of flavor,” she said, detailing the inspiration for her blog’s name.
She launched the blog in 2018 a year after the sale and her departure from her award-winning English almond toffee company, The Toffee Box, which she’d developed based on a secret family recipe. The gourmet toffee — made originally in her home kitchen — was sold in over 500 stores.
Writing a book, accomplished during the pandemic with her entire family at home, was a logical evolution from her blog.
With over a hundred new recipes prepared when she first pitched her idea to editors, it’s likely there’s another baking book on the horizon.
“I have no shortage of ideas,” she said with a laugh.
Brown Butter Snickerdoodles With Chai Spice Buttercream
Is it just me, or does saying the word snickerdoodle just make you smile every time? Let’s try it together. Snickerdoodle. Snick-errrr-doooodle. Yep. Instant grins. The addition of brown butter and chai spice makes this one cozy cookie that pairs perfectly with fuzzy slippers and a warm blanket by the fire.
Makes 12 to 14 cookie sandwiches
2¼ cups (280 g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1¼ teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter
1¼ cups (250 g) granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
⅓ cup (65 g) light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chai Spice Buttercream, recipe follows
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the salt. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter, stirring occasionally. When the butter begins to crackle and pop, stir continuously. After about 5 minutes, the butter will form a layer of foam over the top and the crackling will stop. Continue to stir the butter as it browns. Amber-brown butter solids will collect on the bottom of the pan and the butter will smell slightly nutty and be amber in color. Remove from the heat, pour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Once the butter is cool, add 1 cup (200 g) of the granulated sugar and the ⅓ cup brown sugar to the bowl. Mix on medium-low speed about 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs and mix until combined. Mix in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the stand mixer and mix on low speed for 30 to 60 seconds, or until the dough comes together.
Place the dough in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. This helps firm up the dough just a bit, to make it easier to roll into balls.
While the cookie dough is chilling, adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Combine the remaining ¼ cup (50 g) of sugar and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon in a small bowl.
Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator. Scoop the dough into 2½-tablespoon portions and roll each between your hands to form a uniform ball. Generously coat each ball in the cinnamon sugar. Place the rolled cookie dough balls on the prepared baking sheets and then gently use your finger to make an indentation in the middle of each cookie. Sprinkle with a little more sugar.
Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the edges are set. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before using a spatula to carefully transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack. Let cool completely before adding the filling.
To assemble the cookie sandwiches: Transfer the Chai Spice Buttercream to a piping bag. Line up half of the baked cookies and flip them over so they’re flat-side up. Pipe about 2 tablespoons of buttercream onto the flat side of each cookie. Top with a second cookie, flat-side down, and gently press together to form a sandwich. Repeat with the remaining cookies and buttercream.
Store the cookie sandwiches tightly covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Chai Spice Buttercream
Makes 2¾ cups (495 g)
9 tablespoons (130 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups (360 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus more as needed
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
Scant ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar in three additions, followed by the cinnamon, cardamom, allspice and salt. Mix in the vanilla. Add 1 tablespoon of the heavy cream. Turn the mixer back up to medium-high speed and mix for another 2 minutes, until smooth. If the buttercream is too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar. If too thick, add more heavy cream. Use immediately or store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Rosemary Pine Nut Sablés With Whipped Goat Cheese
Kick your cheese and crackers game up a notch with these savory sablés filled with a tangy goat cheese filling. Bursting with rich, buttery flavor, these sablés are deceptively easy to whip up. Use the highest-quality butter you can get your hands on for the very best flavor.
Makes 24 sablé sandwiches
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
½ cup (60 g) pine nuts, toasted and cooled
1¼ cups (155 g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) unsalted butter, cubed and cold
1 egg, at room temperature
Whipped Goat Cheese Filling, recipe follows
Place the rosemary and pine nuts into a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse until the pine nuts are coarsely chopped. Add the flour, sugar and salt and pulse until everything is combined. Add the cold butter and pulse until the butter is in pea-size (or smaller) bits and evenly distributed. Add the egg and pulse until the dough starts to come together.
Transfer the dough to the middle of a 15-inch (38 cm) strip of plastic wrap. Use the plastic wrap to roll the dough into a 12-inch (30.5 cm) log that is about 1½ to 2 inches (4 to 5 cm) in diameter. Wrap the log of dough tightly in the plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 hour.
When the dough log is almost done chilling, adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Remove the dough from the freezer, unwrap and, using a sharp knife, slice ¼-inch-thick (6 mm) sablés. Slightly rotate the log after each slice to keep the shape consistently round. Place the slices on the prepared baking sheets 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. If the sablés are starting to squish and lose their round shape when being cut, place the log back in the freezer.
Bake the sablés for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges just start to turn golden. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before using a spatula to carefully transfer them to a wire cooling rack. Let cool completely before adding the filling.
To assemble the sablé sandwiches: Line up half of the baked sablés and flip them over so they’re flat-side up. Add a dollop of the Whipped Goat Cheese Filling to the upside-down sablés. Top each with a second sablé, flat-side down, and gently press together to form a sandwich. Serve right away, or store the sablé sandwiches tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Whipped Goat Cheese Filling
Makes 1¼ cups (255 g)
8 ounces (230 g) fresh goat cheese, soft but slightly chilled
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, combine the goat cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pulse until combined.
Use immediately or store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Reprinted from “Stuffed: The Sandwich Cookie Book” by Heather Mubarak, with permission by Chronicle Books, 2023.
Sours Larson is a San Diego freelance writer.
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