Monday, April 7, 2008

how to recreate a commercial product and get away with it

T.S. Eliot famously remarked that good poets borrow, but great poets steal. The same might be said of chefs. In cooking, as in poetry, the line between reference and theft is blurred. Variations, interpretations, and deconstructions abound. But in cooking, as in poetry, the theft needs to be either wonderfully subtle - so deft that the pilfering doesn't register until the dish has long been consumed - or so brazen that one cannot help but admire the bold gesture.

Unfortunately, copying a commercial product - and not even consciously, to boot - is neither.

It started with another late-night baking session. I decided I wanted to whip up a batch of langues de chat, those little French cookies that are cousins to tuiles. Rather than flavoring them with plain vanilla, though, I used peppermint extract. And then it occurred to me that they might benefit from a chocolate coating.

And then, as I had the chocolate melting in a bowl over simmering water, I realized that I was about to recreate the Pepperidge Farm Milano. Oh, the cookies were less crumbly and more crunchy, but there was a definite resemblance there.

Oops. How do you salvage a blunder like that?

Well, you can try declaring it Deliberate and Ironic. Or you can disavow all knowledge, but punctuate your wide-eyed innocent stare with knowing winks in the Playful and Coy approach.

If all else fails, you'll just have to resort to bad Star Wars jokes, and hope that your audience is easily distracted.

So, uh... how quickly do shiny things capture your attention?

These Aren't The Milanos You're Looking For

Serve with coffee or tea.

(Makes approximately two dozen.)

Cream together one stick of butter and one heaped half-cup of sugar. Blend with four egg whites, one teaspoon peppermint extract, and a pinch of salt. Add one cup of flour and blend until smooth. Chill the batter in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Fill a Ziploc bag with the batter and cut off one corner to make an opening a quarter-inch wide. Pipe the batter in two-and-a-half inch lengths with plenty of space in between.

Bake for nine to ten minutes, or until golden in color with crispy brown edges. Remove from baking tray and allow to cool.

Melt half a cup of chocolate chips in a double boiler or a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Spread one cookie with melted chocolate and sandwich with another. Repeat as necessary. Allow the chocolate to set.

You can work on your delivery while you wait. Now, repeat after me: "These aren't the Milanos you're looking for."


Ann said...

Hey, I think recreating a homemade version of a best-selling product is awesome!

adele said...

Well, they're not quite a recreation. (Shortbread would have been more faithful to the original.) They just bear a striking resemblance. :)

wing said...

I think these need to be beer-battered and deep-fried.

adele said...

I have to say... that's one option I didn't consider.

Jen Dockter said...

They kind of almost look like the Pepperidge Farm Brussels cookies. As far as I know, they do not make those in peppermint?

adele said...

I'm not familiar with the Brussels, but I was struck by the resemblance to Milanos, which are available in peppermint.

Jen Dockter said...

Here's a link: Brussels
(and they do have mint, I just have never seen them!)

adele said...

Huh. Interesting.

tammy said...

I mightily enjoyed this post, especially the first paragraph!

adele said...

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)