Join James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur Joanne Chang for an afternoon cookie break in the keynote room as she makes us her famous melted snowman cookies!
1 stick (115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
1-1/2 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 large marshmallows
Royal icing (recipe follows) – white, black, blue, orange
1 pound (455 grams) confectioners sugar
3 to 4 large egg whites (90 to 120 grams)
Stand mixer with paddle attachment
Circle cookie cutter
Mini offset spat or small butter knife or small spoon
Wire cooling rack
If you’re baking the cookies the same day you prepare the dough, heat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center of the oven.
Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or mixing by hand with a wooden spoon), beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle itself a few times; the sugar and butter love to collect here and stay unmixed. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract on medium speed until thoroughly combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Again scrape the bowl and the paddle to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.
Mix together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt and toss to combine. Turn the mixer to low speed (or continue to use a wooden spoon if mixing by hand) and slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture. Stir until the dough is completely mixed, about 30 seconds.
Scrape the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap the dough entirely in plastic, pressing down to form a disk about 8 inches in diameter and 1 inch high. Refrigerate the dough for about 1 hour, until it firms up enough to roll out. (You can also store the dough in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month at this point. If frozen, pull the dough out of the freezer the day before you want to use it and let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator about 1 hour before using and let it sit at room temperature and then proceed as directed.)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the center of the oven. Lightly flour both your work surface and the dough. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick. Keep both the work surface and the dough floured—if at any point your dough is sticking, sprinkle on a little more flour and keep rolling. Use round cookie cutters or the rim of a water glass (about 2 1/2-inch in diameter) to cut out cookies. Place on a baking sheet. Cut out as many cookies as you can and then re-roll any scraps and cut out more cookies. If the dough is soft and warm and difficult to roll, wrap the scraps in plastic and refrigerate the dough until it firms up enough to roll again. Bake in the preheated 350 degree oven for 15 to 17 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and pale to light brown in the centers. Let them cool on the sheet until cool enough to pick up with a spatula, around 30 minutes, and let cool completely on a wire rack.
Place the cookies on a work surface and using a small spoon mound a spoonful of the white icing onto the cookies and let it spread naturally towards the edge of the cookie. Let some of it fall off the cookie and don’t worry about spreading the frosting all the way to the edge. Let it pool and drip organically so it mimics melted snow.
Fill the piping bags with the blue and orange and black icing. Snip off the very tips of the piping bag so you are able to pipe a thin line. Use the blue bag and pipe a large loop on the white icing to mimic a scarf- make sure the loop of the scarf is larger than the base of a marshmallow. Use the black frosting to make buttons down the front of the snowman. Use the black frosting to make two eyes on the marshmallow. Use the orange frosting to make a nose on the marshmallow. Put a little orange frosting on the bottom of the marshmallow so it acts like glue and adhere the marshmallow to the cookie by placing it within the blue scarf loop. Repeat with the rest of the cookies and frosting. Be creative! Have fun with the faces and colors. Let the frosting dry completely. The cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
Using a sifter whisk the confectioners sugar into a large bowl. Whisk in about 3 egg whites to make a stiff paste. Add the remaining egg white bit by bit until you get an icing that is stiff but spreadable, with the consistency of peanut butter. (You may not need the entire last egg white.) Divide the frosting in half and set aside half of the frosting to cover the snowmen. Divide the other half into thirds and whisk in black, orange, and blue into each remaining third. Proceed as directed above.
This recipe is courtesy of Joanne Chang‘s book, Pastry Love: A Baker’s Journal of Favorite Recipes.