Monday, May 18, 2009

Checkerboard Cookies

I have always always always wanted to bake a checkerboard cake. I have absolutely no idea how one bakes a checkerboard cake, but I want to do it. I know there is a pan involved that is somehow different. And special. And checkered? But I know nothing beyond that.

So when I found Checkerboard Cookies on SweetToothFairy Blog,I got very excited. For a few reasons.

1. They have checkerboards. Duh.

2. The ingredient list is super simple.

3. The multi-step process will be the perfect distraction since I'm stuck in the house with bathroom renovators today.

4. My family is constantly demanding sweets for one occasion or another and a frozen log o' cookies will be too easy to slice and bake as desired.

That's settled. The Checkerboard Cookies are the perfect costume for today. If you don't get the reference, please enjoy this short clip from Grey Gardens.

Best. Movie. Ever.

Alright, back to the cookies. I adapted this recipe from SweetToothFairy Blog because it's posted there in grams. I don't weigh things just yet, so I did awkward google assisted conversions. You may want to check my work.

Here are the ingredients:

3 and 1/3 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 c butter
1 and 1/3 c sugar (SweetTooth used brown and so did I. I highly recommend it.)
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
4 tbsp cocoa powder (I ended up using 6 because I wanted a serious color/flavor contrast.)

And here is what you do with them:

Mix flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl. In another large bowl (I'm living large and using my mom's Kitchenaid stand mixer these days. Holla!), beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly. Add vanilla.

Once everything is all mixed in well, divide the dough roughly in half. One should be 4 tbsp less than the other. I didn't get all that technical though, I just eyeballed it. Wrap up the bigger blob of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it. Mix the cocoa powder into the smaller blob of dough and then wrap and refrigerate with its buddy. Leave them both in there for at least an hour or up to 24.

Once you pull them out of the fridge, then you have to do the checkering. Check out SweetToothFairy Blog for good directions, but the basic idea is that you cut rectangular strips of the chocolate and vanilla cakes and then stack them on each other. Bottom layer: choc, van, choc. Second: van, choc, van. Third: choc, van, choc. Re-refrigerate the brick-like structure you build and then later roll the whole thing in another layer of vanilla dough. (I didn't do that.)

My dough proved an absolute bear to work with. And I know exactly why. Remember when I excitedly said that my parents' kitchen was stocked for this recipe?

Well... it almost was. My parents don't use butter. They just don't. So they don't have it. They have boxes and boxes of margarine. Yeah. You can see where this is going. I had to use the margarine because I was excited about checkerboards but very much stuck inside the house.

So... when I removed the dough from the refrigerator, I realized I would have real problems. They were no more solid or workable than when I put them in there hours ago. I moved the doughs to the freezer after rolling them out between wax paper, but even that only really worked for the chocolate dough.

I finally got something somewhat workable by continuing to freeze the doughs, but I would not AT ALL recommend using margarine in this recipe. Find butter. Even if you have to crawl to the store on your knees and elbows. Or churn it yourself. Trust me.


This is what I came up with.

You can see that my rectangular strips of cookie dough were very much wider than they are tall, so my bricks turned out very flat and wide. That wouldn't really be a problem, I guess, but they certainly are not ideal. I didn't wrap them in dough because the vanilla dough was the worst to work with. Nothing would have gone right with that experiment.

After seeing the cookies, I knew exactly how they needed to be presented and consumed.

Their tall skinnyness begged for a scoop of icecream. And a strawberry. For luck.

Mmm... That was a good idea.

The cookies themselves were really tasty. The brown sugar flavor was perfect and light and the added cocoa powder I threw in really packed a punch. My mom and I enjoyed the cocoa flavor paired with a texture that was like a softer shortbread. Almost crumbly, but still softer than crispy. So the flavor and texture of this recipe with margarine was great. Trying to wrestle the dough into checkerboards... not so great.

But! I am excited about trying this recipe as God and SweetToothFairy intended it though. The checkerboard cookie will not have the last word!

Also... because the vanilla dough was so hard to work with, I ended up adding chocolate chips to the leftover of one log and dropping them on the cookie sheet. They were pretty tasty. Might need some salt, in my opinion.

I have one log of each dough left in my fridge right now. I might try some stuff with it today. I'll keep you posted.


Anonymous said...

I am really glad you liked them so much. I agree with you regarding the butter issue - and I think this is the reason why you had troubles with the dough. You should try them again with butter.
I will have to try this dough with chocolate chips - you made me curious.

Kate said...

Oh my gosh I can't believe you pulled out Grey Gardens. I adore you for this. Josh convinced me to watch it one night and then he promptly passed out on the couch while I was left alone with the movie. It was great. Such a good movie.

And the cookies look good too, despite the trouble they gave you. Yum.

Amber said...


sorry, distraction. Anyways, I grew up in a margerine family and didn't have real butter until like, middle school. The taste confused me, not kidding.

Also, I have a fantasy cupcake that I think we should try to make: sea salt chocolate caramel. Begin your research! lol.

Justin said...

oh man, i used to be obsessed with these and made them quite often, mostly just because it was fun to hear my coworkers say, "how the heck did you make that"... and pinwheels too. yum.

Elyse said...

I thought about buying the checkerboard cake kit once, but they're kind of expensive. Perhaps, I'll stick with checkerboard cookies for now :) I think your cookies look great! Who cares if some squares are rectangular?! You know what? They look yummy and that's what counts. Deeelish! Sorry that the doughs were giving you a hard time.

Amanda said...

andaoana: The choc chips are just the beginning. I have an idea for the leftover dough that I'm trying out later today. I'll let you know if it's worth repeating.

Kate: Grey Gardens is a life-changing film. My mother and I went through a phase in which we watched it daily. Check out The Beales of Grey Gardens if you haven't seen it; its all the stuff they didn't put in the original film.

Amber: I've seen salted caramel cupcakes that looked tasty. Shouldn't be too hard to add in a gorgeous chocolate. I'm on it.

Justin: My brother, sister, and their friends asked no questions about the process, but they definitely ate these up. They probably assumed I bought them somewhere. Silly kids.

Elyse: I felt the same way about the cake kit. How many times can one make a checkerboard cake to make it worthwhile?

How To Eat A Cupcake said...

@ Amanda & Elyse: I found a Chicago Metallic checkerboard cake kit at TJ Maxx for like $5.99!! I haven't used it yet, but it was a deal I couldn't pass up!

Amanda said...

HTEAC: I really need to start browsing the food/housewares section of TJ Maxx instead of making a beeline to the dresses.

Anonymous said...

Yum - I bet they tasted awesome. I don't think I have the patience to make these though :P