Melt-Aways Resurrected: It LIVES!

In food on 04/12/2009 at 5:40 pm

Our friend, Goth Girl, is a whiz at making alt-gingerbread houses; past projects include a Mexican adobe villa and a Venetian canal-scape. One time, she gifted us some Mexican wedding cookies wrapped in wax paper. The other half tasted them and exclaimed, “These are Melt-Aways, but with nuts and powdered sugar!” I asked naively, “What are Melt-Aways?”

Right now, the other half is vigorously at work testing four cookie and two frosting recipes formerly known as Melting Moments, which from this day forth are to be re-christened as Melt-Aways, as deemed by jeju.  They are color-coded for easy recognition during the taste test phase. This is the first ever real-time jeju post…

After posting the previous blog entry, the other half went on a raging Internet search for THE cookie to no avail. Then the mention of polvorónes steered us to a site that made an off-hand remark that Mexican wedding cookies were reminiscent of ‘Melting Moments.’ That sparked a new search which wound up with my googling for something that was published that could possibly have been circulated in the wilds of Wisconsin in the 1970s.

Ta Dah: The Wisconsin Electric Company Cooky Recipe Book was mentioned in a 1995 Milwaukee Sentinel article in which a reader requested recipes for Melting Moments. The WECCRB is a local publication, distributed annually for free as a goodwill gesture of ‘big brother’ in the spirit of the holidays. (Can you imagine ConEd doing the same in NYC? Unfathomable). A Sentinel reader submitted one and wrote, “This recipe is from a ’70s book from the Wisconsin Electric Power Co. holiday book. It first was printed in the 1951 book and has been in most copies since. I made them, but they are delicate, the kind you serve at “high tea.”

A quick phone call to the Mother confirmed that there may have been an aforementioned WECCRB laying about in the kitchen during the other half’s childhood. None of the four recipes printed with the article use cream cheese frosting, or almond extract, as per the vivid memories of the other half. Dipping the cookie into the frosting is mentioned once.

the Holy Grail?

The key ingredient that separates the Melt-Away from other cookies is the use of cornstarch. I know cornstarch as a thickener for soups and gravys, and as a Flubber-esque science experiment. But as a baking ingredient, what does it contribute? Our resident Bill Nye says it makes for a more tender texture, and is the reason the cookie melts in your mouth. Made from endosperm of corn kernels, cornstarch:

  • Absorbs moisture
  • Prevents baking soda and acid from reacting with each other sooner than necessary
  • Standardizes baking powder so that 1 oz. of one brand has the same leavening effect as 1 oz. of another.

In baking cookies, you substitute corn starch for a certain amount of wheat flour to make more tender and spreadable cookies, says cookies-in-motion. Paradoxically though, proper Melt-Aways don’t spread when baking. So perhaps in a quantity in excess balanced with just the right amount of flour, the bonbon shape takes hold?

On the WEC website, none of the downloadable WECCRB from recent years had the Melting Moment recipe. Back to furiously scouring the web. We found the following incarnations to test, hoping one would hold its requisite bonbon shape, have the proper-tasting frosting, and recreate the other half’s perfect childhood Christmas cooky(kooky) creations.

Real-Time Baking and Tasting Notes:
#1 Blue: (source: christmas Dry dough, hoping it comes together in fridge, cream cheese frosting in recipe; Had to add more butter to dough because it was falling apart; Does not hold its shape when baked, crunchy, no melting in mouth whatsoever —> FAIL!

#2 Yellow: (source: No vanilla, dough comes together much quicker; Spreads during baking, does have fine crumb melt in mouth texture though –> FAIL!

#3 Green: (source: joy of Crumbly, incorporates better than #1, dough takes longer to incorporate than #2, least amount of sugar, has vanilla; Holds shape after baking –> *SUCCESS*

#4 White: (source: oven Less sugar than #1 and 2, less butter than 2 and 3, has vanilla; Crumb similar to #3, drier than #2, comes together better than #1; Spreading too much during baking, more than #1. Didn’t hold shape while baking, flattest! –> FAIL!

jeju test kitchen 'melting moment' series

A. Cream cheese frosting (yellow) – looks too thick, doesn’t harden, adds extra layer of flavor, kind of sour –> FAIL!

B. Sweet butter frosting (white, see above) – looks right when applied to cookie, drips and hardens nicely, tastes sugary, no added flavors –> *SUCCESS*

And now, THE winning Melt-Away recipe…. Green cooky with white frosting, when bitten, collapses into a crumbly heap in your mouth, like a mound of tasty sand. Frosting sticks to the roof of your mouth, but it’s so yummy you don’t care!

1½ cups flour
½ cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup powdered sugar
2 sticks butter, soft
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Cream butter and sugar, add vanilla. Add in remaining dry ingredients. Add food coloring if desired.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes if the dough is too soft.

Shape into small balls and bake for 12 minutes. Don’t let cookies brown. You want them to be ‘just cooked.’ Top should be dry to the touch.

Cool and frost with sweet butter frosting.

Sweet Butter Frosting:
¾ cup powdered sugar (or to taste)
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 tsp butter
Milk or cream, as needed
Food coloring

Melt butter, add in the sugar and vanilla.

Mix, slowly adding milk or cream to make frosting smooth and spreadable.

Add in color if using.


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