Daring Bakers: Dairy-Free Milanos


The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Nicole kindly offered the choice to do either or both recipes. My favorite store-bought cookie of all time is the milano, so, if I had to pick one, it was no contest. I could have also made the marshmallow cookies, but I am not a marshmallow fan, plus I have tried making vegetarian marshmallows before, and I just did not want to undertake that again. 

I have tried to make milanos before. My first attempt was a langue du chats recipe from one of Maida Heatter’s dessert book. They were quite close to milanos, but had a harder, crisper quality. They were not as meltingly soft as milanos.

Gale Gand’s milanos were also not quite like the store-bought kind. They were extremely sweet and ever so slightly chewy/sticky. I looked up the Maida Heatter recipe, plus the recipe for langue du chats in Bugat and Healy and noticed that the wieght of sugar was about equal to the weight of flour and butter, not double as it is in Gand’s recipe.


I also found the cookies a bit greasy. To be fair, I substituted a half/half mixture of Crisco and tub-style trans-fat free margarine. Butter has a higher water content than crisco and can contribute to greasiness if substituted one for one. But tub margarine has a fairly high water content, so I thought using half tub margarine and half crisco would balance that out.

I looked at the package of Pepperidge Farm Milano and noticed that the cookies use hydrogenated fat, not butter, so actually my elimination of butter from the recipe should have made the cookies taste more store-bought. I also noticed that the order in which ingredients were listed on the package is as follows: flour, sugar, fat, nonfat milk, eggs, with 2 percent or less of constarch, baking soda, salt, and lecithin. Since ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, this means that there is either an equal wieght of flour and sugar, or a higher weight of flour than sugar. The amount of fat, by weight, is either less than or equal to flour and sugar.

I added some cocoa to half the batter and found that these cookies were much, much better in terms of texture and sweetness. Adding the cocoa counteracted the sugar because of it bitterness and functioned also, I think,  like extra flour to balance the fat. This cookies were almost exactly like the chocolate milano cookies. Clearly, the issue was too much sugar in the vanilla and either too much fat or not enough starch.


I tried making the cookies again with 7 ounces of flour, 5 ounces of sugar, and 4 ounces of trans-fat free margarine and Crisco. Plus I added in some soy milk and used one whole egg plus three whites. The taste was too spongecake-like and the texture was too light. Oh well, I’ll keep trying.


Milan Cookies
Courtesy of Gale Gand, from the Food Network website

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies 


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9 Responses to “Daring Bakers: Dairy-Free Milanos”

  1. lisamichele Says:

    I love how you turned scientist for the Milans, which naturally makes perfect sense since baking is a science. However, what matters most is the taste, and yours look delicious, not to mention like authentic Milanos! I would love to taste them dairy free, even though everything is better with butter..hehe

  2. pragmaticattic Says:

    Thanks Lisa, but nobody can top your milanos! Seriously, I am so determined to recreate the exact taste and texture, that coming close just isn’t good enough. BTW, I forgot to mention it in my post, but I added mint extract to the chocolate filling. The chocolate milanos with the mint filling were quite good and really, really close to real milanos. Now, if I could just get the vanillas right . . .
    But, yeah, what isn’t better with butter 🙂

  3. Julia @ Mélanger Says:

    I love how you researched the different recipes. Exactly something I would do. Great cookies!

  4. pragmaticattic Says:

    Thanks Julia (and I’m not done obsessing about these cookies just because the challenge is over . . .)

  5. Rosa Says:

    Very well done! Your Milan Cookies look fabulous! I love both versions…



  6. deeba Says:

    I love the passion that went into the challenge, the research etc. Well done indeed! Fab Milanos!

  7. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella Says:

    Nice variation doing a chocolate version! I don’t think I’ve seen another chocolate version in all of the creations I’ve seen so well done! 😀

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