Tuesday, December 11, 2018


This installment of A Statistician Bakes is brought to you by: sort of using a ruler. I wanted to make some impressive-looking cookies for my holiday potluck at work and because I can never do anything halfway, I picked Checkerboard Cookies. I've actually been dying to make these for a while but they seemed so tedious and you have to refrigerate the dough for a while and I rarely meet a sugar cookie recipe that I enjoy. But my trust in the America's Test Kitchen is absolute so I decided to dive in...and instantly deviate from the recipe.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, checkerboard cookies are sugar cookies with half the dough flavored with some chocolate and then the dough arranged to look like a checkerboard. Done well, they look really good. Here's my problem: the America's Test Kitchen recipe only describes a 2x2 checkerboard and I think that looks lame. So instead of doing the sensible thing and splitting the dough in half to design my cookies, I decided to go with 4 squares of chocolate dough and 5 squares of regular dough to get a 3x3 checkerboard. Math! You'll see how that turns out.

Since I was baking for a large party, I decided that instead of cutting the dough in half and turning one half chocolate, I would just make two batches of dough. Spoiler alert: I had way too many cookies. Anyway, I made my regular sugar cookie dough first. Devotees of this blog will recall that I am now worshiping at the alter of my digital scale and am weighing my flour and sugar. I held fast to this belief and bing, bang, boom, my sugar cookie dough was done in no time. It was seriously so much faster weighing ingredients! Why carefully measure out 2 1/4 cups of flour when you can dump 11 1/4 oz into a bowl on a scale? I wish I had timed myself because I think I broke some sugar cookie dough-making records.

I tossed the dough on the counter to roll it out into two 6 inch long squares. Well sort of. First I cut the dough in half. Then I rolled the dough out to 6 inches long. Then I tried to make it square-ish. Then I cut the dough into quarters lengthwise so that I had 4 long rectangle pieces. And then I confused myself about how many rectangles I needed. Bad baker, each 6 inch completed log should have 5 long rectangles! Not 4! So I kinda fudged it and cut off a piece from the dough I had set aside to roll out the bonus two rectangles I'd need. Confused yet? I sure was. I also tried half-heartedly to square up the edges so I would get some nice clean lines but I'd be lying if I said was patient enough to do that well. Anyway, rectangles made, it was on to the chocolate dough!

I melted some semisweet chocolate on the stove while I washed all of my tools. Well, sort of washed. Come on, the same exact stuff is going in. I wasn't going to lose my mind over it. And then I followed the exact same process adding melted chocolate and cocoa powder. I even weighed the cocoa powder! Then I grabbed the measuring spoon that I had used for the salt to add 1/2 tsp and...oh shoot, that's the 1/2 tbsp measuring spoon. Well....crap. I put 1/2 tbsp into the regular dough instead of 1/2 tsp. Here's some more math, folks: that's THREE TIMES the amount of salt I should have used. I stood frozen at my counter for a few minutes. What should I do? Should I chuck the whole thing and start over? But I already made all of those annoying rectangles! But what if the cookies are super salty? But I already made all of those annoying rectangles! But baking is an exact science...shut up and just move on, internal monologue!

So that happened. And I just pretended it never happened.

With that all in mind, I finished up my chocolate dough and went to roll it out. But then I thought, if I made 5 logs from the regular dough and I only need 4 logs of chocolate dough and the intent is for all of these square to neatly fit into a checkerboard pattern, they should logically be the same thickness. At this point, I was over it, cut off a bit of chocolate dough, chucked it in the trash and declared them even. I rolled out the chocolate logs and then set about arranging them. It was actually surprisingly easy. The only problem I had was not getting crisp right angles at the junctions because I had been lazy with my rolling earlier. But I guess that's something I should only care about if I want them to look professional. I wrapped up my two now-giant logs of dough and put it in the fridge to chill.

[Two hours later]

Ok, time to cut them! The beauty of these cookies is that they're so easy to cut once the dough is chilled and they reveal such a lovely pattern once you cut them. I was supposed to cut them 1/4 inch thick and for once, I actually measured. Well, for the first 5 or 6 cookies. Then I eyeballed it because I prefer speed over precision. Clearly. I baked them up (two sheets, 3 batches!) and called it a night. Here are the checkerboard cookies for your judgement:

I think they generally looked pretty good except for the fact that they're all wobbly on the edges. However, people at work LOVED them. They thought I had purchased the cookies. So maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist for my own good? And they were pretty tasty cookies. People really liked them and someone even asked me for the recipe.

I told no one about the salt.

But I could totally taste the salt.

Good recipe. Next time, less salt.

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