Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas surrounded by everyone they love. My holidays were extremely busy– I wrapped up my semester at culinary school, resigned from my job, and ate…lots.
This is the first time I’m unemployed without any prospects since I was 12– for some a nightmare, for a me, a sigh of relief. Hopefully I find time to unwind, and figure out a somewhat regular regime. But enough with the self-realization, onto the good stuff:
This year for the Holidays, I made quite a few treats– some turned out, some were so so. These checkerboard and spiral cookies were a hit though. They’re quite impressive to look at, but after you master the technique, you can push out dozens of these suckers without breaking a sweat.
Checkerboard and spiral cookies are examples of icebox cookies– which means you prepare the dough, pack it into a round log and freeze it until you are ready for fresh cookies. When you need to make cookies, you take the log out of the freezer, slice rounds and bake. The advantage of this method is that you can make the dough whenever you have free time, and require little preparation for when you are ready to bake them. If you can resist, you can leave the cookie logs in the freezer for up to three months, as long as you properly store them in freezer bags.
Checkerboard and Spiral Cookies
[recipe yields ~5 dozen cookies of either checker board or spiral]
- 1 cup (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 2 large egg
+ egg-whites of 2 large egg
+ 1/2 cup white sugar for rolling logs
supplies: mixer, sieve, rolling pin, plastic wrap, parchment paper, freezer-proof containers or freezer bags, ruler, pizza cutter, or sharp knife.
1. Using a paddle attachment of your upright mixer, cream butter and sugar until combined and fluffy (~2-3 minutes) on medium speed. Scrape down the sides, and add egg and vanilla extract and blend ingredients until all are incorporated.
2. Sift baking powder, salt, and flour. Add dry ingredients (minus cocoa powder) to the wet ingredients, and mix on low just until the ingredients come together. Turn dough out onto a clean work surface; knead dough by pushing small amounts away from you with the heel of your hand for 1 to 2 minutes.
-for the checker board cookies-
3. Divide dough into four parts. Sprinkle cocoa powder over two of the four parts and knead until cocoa has been fully incorporated.
4. Here’s the hard part: Place each half of the kneaded dough between two sheets of plastic and roll out using a rolling pin into four even square pieces (two white, two chocolate), about 1/2″ thick. Using a sharp knife and a ruler, slice one chocolate sheet and one white square into nine 3/4-inch-wide strips. *To this day, I eye-ball my cuts, but I always end up with crooked checkerboards– if you want really clean squares, use a ruler.
5. Place three strips of dough on plastic, alternating white and chocolate strips. Gently press strips together. Repeat, forming second and third layers, alternating colors to create a checkerboard effect. I found it easier to place my dough in the fridge between these steps, because my kitchen was warm, and it made the dough a little difficult to work with. Repeat step 3 and 4, alternating the colors for an alternate checkerboard.
Once you have assembled your checkered log, take your final remaining squares, and wrap it around the checkered logs to create a boarder around the log. Wrap tightly in a sheet of parchment paper, and place in a freezer-proof container or bag. Freeze for a minimum of 30 minutes, to a maximum of 3 months.
- for the spiral cookies-
6. Divide your dough into four parts, and sprinkle cocoa powder over two of the four parts and knead until cocoa has been fully incorporated. Place each half of the kneaded dough between two sheets of plastic and roll out using a rolling pin into four even square pieces (two white, two chocolate), about 1/2″ thick. Place one chocolate square over the white, an roll tightly. Alternate colors for the second roll. Wrap tightly in a sheet of parchment paper, and place in a freezer-proof container or bag. Freeze for a minimum of 30 minutes, to a maximum of 3 months.
7. When you are ready to bake the cookies, remove log from the freezer, and brush with eggwhites, and roll into white sugar. Slice log into 3/8″ slices, and bake in a 350′F preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container up to 5 days.
* This recipe yields 2 logs– either 2 checkerboard logs, 2 spiral logs, of 1 of each. Divide dough according to which amount you would like to make. .