I haven't had the good fortune of traveling to Vietnam, but a person can dream. Imagining the joy of eating my way through the country is overwhelming. Endless bowls of fragrant pho, fresh summer rolls, and lemongrass-spiced everything sounds like bliss.
In the meantime, I've channeled my wanderlust towards Vietnamese food closer to home. Living in New York City makes it easy to find pretty solid Vietnamese food, so I've sampled as much as I can. One particular favorite is Vietnamese iced coffee (strong coffee mixed with sweetened condensed milk), which is fantastic in the summer but I could happily drink it any time of the year.
The drink is traditionally made using coarsely ground, dark roast coffee beans and prepared in a drip filter, so it's more concentrated than most brewed coffee. The hot version is equally popular and equally wonderful, but I love the taste of hefty pour of thick, sweetened condensed milk poured over coffee and ice. The image of the creamy milk swirled into dark coffee is one of the prettiest things a coffee-loving person can picture.
Being a baker at heart, I was thrilled to stumble upon a few recipes for cookies inspired by Vietnamese iced coffee, like this one by Thien-Kim Lam on the blog I'm Not The Nanny. I made some tweaks to the ones I saw, adding extra coarse coffee grounds to my cookie dough to give both flavor and a nice gritty texture to the sandy, buttery, shortbread-like cookies. The icing is made with sweetened condensed milk, and I add some vanilla bean paste and espresso powder to heighten the flavor and cut the sweetness. If you don't have vanilla bean paste handy, you can just use vanilla extract.
The dough freezes wonderfully, so go ahead and double the batch and keep some on hand in the freezer. Anyone who likes coffee will love these cookies, and you'll probably win over some non-coffee drinkers too. So until I find myself on a trip to Vietnam, you can find me making these weekly.
- 1 tablespoon very strong brewed coffee, with extra to use
- 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) confectioners' sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons coarsely ground coffee (I use a dark roast)
- 3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1 tablespoon whole milk
- 1 pinch espresso powder