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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Culinary School - Session 51: Checkerboard Cookies, Swirl Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes and Florentines

Culinary School: Session 51 (12.15.14)

Checkerboard Cookies, Swirl Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes and Florentines

Who are you calling short?

For those who like shortbread, these Petits Fours are for you.

The Checkerboard Cookies, Swirl Cookies and Russian Tea Cakes are all made from shortbread dough so intensely packed with butter and sugar, in proportion to flour, that it is nearly impossible for gluten to develop. The resulting cookies are tender to the point of crumbling upon contact.

The high butter content in Pate Sablee makes for tricky handling. Spend a couple of minutes rolling out this dough, and it becomes a soft mess. Put it in the refrigerator to solidify, and you get a rock hard mass. Work quickly!

Checkerboard Cookie

- Ingredients Running Tally -

Ingredients used to date (12.15.14):

  • Flour: 22,915g
  • Eggs: 11,350g (227x)
  • Sugar: 13,010g
  • Butter: 13,115g
  • Milk/Cream: 11,855g

- The Recipes -


Checkerboard Cookies and Swirl Cookies

Ornate shortbread Petits Fours made from chocolate and vanilla flavored Pate Sablee. The two doughs are cut, stacked and rolled in various ways to create cookies with different designs. The temperamental nature of the shortbread dough combined with the high level of accuracy required to create intricate designs means these cookies can be a frustrating challenge in a hot kitchen.

Focus Techniques:
- After mixing the dough, creating rectangular blocks 1/2" thick to chill in the refrigerator. By pre-forming the dough, less time is later spent rolling the dough into the final shape.
- Thoroughly egg washing any contact points when stacking the two types of dough so that they stick together.
- Returning softening dough to the refrigerator.
- When making Swirl Cookies, beveling the starting edge of the dough in order to be able to form a tight spiral shape.

Checkerboard Cookie

Swirl Cookie


Russian Tea Cakes

Also known as Mexican Wedding Cakes, these are the ultimate crumble cookie. Not only is the dough laden with butter, but a large quantity of ground nuts further shortens the cookie. And unlike the Pate Sablee used for the Checkerboard and Swirl Cookies, the Russian Tea Cakes do not include any eggs.

Focus Techniques:
- Rolling the dough into balls only after the dough has chilled.
- Covering the baked cookies in powdered sugar while still warm so that the sugar adheres... but waiting until after the cookie has set somewhat outside of the oven. Immediately outside of the oven, these cookies are extremely delicate and will crumble even when handled gently.

Unbaked Russian Tea Cake

Russian Tea Cakes

Powder Sugar Dusted Russian Tea Cakes



The antithesis to crumbly shortbread, these cookies are chewy nut caramels baked on a tender Pate Sucree crust.

Focus Techniques:
- Blind baking the Pate Sucree crust. The crust must be partially baked prior to being topped with caramel as the caramel and nuts would burn during a long baking process. However, as the fully assembled cookie is baked for an additional 10 minutes, the Pate Sucree should be blind baked only to the point where the dough is dry and just barely taking on color.
- Carefully monitoring the caramel as it develops. Caramel can burn quickly if cooked over too high a heat. However, an underdeveloped caramel will lack flavor.
- Finishing the final cookies with Maldon Salt to bring out the flavor of the caramel.

Caramelized Almonds for Florentines

Sheet of Florentines

Next - Session 52: Caramel Mou, Hippen Tuile and Petits Fours Glaces

Previous - Sessions 49 & 50: Opera Cake, Langues de Chats, Pate de Fruits, Coconut Macaroons, Madeleines and Nougat

Take a look at the full syllabus

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