Sometimes, I feel like I get caught in a vicious cycle in the kitchen, and not because I've gotten stuck in a rut by cooking the same dishes over and over again. No, this vicious cycle is intentionally caused at least in part by food companies who sell complimentary products but in amounts designed to leave you with leftovers. Take hot dogs, and hot dog buns -- the encased meats usually come in packages of eight, while their accompanying bread products come in packages of six. You're doomed to either have extra dogs or extra buns. Chips and salsa are also big offenders -- inevitably, I either have leftover chips or leftover salsa and keep having to buy one to use up the other. They're virtually never finished at the same time.
This time, however, I've managed to fall into a trap of my own making. When I made my blogiversary cake a couple weeks ago, I found myself in possession of unused cream cheese frosting. It was so tasty I didn't want to just throw it away, but I also love Justin too much and have too much invested in his long-term survival to let him eat the leftovers straight from the piping bag. Initially, I considered making some red-velvet cupcakes to use up the excess frosting, but my inner Wyatt couldn't make peace with the idea of putting cream cheese frosting on a red velvet cake. In our family, it's 7-minute frosting all the way, and cream cheese frosting was just too much of an abomination to consider seriously. So, I let it sit in the fridge while I pondered on it some more. (Don't worry, it has a surprisingly long shelf life.)
The answer finally came to me when I was perusing one of my most-used cookbooks, Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats To Bake and to Share. Deep down, I've long been harboring the aspiration of trying every recipe contained within its pages, but realistically, given my picky eating habits, it's not likely to happen. There are way too many cookies in there that employ fruits and nuts that I don't eat. However, my most recent read-through offered a bit of hope for my long-simmering project, when I discovered that my palate has in fact gotten more expansive in the last year.
I used to think that I didn't like apricot jam or cream cheese in baked goods, so I wrote off a variety of cookies from Martha's book. Then I made this year's attempt at hamantaschen, and the resultant batch of rugelach designed to rid myself of the leftover cream cheese (leftover cream cheese products seem to be a reoccurring theme in my kitchen this year), both of which contained apricot jam. I loved both recipes, and now that I've proven myself wrong, I look forward to testing a variety of new cookie recipes in the future.
This brings me to my latest discovery in Cookies: The Very Best Treats To Bake and to Share: whereas I used to think that I didn't like either carrot cake or cream cheese frosting, now that I have the incredible cream cheese frosting recipe from my blogiversary cake, I've learned to appreciate the flavor combination. Which is why a recipe for carrot cake sandwich cookies in Martha's book caught my eye. I already had all the ingredients for the cookies in the fridge, and I wouldn't even have to make any cream cheese frosting since I already had some I needed to use up. It was the perfect solution to my problem.
The cookies turned out to be delicious -- spicy from the cinnamon and ginger, toothsome from the carrots and oatmeal, but also soft and cake-like, they were almost a hybrid of a sandwich cookie and a whoopie pie. However, it turned out that I grossly overestimated how much frosting I had left, and I was only able to produce a dozen sandwich cookies using it, which left me with more than half of the cookies naked and unpaired. I ended up having to make more cream cheese frosting, of which there was naturally a surplus. Now I'm in basically the same position I was before.
Even if I didn't solve my leftovers dilemma, I was still glad I gave these carrot sandwich cookies a try. They were wildly popular with everyone I shared them with, so they'll definitely be gracing my kitchen again. I think they even have good make-ahead potential. Following my technique outlined here, you could freeze the dough a couple weeks or months in advance, make the frosting a few days in advance, and assemble them when ready to serve. They'd be perfect for serving at a party or family gathering, and I think there's a good chance that they might just make an appearance at my next cookie exchange...
Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies
adapted from Martha Stewart
1 c. packed light-brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 c. finely grated carrots
1 c. raisins (optional -- I left them out)
1/2 recipe Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Preheat oven to 350.
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and both sugars until fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat on medium speed until combined.
2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Gradually add flour mixture to butter, mixing on low speed to combine. Mix in oats, carrots, and raisins, if using. Chill dough in the refrigerator at least one hour, until firm.
3. Roll tablespoons of dough into balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving two inches of space in between. Transfer to oven and bake until browned and crisp, about 12-15 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. Use an offset spatula to spread about 2 teaspoons of cream cheese frosting onto half the cookies, and top with a cookie of similar size and shape to form sandwiches. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.