I've been wanting to share these Checkerboards with you for ages but holidays, travel and a bunch of other lame excuses...well, at least these are here today. And that makes this ordinary middle-of-the-week Wednesday, SO much more fun because well, duh, two-tone cookies guys!! And you don't have to make the agonizing choice: vanilla or chocolate because these gems give you both in every bite!! What's not to love?
Growing up, I remember pressing my face against the glass of bakery counters and wondering how they managed to make all sorts of intricately shaped and layered cookies. It seemed so mysterious and intimidating and until pretty recently, I've shied away from complicated looking bakes, which is a crying shame, because the fact is that these are not difficult to put together at all. Boy, have I been missing out!! You know how they say magic is all about creating the illusion for the audience? Well, it's sort of the same with these cookies. If you can cut two pieces of dough in half and then roll them out into squares, you can handle the "magic" of these. I promise!! And we'll go step by step.
First off, you make the vanilla and chocolate doughs, which are entirely straightforward--no tricks here at all and break each in half so that you've got 4 pieces (2 van, 2 choc). The dough needs to chill for at least an hour and up to 24 so you've got a lot of latitude here and can easily turn this into a two-day project which I often find is easier than tackling these creative endeavors than all in one day. Once the doughs have set, you roll all four pieces into squares, trimming the edges (don't throw these out whatever you do--we'll get to them in just a minute) so that they are the same size and begin the process of layering them together, brushing them with a bit of water so that they adhere to each other more easily.
Once that's done, you slice off two pieces and place one of the slices on top of the other alternating the pattern--take a look below--the visual is so much easier than a written explanation. In any case, creating the alternating pattern is a breeze!
Then, it's just a matter of slicing and baking. Truly! That's all there is to making edible little works of art!! My daughter and I jumped around the kitchen for joy when we took them out of the oven and saw how they held their geometric shape!! We're such baking nerds!!
The cookies are simple and melt in your mouth--buttery and semi-chewy with neither flavor overpowering the other. They kind of remind me of shortbread, but are somewhat sugar cookie-like too. You've got to make them and taste for yourself! I promise you won't regret it!!
Now, remember I told you earlier not to throw out the trimmed scraps? That's because you use them to make these amazing marbled cookies. No waste here, nuh-uh!!
All you do is roll the scraps into a log, chill and bake--it's hard to decide which gorgeous design I like better!! The one thing I can say for sure is that you will LOVE these and so will everyone else. I can't wait until my kitchen is back because I will definitely be making these again.
And speaking of my kitchen, here's a little photo update--DEFINITE PROGRESS, NO?!!!
Makes about 4 dozen checkerboards plus 18-20 round marble cookies
Prep Time: About 20 minutes to make the 2 doughs and then at least 30 minutes to chill dough; Assembly Time: 15 minutes, plus additional chilling time; Bake Time: 12-14 minutes
For the vanilla dough
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 large egg
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
For the chocolate dough
- 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup dutch-processed cocoa
- 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1. To make the vanilla dough: Place the butter, both sugars, salt and baking powder in large bowl and use an electric mixer to combine, beating them on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean in as well. Add in the egg and beat for about 30 seconds, just until incorporated.
2. In 3 batches, add in the flour, beating on low speed and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Divide the dough in half and pat each half into a 6-inch square that's about 1/2-inch thick. Wrap both pieces tightly in plastic and chill until dough is firm, at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. Don't wash out the bowl.
3. To make the chocolate dough: Add the butter, both sugars, baking powder and salt to the bowl you've just been using and with same unwashed beaters, beat the mixture for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Then add in the cocoa powder and beat on low speed, scraping down the bowl until all of it is incorporated. In 2 additions, add in the flour, beating until the flour is well mixed in. Divide the dough in half, pat each half into a 6-inch square that's 1/2-inch thick and wrap each half in plastic wrap well. Chill for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on the counter. Unwrap one of the vanilla squares and brush the top with water. Unwrap a chocolate square and place it directly on top of the vanilla square, pushing down so that it adheres well to the bottom layer. Brush the chocolate layer with water and place a vanilla square on top of it, pressing down again. Brush the top with water and then place the final chocolate layer on top, pressing down firmly. Wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
6. Once dough has chilled, remove from the fridge, and trim the edges so that it's a more perfect square. Set aside the trimmings for the marbled rounds you will make. Using a sharp knife, cut a 1/2-inch slice from the square and lay it down flat. Brush the top with water. Cut another 1/2-inch slice and rotate it 180º so that the pattern alternates with the bottom slice. Set that slice on top of the slice you've just brushed with water and press down firmly. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough. Chill the dough a bit if you feel it's getting too soft and sticky. Slice each stack into 1/2-thick cookies.
7. Place cookies onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1-inch apart. (Place cookies you're not baking right at the moment back into the fridge). Bake cookies for about 12-14 minutes, until edges barely begin to brown. Transfer cookies on trays to wire racks and let cool for 10 minutes. Then transfer cookies to wire racks to finish cooling completely. Remove rest of checkerboard cookies from fridge and bake as well.
8. To make marbled version: From the extra dough, brush the top of one piece with water and place another on top of it, trying to alternate the strips of dough. Repeat until all the extra dough has been used up and all the pieces are placed on each other. Flatten and twist all the trimmings together until you form a log that is about 1 1/2-inches thick and about 12 inches long. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.
9. When ready to bake, remove the log from the fridge and unwrap. Slice into 1/2-inch thick rounds and bake for 12-14 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transferring cookies directly to the sheet to finish cooling completely.
10. Cookies last up to one week stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
Note: Recipe adapted from Marbled, Swirled and Layered by Irvin Lin.