I don’t know what has come over me, but I’m getting more excited than ever about Christmas-time and I have this need to bake cookies! So much so that I’ve been looking over the collection my mom and I have of vintage cook books – especially cookies and getting some inspiration. Tried and true is always good too and shortbread is the mother of all holiday cookies for me. I absolutely love shortbread. It’s fun and easy to work with, and is a star among my favorite cookie recipes. I’m sharing my new favorite way to serve it, as a Milano cookie – a decadent and refined version of the Pepperidge Farm brand, taking rich ganache filling and piping it into a shortbread cookie-sandwich.
My shortbread recipe is also great for classic sugar cookies and decorated iced cookies. I’m going to give you all of my tricks and recipes so that you can make this happen on your own. First, let’s talk about the Milano! xox
Milano Cookies by Mili’s Sweets
To prepare the Milano cookie, the first thing you’ll need to do is prepare the ganache filling so that it can cool before it is piped in between the cookies.
This recipe is different from the ganache I typically make to drizzle onto cupcakes and other desserts. This is a richer, thicker version perfect as a center for these cookies and for other dessert fillings. If you’d like the recipe for my typical chocolate ganache, you can see my recipe post for Heaven by Flourless Chocolate Cake, or go to the search function of my blog, to see the other ways that I use it.
Mili’s Sweets Ganache-Filling Recipe
Here’s what you’ll need:
2 and 1/2 cups chocolate chips (I used 1 cup bittersweet and 1 and 1/2 cups semisweet. If you want a deeper, darker dessert, use all bittersweet chocolate.)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Here’s what you’ll do:
Place your chocolate chips into a large bowl.
In a saucepan, warm the one cup of heavy whipping cream until you see bubbles along the edge of the cream. Remove from heat and pour on top of the chocolate chips. Allow to sit for 30 seconds.
After 30 seconds, whisk constantly by hand, until the chips have melted and you have smooth ganache. (This process will take no more than two minutes.)
Cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool to room temperature.
The end result is thick, rich ganache filling that you can use to pipe into your cookies.
Mili’s Sweets Shortbread Cookie Recipe
While your ganache is cooling, you can prepare your shortbread cookie dough. It’s exactly the same recipe I use for the shortbread crust for my Key Lime and Raspberry Tart Recipes.
Here’s what you’ll need:
9 tablespoons of butter, melted (1 stick, plus one tablespoon)
1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
extra flour for dusting
Here’s what you’ll do:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Place all the ingredients into the bowl of your standing mixer. Using the standard paddle attachment, (Never use a plastic, scraping attachment for cookie dough, or the attachment will break.) on medium-low speed, mix until the ingredients have formed a dough that completely lifts from the bowl. This mixing time will take less than two minutes.
Shortbread cookies are best when they are rolled out and cut.
Dust parchment paper or a silpat mat with all purpose flour. You can quickly form a ball with the dough and it place at the center of the paper or mat. Dust a rolling pin and roll to the desired thinness. I recommend rolling the dough to around a quarter of an inch.
Place your cookie cutter(s) as many times as you can within the mat, allowing for enough space for your fingers to go in-between the dough, to remove the access around the cut pieces.
I prefer the look and taste of crystalized sugar sprinkles on my Milano cookies. If you’d like to have them, add them before they go into the oven. I’ve also tried using a texture matt to create a pattern onto the cookie dough, without the sprinkles, and the end result is lovely.
Save the reserved dough, to form another dough and start all over. The more you handle the dough and the more you have to dust with flour, the more dry the dough will become.
Bake each batch for 15 minutes.
Once your cookies have cooled completely, and your ganache has cooled completely, you can put the Milano cookie sandwiches together.
Spoon the ganache into a piping bag. Pipe an even amount onto the backside of one of the cookies. Gently place another cookie on top of the chocolate. Allow to sit at room temperature until you are ready to serve. They can be served the same day, or placed in an airtight container for up to three days. The ganache will set and stiffen a bit, so that the cookies will stick together nicely and not move. Because of this, you’ll want to be sure that your cookies are strait when you place them together, and allow them to set on a flat, even surface.
Mili’s Sweets Classic Sugar Cookies
If you are looking to make classic, sugar cookies, shortbread is the way to go. They are simply beautiful and delicious. They really don’t need more than a sprinkling of sugar or sprinkles and can be classic and elegant for parties if you use all one color.
Simply follow the recipe above for “Shortbread Sugar Cookies” and remember to apply your sprinkles and/or sugar, before placing them in the oven to bake.
Now, I’m saving the most time consuming for last. . . iced cookies. I’ll never claim to be an expert at piping these cookies but I love them. I love making them. I love eating them. I love it when kids decorate them with a mountain of decorations. Just because I’m not an expert, doesn’t mean I’ll stop making them for my friends and family. If you are like me and are more of a beginner, the trick to having a nice iced cookie, is to keep it simple.
Here’s how I made a batch of teapots for a mother-daughter tea party.
Iced Shortbread/Sugar Cookies by Mili’s Sweets
First thing is first, you’ll want to follow the Shortbread Cookie recipe above, and allow the cookies to completely cool.
Next, you’ll want to make Royal Icing. Here’s how I make it every single time.
Mili’s Sweets Royal Icing Recipe
4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder
9 tablespoons warm water
(This is Wilton recipe that I altered, since I have found that the additional water works best for me. Besides using this recipe for decorating cookies, I also love using it for drizzling onto scones and other sweet breads. For more examples on how I’ve used it in past post, please the search function on my blog and type, “royal icing.”)
Put all ingredients into the bowl of your standing mixer. To make this pale aqua color, I added two drops of Sky Blue Americolor Gel Food Coloring. I used my scraping paddle attachment to mix, however the standard paddle attachment still works well. Mix on medium speed for 4 minutes.
You know it’s perfect and ready to pipe when it “flows” down the attachment. This will give you the ease of piping onto your cookies.
Royal icing dries very quickly, so right away, you’ll want to spoon it into your piping bag, or cover it with plastic wrap.
For these cookies, I made two batches of royal icing to make three colors. I started with the aqua as my base color for all of the teapots. Here’s my step-by-step process:
I recommend using the smallest circle tip you have for piping. This will help with control and ease. First, apply a small amount of pressure to the bag, and create a outline on each cookie. I recommend having the same starting point every time, so that your hand has a memory-motion. You’ll get better and better as you go. It’s also great practice for building confidence in your piping skills, even when it comes to cupcakes and other desserts.
Once the outside line as been placed for each cookie, you’ll fill them in. Start from the outside line and work your way in, toward the center. The royal icing will spread a bit and dry completely smooth. When the cookies have all been “colored in,” allow them to set, without touching them for at least one hour.
Once this base is set, you can apply different colors and layers to the cookies. I made a second batch of icing and split it into two colors: pink and deep turquoise. I really didn’t have a strategic plan for the cookie decorating, I just went for it, with different styles, with most of the cookies having all three colors and I didn’t switch out the tips for piping. I wasn’t lazy – I just know that for me and this type of dessert, simple is best.
Allow each layer of icing to dry and set for about one hour, before serving or packaging them. The cookies will stay fresh and delicious for 4-5 days, if kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
So there you have it! One recipe and three ways to enjoy it. If you’re going to pick one, I want you to try to make the Milano.
Big hugs and enjoy this precious time of year!