Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Checkerboard Cookies

I have a love-hate relationship with dough. Somehow the recipes I make involving dough don't always turn out as I expect them to. When I made these Butter Checkerboard Cookies, I was dangerously close to throwing a tantrum on the kitchen floor. It's always either I put in too much butter or I made a mistake of sifting the flour after I measured. I'm banking on the second option. It's always better to sift first so that you don't waste any flour at all.

The dough became difficult to handle for the most part because it was too soft. I only managed to form sad little checkerboards of cookies, which made me equally sad. I really should've added more flour to the mixture. I broke my back trying to knead the dough and form the checkerboards. The procedure seemed simple on paper, but in reality it was a bit challenging. But don't be disheartened because the challenge is what makes it fun!

I made these cookies two days before my family and I left for a beach trip. It had been the long weekend (because of the holiday that fell on a Monday) before my final exams. I made sure I went through my notes before I made these cookies. Tomorrow I take the last Final Exam of my college life. It hasn't sunk in yet that it is my last, and that the four years of my life spent in university is coming to an end. Right now it seems I'm more emotional about the state of the cookies I baked rather than the fact that I'm leaving my school, my friends, and will soon be facing 'the world out there'.

Because the rectangular checkerboard dough was softer than it was supposed to be even after overnight refrigeration, it had a tendency to mash together while I was slicing it with the knife. I cut my cookies way thicker than I was supposed to, because I made them smaller than usual. I was disheartened by the look of the so-called checkerboards I made, but nobody ever said I couldn't use the dough to make other patterns, so I decided to form swirling patterns with the rest of the dough instead. There were lots of left-over dough to choose from. I even flatted a couple of vanilla and chocolate dough with plans of sandwiching the cream cheese frosting I had left over from some cupcakes I made the week before. I loved the idea of making them look like macaroons.

The cookies turned out beautifully but they weren't crispy, nor were they hard. They were somewhere between chewy and crispy, which to me was perfect for butter cookies. But after a day or two they turned chewy, maybe because mine were made with too much butter? They did taste like the expensive-looking canned butter cookies with the expensive-sounding names from the Supermarket. Those cookies are my grandma's favorites so I let her have some of my freshly baked ones. And well, because she is my grandma I couldn't help thinking she felt obliged to tell me they were good. And because I obsess over my baking, which translates to I want to hear people say it's 'delicious' rather than it 'tastes okay/fine', I had to get a second opinion. Anything short of delicious to me is classified as somewhat a failure. I know, I'm sensitive with my baking.

So I have this younger brother who loves sweets. I fed him some cookies and he made a face as he said, "The cookies taste okay." At this point I was slapping myself in my head and vowing never to make these cookies again. Heck, I was scared to bring the other dozens of cookies that came out from this recipe to the beach trip, where we will be joined by family friends. My Mum encouraged me by eating quite a few pieces of cookies, and so did my Dad and my other brothers. I ended up bringing a big jar of cookies, which surprisingly became quite popular. This is one of those instances you are happy to come home empty-handed. Needless to say I'll be making these again one of these days. I do believe they taste better the day after they're baked.

Butter Checkerboard Cookies
Adapted from Baking Obsession

5 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 lb (2 cups or 4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Using the electric mixer, in another larger bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and mix to combine. Finish the mixing with your hands or a wooden spoon. (It was easier with my hands though.)

Divide the dough in half. It's better to make sure you've got two equal dough sizes for your checkerboard so don't forget to weigh your dough. Knead the ½ cup of cocoa into one of the two parted dough to form your chocolate dough.

Again, divide the chocolate and vanilla dough in half. Form each of them into a rectangle, wrap individually in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours up to a day. Since I couldn't wait, I took them out of the fridge after two hours.

Take one portion of the chocolate and one portion of the vanilla dough and let them sit on the counter for about 15-20 minutes to soften slightly. On parchment paper (I like using this better) or a lightly floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll one portion of the vanilla dough into ½ -inch thick rectangles, with the sides about 12 x 5 inches long. Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut out total of 9 ½ -inch wide strips from the flattened dough. Do the same for the chocolate dough.

Handling the strips delicately, form two checkerboard logs alternating the chocolate and vanilla strips. The first log should have alternating chocolate-vanilla-chocolate as its first layer, and the second log should have vanilla-chocolate-vanilla as its first layer. (You can get the idea from the photos above.) Cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper and refrigerate until firm, at least for another 2 hours.

When ready to continue, roll the remaining vanilla dough into a rectangle about 1/3-inch thick and measuring 12 x 6 inches. Place the firmed checkerboard log with the predominant chocolate pattern (choco-vanilla-choco as first layer) into the center, long sides parallel, and with the aid of parchment, wrap the dough around the checkerboard log pressing firmly to adhere. Roll the finished log from side to side to form sharp corners. Do the same with the chocolate dough and the vanilla-choco-vanilla patterned log. Wrap in the parchment and/or plastic and refrigerate well overnight. You can freeze the logs then thaw them overnight in the refrigerator before using, but I just refrigerate mine.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Cover a large baking tray with parchment or a silicone mat. Using a very sharp knife, slice the cookie-dough log into ¼-inch thick slices. Place on the prepared baking sheet leaving more or less 1 inch all around each slice. Bake the cookies, in batches, for about 12 minutes or until firm and golden brown on the bottom. The website where I got this recipe says not to let them bake for too long, or the color contrast between the chocolate and vanilla dough will be lost. Cool on the baking sheet on a rack for 15 minutes. Then transfer the cookies to the rack and cool completely.

No comments:

Post a Comment