My cookies are inspired by tiki bars and okonomiyaki. "Okonomiyaki tiki cookie." It's kind of a bizarre word-final alliteration.
I did a bit of research and found a lot of very basic shortbread-like cookies that lent themselves well to a variety of flavors and shapes. From Japanese biscuit-sticks to Swedish butter cookies, simple vanilla-based cookies seemed like a good place to start. I read through a few shortbread and sugar cookie recipes to get some ideas.
I'm a big fan of things with themes, so I wanted to base my cookie around a concept. I've seen several recipes for margarita cupcakes, beer bread, and oatmeal stout cake, but never anything similar for cookies. Since cookie recipes involve much less moisture than cake recipes, basing a cookie flavor on a drink was tricky. With a challenge in hand, I looked to my favorite concept spot, a sprawling, kitschy tiki lounge in Northeast Minneapolis for flavor inspiration. Their rum-based drinks feature a slew of tropical flavors and come with wacky garnishes in whimsical ceramic mugs.
Having decided I wanted to use tropical flavors like rum, coconut, and lime, I needed a way to give the cookies a rum-like taste without turning them into a soggy mess. I could have used rum flavoring, but that seemed too easy. I had tried my hand at infusing liquor before, so I decided to use actual rum to flavor my other ingredients. The alcohol would cook off during baking, leaving just a hint of spicy rum flavor clinging to the coconut and lime pulp. All of the "flavoring" ingredients went in a dish together to make a kind of tropical cole slaw. It reminded me of the batter for okonomiyaki, a kind of pancake made with shredded cabbage and other vegetables and toppings. Okonomiyaki batter is griddle-fried into a solid snack that's popular as a street food in Japan. This gave me an idea for using a lot of liquid to make a easy-to-handle treat.
I had found a few good recipes for sugar cookies, which turned out to be similar to pancake batter recipes except for the liquid content. By adjusting the amount of flour and sugar, I was able to make a hybrid batter/dough that seemed like it would hold its shape on the pan and bake into a solid, chewy cookie. The sugar cookie recipe called for butter and lemon zest; in keeping with my flavor choices, I substituted coconut cream for half of the butter and lime zest in place of lemon.
Since the dough was much runnier than that of traditional sugar cookies, which are rolled out and cut, I used a drop-cookie method to form the shapes. With so much coconut suspended in the dough, the drops didn't spread out like traditional cookies, and the first batch were critiqued by my taste testers for being overly thick and a little heavy on the lime (I used the juice and pulp from three).
One of my testers suggested balancing the lime flavor with a sweet icing, but since the cookie itself was already thick, with an unusual texture, I wanted to avoid adding an additional layer. Instead, I thinned the dough using a few teaspoons of rum, and made sure to flatten the drops using the back of a spoon. Adding a liquid such as rum helped with the thickness problem, and also balanced out the lime flavor. To add a little sweetness to the spice of the rum and the bitter tartness of the lime, I added a single maraschino cherry to the tops of the cookies.
The result was these, the finished product. My intrepid volunteers thought the thinner cookies were more manageable, and the cherries were a nice addition to flavor and presentation.
Tiki-Yaki Tropical Cookies
10.5oz sweetened coconut, flaked or shredded (about 3/4 of a 14oz bag)
Juice and pulp of 2 medium limes
1 cup dark spiced rum (I used Kraken)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks, softened)
1 cup coconut cream (skimmed from one 14oz can of coconut milk - don't shake can before opening)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lime zest
3 TBS rum*
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder*
1 tsp salt
30-36 Maraschino cherries (drained)
Replace 2 tsp baking powder with 2 tsp baking soda for crispier cookies
Replace rum with coconut milk to reduce alcohol content
1) Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease cookie sheet.
2) Mix coconut, lime juice/pulp, and rum in small bowl. Set aside.
3) In large bowl, mix butter, coconut cream, sugar, egg, lime zest, and vanilla. Some small lumps are okay.
4) Drain coconut/lime mixture. Add 3 TBS rum. Fold mixture into sugar mixture.
5) Add flour, baking powder, and salt to sugar mixture one cup at a time, stirring in between cups until just blended.
6) Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes. Drop by heaping tablespoon onto cookie sheet, flattening slightly with back of spoon.
7) Press one cherry into the center of each cookie
8) Bake for approximately 15 minutes, checking every 5. The tops of the cookies will not appear brown, so look at the edges. When sides begin turning brown, cookies are done.
9) Cool before serving - the cherries will be very hot.
My second (larger) set of taste testers said they thought the cookies would be better if they were less spongy and more crispy. To achieve this, use baking soda instead of baking powder (same amount). The cookies presented in class on Monday will use this variation, as well as batter thinned with coconut milk rather than rum to limit the amount of alcohol included in the cookies (since not all alcohol is cooked off during baking). The coconut/lime mixture is drained before being added to the batter, so only trace amounts of rum are included in the variation to be presented in class.