This week in Cookie Book Testing, I once again became acclimated to the pastry bag.
We are still working away at the unforgiving sandwich cookie chapter. I say unforgiving not because they are terrible—the opposite—but because they each have more than one component and all of the components (and their yields) have to be in harmony for the recipe to work every time.
Mindy Segal, my coauthor, is an expert sandwich cookie maker. I have become convinced that if all the fans of cupcake and cake pops ate one of her sandwich cookies instead, the majority would abandon their cupcakes and cake pops indefinitely. Such is the power of these sandwich cookies.
Most of the cookies are shortbread. The fillings vary, but many have the texture of buttercream. Early into the recipe testing, I asked Mindy how she would like to fill the sandwich cookies.
“With an offset spatula?” I suggested.
“Kate. I am a pastry chef. I pipe the fillings.”
And so I drove to Spun Sugar in Berkeley to acquire a few Ateco tips and a new bag to finish making the cookies.
Years ago, I wielded a large pastry bag to pipe the choux paste for éclairs at La Farine, a bakery in Oakland. The worst part of the job was cleaning the pastry bag afterwards. Choux paste is stubborn stuff.
These days, few professionals use the cloth bags that I remember from La Farine. It is faster to use the plastic disposable ones. I bought a cloth and a plastic one to see which fared best. It was a tie in performance, but for baking at home, a reusable bag is more economical in the long run.
The first cookie fillings I piped with an unsteady hand. By batch 3, however, I was back in the swing of things. The Ateco tips come numbered. An 803 is a large tip; a 35 is a small, star-like tip. The 803 was easier to maneuver than the 35, which became jammed up with a chunk of peppermint—a messy incident.
The trick when using a pastry bag is to press the filling from the top of the bag with one hand while using the other to gently guide the tip. I used the right hand to press, the left to guide (I am right-handed). I piped spirals, W’s, and lines.
I topped the filling with another cookie and pressed gently in the center to adhere it. And then I shuffled the tray into the freezer where they await the finishing step: dipping in chocolate or caramel, or something entirely different.