Sarah Bernhardt Cookies Revisited

You may remember that I made these cookies once before. You can read all about the story behind the cookies and why I made them in that post. Like last time, I made these as a special treat for my in-laws. Despite some mishaps, the cookies went over really well last time. So I thought I would try again and see if I could learn from my mistakes.

This time it was a Thanksgiving visit. I decided to make them at home and bring them with me so that while I was there, I could spend more time with them and less time baking. Since the recipe made so many cookies, and it took so long to make them, I decided to make a half recipe this time.

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Some ingredient notes: I used liquid egg whites for simplicity’s sake. I used 4 ounces of almond slivers which turned into 1 cup of ground almonds. I used Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate chips for the ganache. For the coating, the oil I used was grapeseed oil. And the chocolate in the coating was of two parts. First part was a big chunk of baking chocolate I still had. The second part was a piece of a Trader Joe’s chocolate bar. The two parts together equaled the total amount needed. Actually, I used a little more than they asked for because I ran out of chocolate last time. Some of the chocolate was old so I had to look up how long chocolate lasts. My go to for such food questions is StillTasty.

Ganache.

Ganache.

I also remembered to sift the powdered sugar this time. I don’t own a sifter, so at first I used a mesh strainer and shook it by hand. This worked, but was taking a while, so I then used a spoon to push it through a little quicker. I didn’t sift the powdered sugar last time. But doing so this time made a big difference in the texture of the sugar.

Ground almonds.

Ground almonds.

Sifting is a very particular thing. I don’t do it so often when baking, but I distinctly remember sifting when baking with my mom growing up. It seemed very specific to baking, more so than mixing or other activities. We had this awesome old-school metal sifter we used. I still remember the sound it would make. It was very distinctive. There was friction from the metal scraping against the mesh. And it was a lot of fun to do. I can’t remember what the recipes were that we sifted for, but I know that there was a lot of sifting.

Sifted sugar.

Sifted sugar.

For this recipe, I made the ganache first as before, so it could chill while I made the meringue. I accidentally added a little bit too much almond extract, but that didn’t turn out to be a problem.

The sugar halo after sifting.

The sugar halo after sifting.

As I was making the meringue, I remembered that I should double-check how to make it. I followed the directions more closely this time. I believe the key differences were that I put the KitchenAid on a higher speed and that I let it mix for 15 minutes. The batter was definitely a better consistency than last time. And I’m so glad I didn’t have to sit there and hold a mixer for 15 minutes while making it. Thank you KA!

Batter!

Batter!

After the issues I had last time, I had wanted to make them smaller this time. I wasn’t quite able to, but they still turned out okay. I was worried about the consistency after putting in the almonds and putting them on the baking sheet. They started getting goopy. (Goopy is another industry term.) But after baking they turned out well. They cracked a little bit, but they were meringue! I successfully made meringue! Woo hoo! They came right off the baking sheet. I did two batches which ended up being 34 cookies.

Meringue, about to be baked.

Meringue, about to be baked.

A few got a little overdone on the bottom. Just a couple were a tiny bit hard to get off the baking sheet and just a handful were crumbly, but even those were mostly salvageable. I tried one of the slightly overdone ones, and even it was okay. So I used them all.

Meringue!

Meringue!

The first round I cooked them for 10 minutes. I didn’t want them to overcook again, plus I made them a little bit smaller, so I did 9 minutes for the second round.

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I had pulled the ganache out of the fridge so it would be ready. It took a while to get to room temperature and be spreadable. They were mostly easy to cover, just a few were crumbly. Those I didn’t cover as much because if I did they would have completely crumbled. I covered everything else completely.

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I melted the chocolate for the coating. I did it all at once, not half and half as suggested. I let it cool and then dipped them in. It was actually pretty easy and fun. Messy as all get out, but easy and fun. They looked nice. I put them in the fridge to chill again.

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They took a while to make. Doing half the recipe, doing it at home, and having some experience with the recipe made making them easier. Having the meringue turn out right also helped. But last time my wife helped a lot with the cookie assembly, whereas this time I did it by myself which took a little longer. They took less time over all, but it was still a decent amount of work.

Meringue avec ganache.

Meringue avec ganache.

I carefully packaged them up for the trip. The meringue was delicate so this was a challenge. Plastic containers with wax paper in between layers of cookies seemed to do the trick though. I left some of the more cracked ones for us to enjoy.

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Once I got them there, the in-laws were very excited at having them again. My father-in-law made particular note of them and my baking ability. I demurred, saying it wasn’t even my recipe. In response, he told me a story.

Chocolate coating.

Chocolate coating.

It went like this: as you may recall, my mother in law Barbara has quite the reputation as a chef. However, there was a time when she didn’t know how to cook or bake anything. They had next door neighbors, a husband and wife, and the wife was a good cook. She offered to help Barbara learn how to cook. One day she showed her how to do a particular recipe. A little while later Barbara made it on her own.

Freshly coated.

Freshly coated.

When the husband of the couple came home that day, he smelled what Barbara was cooking next door and came over. He asked what smelled so delicious. She told him it was the recipe his wife had shown her. He said that hers never smelled that good. Barbara had managed to make the recipe even better than she had been taught. So, my father-in-law said, regardless of who created the recipe, you need a certain amount of skill to make it well. It matters who makes it and how.

The final product!

The final product!

It was a very sweet story. And it was very nice of him to tell me. I do have some things to learn about creating recipes, but execution matters.

Overall, I’m pleased with how this batch turned out. The meringue was not perfect, but it was miles ahead of the last batch. And it was definitely meringue. 🙂 The cookies were still delicious. And they were enjoyed by all. Have you ever revisited a recipe disaster? Were you able to learn from your mistakes? I’d love to hear your stories!

Recipe courtesy of The View from Great Island.

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One thought on “Sarah Bernhardt Cookies Revisited

  1. Bunny Eats Design

    That is a nice story for your father in law to share. No two people ever makes a recipe exactly the same. I never make a recipe exactly the same as my previous self either…which is probably why I’m better suited as a cook than a baker where you can’t tweak things on whim so easily.

    This post would make a great submission to Our Growing Edge, which is a link up party for new food adventures. This month’s theme is “Nostalgia”. More info here: http://bunnyeatsdesign.com/our-growing-edge/

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    Reply

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