Sunday, January 8, 2012

Eight-Layer Cookies

So what did I do two weeks after I swore I never wanted to see another cookie again, ever? I baked cookies! And you know what? It was totally worth it!

Make no mistake: these cookies are a project. After reading the recipe, I took a look at my calendar and made sure I had a day I could be at home to make dough(s) and chill and roll out and chill and slice and bake. I'm pretty sure that the process could be spread out over days, but I wanted to get these done.

To elaborate: you make a yolk-rich, buttery cookie dough and flavor half with almond extract and the other half with cocoa powder and coffee. After the doughs have chilled for a while, you cut each square of dough into equal squares and roll them out. You put each layer on parchment/waxed paper and chill them.

Then you stack up the layers of dough and wonder if you shouldn't have rolled them out more carefully.

But you continue: you chill the stack and then slice and trim the long cookies.

And they're beautiful (although I suppose they could be straighter)! I don't think I've ever made a cookie that looks quite so fancy and professional. 
The best surprise with this cookie is how good it tastes. I had feared that even though making them was fun and satisfying, eating them wouldn't be that fabulous. But I was wrong: these have a great crisp texture and a really nice chocolate/almond flavor. Sami especially loved them and made them his breakfast a couple of mornings in a row. I don't think I actually ate more than four cookies before they were all gone.
Lessons learned: good cookies baked in January are still good cookies. Fancy layered cookies can taste terrific. Maida would not lead me astray. I'm looking forward to my next cookie-baking date.

Here's the recipe. Mark your calendar.

Eight-Layer Cookies

1 c. + 2 T. (9 oz.) butter, room temperature
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 c. minus 2 T. (6.13 oz.) sugar
4 large egg yolks
2-1/4 c. (9 oz.) sifted flour
3/4 c. (3 oz.) unsifted cornstarch
1/2 t. almond extract
1/4 c. (0.75 oz.) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t. instant espresso powder

Cream the butter with the baking powder, salt, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar and beat another 2-3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Then stir in the flour and cornstarch by hand or at low speed. The dough will be quite thick. Remove half the dough to a medium-sized bowl. Add the almond extract to the dough remaining in your mixing bowl and beat until mixed. Scrape out onto a piece of waxed paper, shape into a 5-inch square (yes, I used a ruler this time), wrap it up and freeze it (or refrigerate it for 1 hour). Put the reserved dough half into the mixing bowl and add the cocoa powder and coffee powder to it. Beat it until the cocoa is incorporated and form this dough also into a 5-inch square and freeze it. After about 30 minutes, the dough should be firm enough to work with. 
You'll need a floured surface to roll out on, a rolling pin, a ruler, and plenty of waxed paper or parchment. Take one dough square and, using your ruler, cut it into four 2-1/2-inch squares. Slowly and carefully roll out each square into a 10x4-inch rectangle. The edges may crack and all, but you'll trim them later, so don't worry too much. Just try to get the rectangle as even as possible, and measure to make sure all the rectangles are about the same size. As each rectangle is rolled out, place it on its own sheet of waxed/parchment paper. You can stack them up.
When you've rolled out all the dough, put all eight layers in the freezer, preferably on a cookie sheet so that they stay flat. Let chill for 15-20 minutes, no more. Take them out of the freezer and then make your stack: start with a white layer and brush it with a bit of cold water. Put a black layer on top of that and press down a bit. Brush that with water and top with a white layer, pressing down. Continue. Wrap the whole stack well in plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or freeze for about an hour.
OK, you're reaching the finish line. Preheat the oven to 375 and line two cookie sheets with parchment or silicon or aluminum foil. Take out and unwrap your dough stack. Trim one narrow end so that it's all even. Then use a ruler to mark out 1/4-inch slices. Use a big, sharp knife to carefully cut those slices. Trim the ends of each slice separately. You'll have a lot of dough scraps, which you can roll out later to make "marbleized cookies" or simply give to your cookie-dough-obsessed family members (if you're not afraid of raw eggs).
Place the slices carefully on the lined cookie sheets; they don't have to be spaced very far apart. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they're golden brown at the edges but still pale in the middle. It's tricky because you want them to bake long enough to be crunchy but not so long that you lose the contrast in color. Check every minute or so when you've gotten close to the 15-minute mark. Carefully transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool. Feel proud of your beautiful cookies as you devour them.

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