Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Colourful Checkered Butter Cookies

Being a home-maker doesn't deny me from looking forward to weekends. Since I will be pretty much occupied with chores, meals preparation, baking and etc during the weekdays, weekends are usually my (self-declared) "off" days.

However, it was pouring heavily in this small city in the west of Florida last Sunday morning. I reckoned, and true as forecasted, the rain should last for the rest of the day. Although I managed to sleep in a little later just like other weekends, I decided to turn my "off" day into a "working" day since I was reluctant to step out of the house.

I began running through my "to-bake" list, a list which I have built over time from recipes I come across from everywhere, and wondering what I could "twist' and execute to fit the Aspiring Bakers last theme event on Rainbow and Ombre Party when I spotted the checkered butter cookies, originally in vanilla and chocolate flavour. I instantly related the checkered cookies to my recent MultiColour Checkered Cake and decided to make a colourful version of the butter cookies.

Colourful Checkered Butter Cookies

Colourful Checkered Butter Cookies
Recipe referenced and modified from: Martha Stewart

Ingredients Required

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 large egg
Edible food colourings, as desired

Bakeware Used

Two baking sheets with dimensions 15.25"x10.25"x0.75"

Preparation Steps
  1. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl using an electric mixer or stand mixer until well blended.
  2. Add vanilla extract, lemon extract and salt, mix until well combined.
  3. With the electric mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until incorporated.
  4. Turn dough out onto a clean work surface, it will be loose and crumbly. Knead down with heel of hand for one to two minutes. Dough is non-sticky and pliable.
  5. Measure and divide dough into four equal portions.
  6. Add drops of food colouring (as necessary to achieve desired shade) to each dough and knead dough until colour evens out. 
  7. Place one of the coloured dough on a parchment paper and press out dough into a rectangular shape, approximately 7-inch by 5-inch with a thickness of about 1/4-inch. 
  8. Cover dough with another sheet of parchment paper and smooth out dough using a rolling pin.
  9. Wrap rolled out dough with cling wrap and refrigerate while working with the rest of the coloured dough.
  10. Repeat Steps 7 to 9 for the remaining coloured dough.
  11. Prepare egg wash by whisking together the egg and one tablespoon of water. Set aside.
  12. Remove first and second rolled out dough from fridge and unwrap cling wrap. Brush surfaces of the rolled out dough with egg wash. Invert one of the dough with egg wash side facing down over the other dough with the egg wash side facing up, gently pressing both together. 
  13. Repeat Step 12 for the remaining rolled out dough, stacking coloured dough in any desired order. Trim all four sides of the assembled dough with a sharp knife for smooth edges.
  14. Wrap assembled dough with cling wrap (re-use cling wrap used for wrapping individual rolled out dough) and refrigerate for approximately 10 minutes or until the dough block re-hardens.
  15. Remove dough block from fridge and unwrap. Slice dough block lengthwise into eight equal strips.
  16. Apply egg wash to top surface of one strip and bottom surface of another strip. Stack both strips together vertically by gently pressing strips with egg wash sides together. Repeat for the remaining six strips.
  17. Lay final four thick strips of dough flat on the work surface. Flip two of the thick strips horizontally (i.e. 180 degree), with the first coloured layer pointing in opposite directions.
  18. Assemble thick strips of dough into a square log by stacking one over the other in alternate colours to create the checkered effect. Apply egg wash in between layers and gently press dough together.
  19. Re-wrap dough with cling wrap and refrigerate approximately 30 minutes or freeze 15 minutes, or until square log hardens.
  20. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  21. Remove dough from fridge and unwrap. Slice square log into approximately 1/4-inch thick and place on baking sheet, spacing about 1-inch apart.
  22. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until edges are slightly brown. Note: Cookies may still be soft but will gradually harden when cool.
  23. Remove baking sheet from oven and let cookies cool for two minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Store cookies in air-tight containers.

The Dream Baker's Experiment
  1. I omitted the cocoa powder from the original recipe since I was only making the vanilla version.
  2. I used orange extract instead. This is just a personal preference. The same amount can also be substituted with just pure vanilla extract or other extract such as almond extract.
  3. The divided dough weighed approximately 170 grams each. You can choose to work with more or less than four colours. Take note if dividing into more than (or less than) four portions, roll out dough into smaller (or larger) rectangular dimensions, maintaining the 1/4-inch thickness. Otherwise, the rolled out dough will be too thin to handle and the resulted checkered effect will not be as obvious.
  4. I used liquid food colouring and added approximately four drops each to achieve the strong vibrant colour. Each drop of my food colouring is just a tiny amount so adding four drops would not affect the consistency of the dough. Alternatively, use gel-type of colouring for a more vibrant colour.
  5. I did not follow the original recipe of cutting the rolled out dough into stripes and assembling in alternate colours as I thought it was quite a hassle. But I would suggest assembling the log by first cutting the rolled out dough into stripes with the help of a ruler to achieve a precise and almost equal measurement and better alignment. The log can be assembled into a square log or a rectangle log based on cookie shape as desired.
  6. I applied only a thin layer of egg wash (barely visible, similar like a gloss finish) to help in "glueing" the dough.
  7. I placed one of the baking sheet in the middle rack of the oven, the other baking sheet on the rack just below the other and baked both trays at the same time.
  8. I baked my cookies for 11 minutes. The cookies did not "expand" much in size during the baking process (as compared to my M&M's® Cookies baking experiment). I was too eager to have them baked and totally forgot to take pictures before sending them into the oven.

Each dough was kneaded until an even colour is achieved.

I attempted to fold the parchment paper to "wrap" the flattened dough width-wise before rolling out the flattened dough lengthwise with a rolling pin to smooth out the dough and adjusting to the desired length. This helps in limiting the dough from spreading out width-wise when being rolled.

I laid a piece of cling wrap over the rolled out dough before inverting dough with cling wrap side down and parchment paper side up.

The parchment paper should be peeled off quite easily.

The rolled out dough is wrapped with cling wrap and refrigerated until it hardens.

The respective rolled out dough are assembled with the sides trimmed before refrigerating for the second time. Do not throw away the trimmed dough! See further below.

The dough block is first sliced into four equal stripes with each further sliced into half. Using a ruler will help a lot in achieving an almost equal width.

Two strips are stacked together, one above the other to form a thicker strip, each with eight layers of colour. The thick strips are then laid flat on the work surface and stacked in alternate colours to form the checkered effect.

The final assembled log is wrapped and refrigerated before slicing into 1/4-inch thickness for baking.

The dough from the trimmed edges in Step 13 are shaped into small rectangular size and baked. 
They may not have the checkered effect but they are totally edible and taste as good!

Each baked cookies measured approximately 2.5-inch by 2.3-inch. Noticed the checkers are not quite aligned. Cutting the rolled out coloured dough into strips and assembling strip by strip would yield better aligned checkers. But this is not too bad, right?! ^_^

These cookies are crunchy on the outside and (just so) slightly soft in the inside and they are so fragrant and buttery. Yum~ 

I am submitting this Colourful Checkered Butter Cookies to the Aspiring Bakers #40: Rainbow and Ombre Party! (March 2014) hosted by Cynthia of The Baking Biatch.

My Fifth Baking Post Afterthoughts

Although I still find myself struggling with words when trying to explain each and every steps of the baking process (as I hope to be as detailed as possible), I suppose I have made improvements by providing more pictures to help in visualising my explanations (I hope so).

Do feel free to drop me an email or send in your comments should you have any questions and I will try my best to help.

Dare to dream.
The Dream Baker

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