Let’s talk seeing double for a little bit. Last month AJ and I had scored tickets to the SF Food Wars Return of the Mac and Cheese and it was awesome. The second mac and cheese competition that SF Food Wars had, and more mac and cheese than you can shake a fist at: 16 different competitors! Then we went to a sneak peak preview at Homeroom over in Oakland, a mac and cheese restaurant a few days later, totally unexpected, due to winning tickets from Thrillist. AJ and I showed up a wee bit late for the seating and ended up sitting with two other fabulous people, thus turning our unexpected Valentine’s dinner into a blind double date. At the dinner they served these amazing faux oreos for dessert. So I decided, I must recreate them. And in the interest of keeping things double time, I made them two ways. I present to you Vanilla Bean Cream filled Fauxreos™ (faux Oreos) and Mexican chocolate mole spiced cream filled Fauxreos™ (faux Oreos).
The SF Food Wars is pretty darn fantastic. Organized by the amazing Jeannie Choe (Does that woman ever sleep? She’s a machine!), long time readers know that I have a history with the Food Wars, having double rainbow won the Pie or Die contest back in July of last year. That said, I have since tried to support the contest by going to each subsequent war and recently wrote a post about how to get chosen as a participant, score tickets to it and how to win. In addition I gave away a pair of tickets to a reader which is always super fun (I love giving away stuff!).
The Return of the Mac and Cheese was a repeat of the original first war that they had, and having it come full circle was pretty cool. I didn’t attend the original Mac and Cheese Food War, but Jeannie and the judges said that this time round the mac and cheese blew away the last time (sorry former SF Food War mac and cheese contestants). AJ and I were torn by some of the awesomeness of the mac and cheese including the Piggy Cups of Cheesy Love (mac and cheese in a crispy prosciutto cup) by Purveyors of Awesome, Pork Belly Mac by JazzyB’z Recipez, Vermont Cheese Forest by Boffo Cart featuring maple glazed pork lardon and Quack & Cheese by Fowl Mouthed Ladies which had duck confit. Pork or duck, it’s all good!
In the end, it was a tough call, but both the ones that AJ voted for and the one I voted for won medals (What do you expect? We have good taste). Fellow blogger ¢#€€$€ had obviously read my blog post because he won honorable mention people’s choice for his The Crusty Vermonter mac and cheese, which had a secret ingredient that had the audience moaning with horror and amusement. With nearly 10 different types of cheese, 40% of the cheese in his mac and cheese was VELVEETA! There was a collective groan of horror, but I know the crowd must have loved the old school comfort that processed cheese gives them. You can get the recipe on his blog.
Speaking of old school, I was on Twitter the very next day (when am I ever NOT on Twitter? I’m tweeting right now as I write this! Follow me – I’ve been told I’m hilarious!) and I noticed someone tweet to Thrillist about hoping to win tickets to the sneak peak preview of the awesome buzzed about restaurant Homeroom over in Oakland. So I bounced over to Thrillist and tweeted the requested tweet “I wanna score 2 tix to Homeroom’s mac and cheese madness launch on Mon! #ThrillistMac (RT to enter too!) @Thrillist.” Low and behold I won tickets!
[totally side note. I recently sent an email to a friend of a friend explaining what the # “hashtag” on twitter was (for example, what that “#ThrillistMac” meant in the above tweet). It was a HUGE email, maybe six or seven paragraphs. There’s some sort of irony in that it took me that long to explain something related to twitter, a site that limits people’s conversations to 140 characters. But I digress]
It was a tight schedule the next day. AJ arrived home on Valentine’s Day with awesome heart balloons for me and then we quickly changed and ran out the door. We arrived about fifteen minutes late and were chagrin to find that they had already started announcing what the courses were going to be. Thankfully we weren’t the totally last people to show up, as two other people showed up right after us.
In the end, due to the crazy amount of people who were there, the last two people who came in right after us, Kim and Will, ended up sitting with us. Which was actually super fun. Like the best blind date ever super fun! Kim’s a long time fan of Homeroom’s mac and cheese, having tracked them down at the Underground Farmer’s Markets and such way before they had an actual restaurant. In fact, the owners TOTALLY knew who she was, which meant we ended up getting awesome treatment. Well, not that we wouldn’t get awesome treatment anyway, because Homeroom is amazing.
Kim, by the way, has her own awesome blog over at Kim’s Kitchen Sink and we totally bonded over blogging. Pop over and check out how awesome she is. She’s heading down to the big BlogHer conference in San Diego this summer, so if you see her, be sure to say hi!
So speaking of awesome (yeah, I know I use that word a lot, I apologize) but let’s talk about Homeroom. How can a restaurant dedicated only to mac and cheese NOT be awesome? We had a three course mac and cheese menu, completely with wine and/or beer pairings. The first course was Mac the Goat which was fresh chevre from Cypress Grove, scallions and olive oil drizzled breadcrumbs. It was rich and ever so slightly tangy, but probably could have used just a tad more salt. Drake’s Hefeweizen was the beer that came with it, and Handley Pinot Gris was the wine.
The second was the Cacio y Pepe which is just pecorino with black peppercorns. Sharp and salty it was definitely our favorite across the board, simple and basic but so satisfying. The owners said they had done it as a “seasonal” special but it’s been so popular that they are considering keeping it on the menu. They should. The beer was a Racer 5 IPA and the wine, a Pedroncelli Friends Red.
The final one was just labeled Spicy and it definitely had a kick. Spicy Spring Hill firehouse jack with some smoky marash peppers gave the mac and cheese a little sass. On top of that, Lagunitas Beer was there, and introduced us to their awesome Brown Shugga beer, served in their custom Lagunitas mason jars. So cool! The wine, a Boeger Tempranillo was also pretty darn great as well. AJ and I were sure to snag a few mason jars as souvenirs.
For dessert, Homeroom finished with homemade oreos sprinkled with sea salt. They had a great bite and wonderful chew and were everything that I thought oreos SHOULD be, but never are. Or maybe that’s just me, but really, I’m not a fan of the hard crispy cookie. I like my cookies soft and chewy, something you can really sink your teeth into; full of chocolate and with a sweet creamy center. The salt offset the sweetness just enough to make me want more.
And so I decided I had to replicate them. But then I got to thinking a little bit. Oreos are great, but what if I make them ever so slightly more sophisticated? What if I make Mexican chocolate oreos, with spicy sweet filling? Would those be even better? Only one way to find out.
I made these faux oreos (or, as I affectionately call them Fauxreos™) for our trip up to Tahoe. I figure, if I’m going to make two different batches of cookies, I might as well make sure I have enough people to eat them. Of course, I also made a batch of my rice crispy treats (I had leftover marshmallows to use up) as well as dark chocolate pudding up there. We were not wanting for any sweets up there for the weekend that’s for sure!
But these Fauxreos™ are awesome, if I do say so myself. About as awesome as an Oakland restaurant dedicated to mac and cheese, or a Food War that features 16 different types of mac and cheese or an unexpected double date with another blogger and her boyfriend. Trust me. Make them and you’ll never go back. Faux is the new Real.
Vanilla bean cream stuffed Fauxreos™ (Faux Oreos) and Mexican chocolate mole spiced cream stuffed Fauxreos™ (Faux Oreos) variant
For chewy chocolate cookies
These cookies use both Dutch-processed cocoa and regular natural cocoa. The Dutch-process adds a darkness to the cookies that I felt made them look closer to their namesake, while the natural cocoa is needed to give it that chocolate kick. If you don’t have dutch processed, just substitute in the natural cocoa. The cookies won’t look nearly as dark brown, but they’ll taste much better than if you used all dutch process cocoa. If, for whatever reason, you only have Dutch processed cocoa and use it, switch out the baking soda and use 2 teaspoons of baking powder instead.
2 cups (280 g) all purpose flour
3/4 cup (60 g) natural (not Dutch-processed) unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup (25 g) Dutch-processed cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cup (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 g) white sugar
1 packed cup (220 g) dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
and to roll the cookies in:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1. Preheat an oven to 350˚F and line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
2. Place the flour, both cocoas, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Take a whisk and vigorously stir until you get an even uniform color.
3. Place the butter and both sugars in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream the butter and sugars together on medium until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides with a large spatula and add the egg and beat until incorporated. Repeat with the egg yolk, and then the vanilla extract.
4. Slowly add flour mixture into the batter, beating and pausing to scrape down the sides with a spatula until all the flour is incorporated.
5. Combine the reserved white sugar and sea salt in a small bowl and stir to blend with a fork. Form 1 1/2 inch balls and roll them in the sugar mixture. Place on the prepared baking sheet.
6. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the edges are dry and darker brown. Cool on the pan for two or three minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.
Note. For the Mexican chocolate mole variant, add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh finely ground black pepper to the flour mixture in step 1 and proceed as written afterwards.
Vanilla bean cream filling
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup trans-free vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1 1/2 (175 g) cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1. Place the butter and shortening in the bowl of standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat together until fluffy. Scrape down the sides with a large spatula.
2. Add the vanilla extract. Then take the blade of a sharp paring knife (or another small knife) and scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean into the butter/shortening mixture. Place the pod aside for another use. Beat to blend the vanilla into the cream filling. Scrape down the sides with a large spatula.
3. Sift 1/2 cup of the confectioner’s sugar into the cream filling and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides with a large spatula. Repeat with another 1/2 cup, scraping down the sides afterwards. Finally add the last remaining confectioners’ sugar and beat until incorporated.
Note. For the Mexican chocolate mole variant, add one or two drops of red food coloring with the vanilla bean in step 2. Then add 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper with the first 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar in step 3.
To assemble Fauxreos™ (Faux Oreos)
1. Using a knife, smear about 1 teaspoon of cream filling on the bottom of one of the cookies. Then place another similar sized, cookie bottom side down, on top of the cream and lightly press down to sandwich the cookies together.
2. Repeat, using the rest of the cookies.
makes about 36 Fauxreos™