Monday, March 21, 2011

The most work intensive cookies I've ever made

Many times on this blog we find ourselves writing "this is so easy and fast" as a reason why you should try to one recipe or another. What I am about to share with you is neither easy nor fast. It will take you a lot of time. Possibly several or 5 hours. It isn't that easy (although I guess once you get the hang of it, its definitely not brain surgery). I had to read the instructions 5 times and I still didn't understand what was going on. Thank goodness our friend Jess (who orchestrated this cookie adventure) is smart, because I definitely wasn't going to figure it out.

These cookies are beautiful once baked and totally impressive. They are a pretty simple shortbread cookie but the addition of hazelnuts and orange zest make their flavor something special, to match their beautiful appearance. I'm proud that we made these - I generally think of myself as a good baker, but I'm not that great at intricate desserts. Those cake pop things? Forget it. Beautifully decorated cupcakes? Well....mine TASTE good. But, successfully making these cookies give me hope that I'll be able to tackle my next aspiration - macarons. I'll let you know how it works out (obvy).

We found the recipe here, but decided to double it. Our measurements are below, for a single batch, see the original.

Checkerboard Cookies

2/3 cup hazelnuts
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder - Jess had Valrhona, because she's fancy
5 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups butter at room temperature - Jess had Plugra, again, fancy
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp orange zest - we used the zest of one orange and we definitely wish we had used more, at least the zest of 2 oranges

Toast your hazelnuts in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until you start to smell them. Don't burn them! (You always have to say that when toasting nuts, its so easy to forget about them.) Wrap them in a towel, then rub them to get the skins off. Combine the skinned hazelnuts and cocoa powder in a food processor and process until the nuts are finely ground.

Mix together flour and salt and set aside.

Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, vanilla and orange zest and mix. Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, don't over-mix. Divide the dough in half and mix one half of the dough with the cocoa/hazelnut mixture in the bowl of your mixer until incorporated. Now you have your two colors of dough ready. Gird your loins, because from here on out its a lot of measuring and rolling and chilling your dough. Oh, and don't even try to do this without parchment paper. It won't work.

Lay out parchment paper and roll out the vanilla dough to two 6 1/2" x 10 1/2" rectangles. Or one 6 1/2" x 21" rectangle. Either one. Or, if you're not doubling it, just do one smaller rectangle. I trust you to figure it out. Wrap in the parchment and put in the freezer to chill for about 15 minutes.

Remove about 1 cup of chocolate dough and set aside. This is what you will use to wrap the entire thing and create that pretty chocolate border you see around the edges of the cookies above. On another sheet of parchment paper, roll out the remaining chocolate dough to two more 6 1/2" x 10 1/2" rectangles. Wrap and put in freezer to chill.

Once the dough is firm, take the out of the freezer. Lay the vanilla dough on the counter, brush with water and lay the chocolate dough directly on top of the vanilla dough. In some fantasy world, these two layers of dough will be exactly them same size. In real life, you will have to trim the edges and square of the corners - you should have a final rectangle of 6" x 10" (yes, we did measure, a lot). Add all your trimmings to the reserved chocolate dough.

Cut this stack of dough into thirds, lengthwise. Stack these strips so that the colors alternate, brown, white, brown, white and so on (above). Press down to get the layers to meld together. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the freezer until firm, about 15 minutes.

Once the stack is firm, cut it into four slices, lengthwise, about 1/2" wide. Turn every other strip so that you again have alternating colors (above). Re-wrap and pop back in the freezer for another 15 minutes or so.

While those firm up, take your chocolate trimmings and roll out into a rectangle about 9 1/2 x 10 1/2. Put in the freezer to firm (surprise!!). Once firm, remove the stack of dough and chocolate sheet from the freezer. Carefully wrap the stack with the chocolate dough. Smooth out and trim any extra from around the edges. You will have to do some cajoling to get all of this to go down correctly, but don't worry, just keep at it and you'll do fine. All the time in the freezer is really your friend as you can mold the dough to do what you want and then pop it in the freezer to solidify the shape. Once you've wrapped the chocolate dough around the stack, wrap again and put back in the freezer for another 15 minutes or until firm.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove the dough from the freezer, unwrap and slice (with a very sharp knife, may I add) into 1/4 inch slices. Slicing these suckers was the easiest part of the day. Put on a baking sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes until slightly brown around the edges. Cool on a wire rack. Then, decide if you want to shovel all that hard work down your gullet or just stare at how pretty they are and marvel at the fact that you just made those!! I say, eat them!

1 comment:

  1. I don't know about the cookies, but the commentary is terrific. Or should I say 'delicious?'