Yummy Parsnip Cookie Experiment and Failed Icing Attempt

Having had such great fun with tasty parsnips in previous posts, I decided to go crazy and see if I could make parsnip cookies. After all, they smell like some kind of nutmeggy muffin, so presumably they’d make good treats along those lines.

Short answer: yes, very tasty, but the recipe needs tweaking.

Long answer: everything I did is below for your scientific-cooking delight.

I started by hunting around for carrot cookie recipes, thinking that those would be a good starting point. However, most of what I found were cookie versions of carrot cake, and I wanted something more like a rolled sugar cookie, because I also wanted to experiment with some icing techniques.

I found a recipe called Carrot Cookies with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting that was in the right ballpark, minus the frosting and leavening and substituting parsnips for carrots. I also went with nutmeg and allspice instead of lemon. Plus, knowing I was putting royal icing on them, I cut back on the sugar. So while I give credit to that recipe for the proportions, what I did below was quite different so that recipe shouldn’t be held accountable. In fact, that recipe looks nice enough to try on its own some other time (although still with less sugar and I’m meh on cream cheese frosting).

Anyway, since the proportions there called for a cup of mashed carrots, I cut up all the parsnips I had on hand which was about a cup’s worth. I wasn’t clear on the original recipe if it wanted the measurement of a cup to be pre-cooked or post-mashed, and as you can see below, there’s a huge difference.

So I took my rounded cup of chopped parsnips:

Chopped Parsnips

Activate your smell-o-vision now! And it's only going to get better...

Microwaved them with a dribble of water for 3 minutes on HIGH:

Microwaved Parsnips

The kitchen already smells like some kind of muffin is being baked, and that's with a healthy veggie!

I let them cool on the counter for a bit, which also steamed off most of the remaining water, then mashed them with a potato masher. As you’ll see later, this was insufficient for getting them wholly mashed. A food processor might be good, if you’ve got a small one (ours is huge and would just push this amount of stuff out of the way). I’ve been looking for a ricer since this experiment because I suspect that’s the way to go to avoid big chunks or long strings. Anyway, just mashed, they filled about half of the same measuring cup:

Mashed Parsnips

Wonder what else I could do with this...more experimentation will be required!

While these cooled further on the counter, I creamed together one cup of butter* (softened at room temperature) with a half cup of sugar in our Kitchenaid mixer with the paddle attachment. Added one egg and 1 tsp of vanilla, and beat in the mixer. Then I added 1/4 tsp allspice and roughly 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I cannot overstate the awesomeness of buying nutmeg whole and grating it yourself as needed on a microplane grater…DO IT!) instead of the lemon extract called for in the original recipe. I did use the 1 tsp of salt although that seemed like a lot so I slightly under-filled the teaspoon. Mixed that all together, then mixed in the mashed parsnips. Then I gradually added 2 cups of AP flour. I skipped the baking powder because I did not want these cookies to puff up at all, since I was going for a rolled cookie sort of thing.

Written recipe style, this is how it all came together:

Parsnip Cookies

A little over one cup of chopped parsnips
1 cup softened butter (two sticks brought to room temperature)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

Place parsnips in a microwave safe bowl with a dribble of water and cook for about three minutes on high or until very tender. Mash thoroughly. Set aside to cool.

Cream butter and sugar in a mixer. Add egg and vanilla, beat until combined. Add allspice, nutmeg, and salt, mix to combine. Add mashed parsnips and mix thoroughly. Gradually add flour in small amounts until thoroughly combined. Dough will be very soft and sticky.

Wrap dough in plastic and chill for at least two hours or overnight.

Roll dough on a board liberally dusted with powdered sugar to 1/4 thick (I used my rolling guides) and cut with cookie cutters. Place on parchment paper on baking pans.

Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.

Rolling out cookies

Chilled dough rolled out with 1/4 inch guides, and a cutter shown in the dough. It warms quickly and gets sticky so work quickly.

I made some test cookies the evening I made the dough, and discovered instantly that the parsnips were insufficiently mashed, as mentioned above. The cutter frequently chomped down into a chunk, or a chunk would hang out, or fibres would stick out from the sides, as you can see in these photos:

Unbaked cookie with parsnip lump

You can easily see a lump of parsnip sticking out here.

Rough-edged raw cookie

This one clearly shows a chunk of parsnip in the cookie, and ragged threads of parsnip hanging out the edges.

Although the baking softened the parsnips enough that they were reasonably pleasant in the mouth along with the cookie, visually they were less than pleasing, showing as dark yellow chunks against the pale dough and sticking out all over the place:

Baked cookie

Readily visible parsnip chunks and fibres in the baked cookie.

My next attempt at this recipe will definitely involve much more effort in getting the parsnips into a smooth, lump-free paste. I think that will work very well. As I said, these tasted good, but they could have been better with more even parsnipification**.

The next day I rolled the dough again and let my five year old partake in the cutting. She too had problems with occasional lumps but didn’t seem to mind overall. I tested cutters of various sizes, shapes, and types. The report: size doesn’t matter, but shape does, because these cookies don’t hold an edge very well during baking so straight-cut sides came out a bit wonky. Impression-style cutters did leave clear-enough lines, as you can see below on the kookaburra cookie, but the lines weren’t as crisp as with some other regular sugar cookie doughs I’ve used. I’d say you can use impression cutters fine if you’re just using the lines as a guide and not as stand-alone decorating.

Variety of cookies

Sampler of cutter styles, and you can see the dark yellow parsnip chunks again. Also, my husband does an alarmingly good kookaburra impression. That has nothing to do with cookies, per se, but it amuses me to no end.

By this point everyone in the house had sampled the cookies un-iced and declared them quite tasty in spite of the parsnip lumps, all agreeing that the spices are bang-on right but that the parsnips could be pureed more.

Then I went into the second phase of the experiment, which was to try out some of the advice I’ve been reading at the amazing, talented, and generous Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle. I’d flooded cookies before (most recently with these Periodic Table of Elements cookies) but never felt very good at it, especially in light of the amazing cookies of Sugarbelle and other bloggers listed in my blogroll. So I followed her recipe and her 20-second rule, except that I’m pretty sure I messed up and misread. I kept adding water while the icing was in the mixer, and I think that made it possible to incorporate way, way, WAY too much water, when I think I was supposed to make base royal in the mixer, then take it out and add water for flooding consistency in a separate dish later.

I ended up with something almost marshmallow-fluff like that took two days to dry. Here are some of the cookies still very wet after about an hour:

Iced wet cookies

Still completely goopy when they should have been setting up already.

When the icing finally did dry, it sank into itself as the zillions of air bubbles trapped in the too-much water gave way. The result was this sort of nasty texture:

Rough icing on a cookie

Not very pretty at all.

The whole batch was messy like that. I tried to use my edible ink pens to draw spots on a dog to turn it into a dalmatian, and the slight amount of moisture in the ink caused the icing to cave in, making writing impossible and threatening to gum up my pen.

Let me make it clear that I’m quite sure that this was my error in misreading Sugarbelle’s fabulous tutorials. I’ll try again another time but thin in a separate dish by folding in some water, not whipping it to death like I did with this stuff. Plus I love her tips about using squeeze bottles, and even though I haven’t been able to find metal-tip bottles like she has, I did grab a bunch of bottles from a craft store this week with a handy 40% off coupon so I’m eager to try again soon.

As for taste, the icing tastes okay, if a bit sweet for my preferences. I’ve been handing them out to friends all over town and most people seem to like them, although my husband reports that some other non-sweet-toothed folks at his office agreed that the icing was a bit much.

Overall result: parsnip cookies are a win, but probably not best iced. Hubby and I agree that rolling them gives them a good flat, crisp underside so that part is definitely worth it. I’ll make some again soon but without icing, and instead do my next icing experiment on a more standard rolled cookie recipe. I’ve been considering putting together some music-note shaped cookies in nice boxes for bands participating in an event I’m volunteering for next weekend (oh why am I obfuscating it when I’ve been otherwise promoting it like crazy…it’s the Austin Family Music Festival and it will be awesome so everyone nearby should come), so if time permits maybe I’ll make an un-iced, improved version of the parsnip cookies to go along with iced ones of a different type.

Evidence consumed by many in Austin. To Allen, who expressed his sorrow at having missed out: worry not, I’ll get you some on the next go-around one way or another. Promise.

* Considering trying unsalted butter next time. These were good but there’s a bit of a slightly heavy buttery-salty flavour so I’m wondering if going unsalted might help.

** That’s a word now because I say so and I’m very big and mean. Just ask my poor beleaguered child. Meanest. Mom. EVER.

UPDATE: This recipe has been improved!

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1 Response to Yummy Parsnip Cookie Experiment and Failed Icing Attempt

  1. mommabear says:

    Oh, boy, this is very funny! I believe that this kind of thing is what the internet was invented for. You couldn't put it in a newspaper, because all of the hilarious photos and captions would take up too much space.

    I'm trying to deal with the failed icing for a failed carrot cake for my son's K'garden class, and it made my night! Thanks!

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