December has been flying by, so please pardon the lack of updates. To catch you up quickly, I did finish NaNoWriMo a winner but The Pembroke Engine is not finished yet. I’ve actually been struggling hard to move the narrative forward, so while originally I expected to finish up the first draft right around the middle of December, we’re at the middle of December right now; I’m thinking the middle of January is way more likely.
Anyway, it’s cookie season, and this reminded me of my favorite lost cookie I can no longer find anywhere: McDonaldland cookies. These were, of course, sold by McDonald’s, and they were crisp, similar to shortbread but firmer, with a subtle hint of lemon. When I become a supervillain my Ministry of Resurrected Products will bring them back, but for now I’m stuck for alternatives and you can’t find a copycat recipe anywhere.
For a while, Mercer animal crackers filled this void: they were identical in taste and texture to the cookies I used to love. And it seems that Mercer manufactured the off brand available at Aldi, so I could reliably pick up a box of these wonders for under two bucks. Then a few years ago, out of the blue, Mercer animal crackers disappeared and Aldi’s brand changed dramatically for the worse. For a brief and beautiful time the cookies I loved and remembered were back, and then suddenly they were no more. I was pissed. I mentioned it in this space at the time.
So now, I lament. I would gladly try any recipe that promised to reproduce the cookies I have longed for.
As I mentioned, they’re not quite shortbread. When I look at shortbread recipes online they’re all quite crumbly, like butter cookies, and that wasn’t the case here. But they’re quite thin, and the underside had a very shortbread-like texture: spongy, but hard. If you put one of these cookies bottom-side down on your tongue, moisture would wick up into the cookie and dissolve it from the inside out.
But how are they made? Clearly sugar is being creamed into butter as the first step, as with most cookie recipes, because nothing else explains those spongy holes on the bottom. There is no leavening. I imagine, but am not sure, that lemon extract plays a role. Flour too, obviously. Sounds like shortbread so far! Eggs or yolks? No idea. But there seems to be less butter in these cookies than in a typical shortbread, because they bake up firm, and that puzzles me. Maybe I would need more flour than a typical shortbread? Maybe the dough should be chilled before baking? I suspect the McDonald’s bakery that gave them their signature textured shapes did the patterning during pressing, with something that created grooves and dents in the thinly-rolled dough.
I’m not experienced enough at baking to fill in those gaps and I don’t have the time or the kitchen to experiment at length to find out, but I very much need to know.
Has anyone found a copycat recipe out there that lives up to the original?