Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Cow Cookies!

When we last saw beef fat, it was holding together a pie crust for a mysteriously resilient pink pie. Jana from Time Travel Kitchen noted that if we put our beef fat in hot water, we will wash away the various things suspended in it and therefore it will last far longer. But you really should see what we got when we first upended the cup that held the fat and the random pan juices that came out with it. We had this after letting the fat harden in the refrigerator:

And when we upturned the cup to release its contents (and did some prying and cutting around the edges), we had a perfect freestanding beef gelatin.

Rather than going down the drain, the gelatinized beef juice got frozen until the next soup night.


I know I said that despite my hatred of food waste, I wasn't going to look for ways to better integrate beef fat into our diet. But I also got a little bit obsessed with beef fat in desserts. I previously thought that the beef-fat-crusted pie was the end of my explorations of bovine sweets, but then I thought to myself "Maybe the artificial strawberry flavor concealed the beef fat too much! Maybe we were all too distracted by the ballistic-gelatin-like pie filling to notice what a bad idea this was!"

So I had to try the cow-derived dessert idea again. I know it seems like I've gone nuts in quarantine, and maybe I have. But a lot of people outside America swear by using hog lard in their cookies and pastries. All we're doing here is swapping species.

Beef Shortbread Cookies
½ c beef fat
A little milk
¼ c sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1¼ c flour

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a cookie sheet well.
Thoroughly beat the sugar, fat, and vanilla. Then mix in the flour. Add the milk, a tiny half-teaspoon at a time, until it comes together into a cookie dough. Stir the dough as little as possible to keep it from going tough.
Roll into 1-inch balls, and then flatten them with your hands. Or, roll the dough out into a sheet and cut them. Place on the cookie sheet.
Bake until slightly golden at the edge and cooked through. Refrigerate the dough for a few hours after shaping into cookies for a more shortbread-like texture.

I picked this recipe for two reasons. First, it's a very plain recipe. I didn't want to cover any meat-related flavor problems with spices or molasses. Second, since this recipe uses no eggs, we can easily cut it down to a very tiny amount. In the likely event that this turns out to be a bad idea, we won't have wasted a lot of flour or sugar in this. Yes, one can subdivide eggs (which I did on our adventure into our great-grandmother's forgotten kitchen), but it is a very irksome task that I did not want to do again.

I thought about doing a cake instead of cookies, but I wanted to cut this recipe down a lot in case it was terrible. Therefore a cake was not suitable. If you bake too small of a cake, your tiny puddle of cake batter will just dry out in the pan instead of baking properly. But you can cut a cookie recipe down to a thirty-secondth of its original quantity, and the one or two resulting cookies will turn out fine. You might think I should have just made 6 or so cupcakes, but I didn't think of that until the oven was hot and the cookies were mixed.

I'm partially trying this to see how we can economize better than we already do. But mostly, I thought it would be a hoot to make beef-based sweets. Everyone else in the house has by now just let me expend a moderate amount of dry goods in these experiments, especially since nothing to date has been worse than the ham-cherry pie. When I told everyone I was making cow cookies, by now they knew me too well to think I meant cookies iced with a novelty splotch-pattern black-and-white decoration. When they saw the tiny amount of cookie dough forming in the smallest mixing bowl in the drawer, everyone's objections melted into curiosity-motivated "Let me know when they're done."

Figuring that we'd definitely notice undesirable beefiness when we had only beef fat and sugar beaten together, I tried a tiny amount on the tip of a spoon. It tasted... fine. Nothing thrilling, but it was fine. Basically it tasted like if you accidentally used granulated instead of powdered sugar in your cake frosting. It seemed like using beef fat instead of butter would make no difference. However, upon mixing in the flour, we got sand instead of ready-to-bake cookie dough.

At first I wondered if I should just press and smush the floury fat-gravel into cookie shapes and hope for the best. But then I realized: a stick of butter contains at least a spoonful of water. That's why butter boils a little bit when you melt it. So I added milk by the teaspoon until we had cookie dough.

As aforementioned, I cut this recipe down by a lot. These are all of the cookies we got. If the cow cookies are a success, I reasoned, we can actually make a full batch of the things.

They got a little puffy in the oven, and smelled unexpectedly normal.

To my surprise, these cookies are just fine. It's true that they have no buttery flavor (nor any butter), but no one would taste one, look at it suspiciously, and ask "What's in this?" They tasted like perfectly normal baked sweets. I would like to emphasize that I used the plainest, most unadorned, if-something-was-fishy-or-beefy-we-would-notice-it recipe.

The cookies formed this sort of extra crisp layer on the outside that was almost like an ultra-thin glaze-- rather like how brownies form their own separate top layer. The inside of them was crispy and then melted in your mouth like one of those Mexican wedding cookies that people put in powdered sugar. As someone else put it, they were "delightfully crumbly. Everything you make with beef fat has been delightfully crumbly." I'm not going to start fanatically putting the fat we drain out of various frying pans of beef back into our daily diet, but this happened barely two weeks later:

One of them did not fit.

That's right, we made a full batch of cow cookies-- and others in the house were excited about them. Have a look at how light and crisp they are on the inside.

And so, in conclusion, you can put beef fat anywhere butter would have gone. Next time you drain off a frying pan of ground beef, put the fat into your refrigerator and then pick the recipe of your dreams.


  1. I am mesmerized by your gelatin, next time we need a longer video thanks.

    1. It almost never falls out so perfectly, but if it does I will share it with the world.

  2. A different kind of cow cookie, but: A really cute thing I learned how to do with cutout cookies is to make a large batch of vanilla dough and a smaller batch of chocolate dough--maybe one-fourth the vanilla batch. Roll the vanilla dough out a little, stick a few random patches of chocolate dough on top, and then roll it out the way, and voila! You have spotted dough that you can cut animal shapes out of, such as cows, horses, and cats. The re-rolled scraps won't be as pretty, but they still make tasty marbled cookies!

    Is it more work than just making circular cookies? Yes. But it's also an easy way to do a little bit of cookie decorating.

  3. Everything old is new again. Except for people. We get old and stay old. I remember when I was a small child, my grandmother once commented about how they made cookies with lard when she was a little girl. I remember she said that they were really rich, and you didn't want to eat more than one because of that. I wonder if that would deter people from inhaling entire sleeves of Oreos now.

    1. Everything old does indeed become new again. Someone said that in every generation, their parents' things are old but their grandparents' things are vintage.
      Your grandmother definitely wasn't kidding about how rich these cookies are-- I always thought butter made for the richest baked things, but beef fat is at least a very close second.