These delicate french shortbread biscuits are addictive! They're perfectly buttery, crumbly, not too sweet and always get that "can't-believe-how-good-this-is" look on people's faces when they put it in their mouths. They were also one of the many elements we had to complete for our final pastry exam at Le Cordon Bleu. I prefer them in checkerboard form because they just look so neat and clean, but they can be prepared anyway you like, you can go wild with your imagination on this one! Pinwheels, stripes, pipe it with a fancy nozzle, top it with nuts, flavor it with essence or zest, sandwich it with jam, dip it in chocolate or even color it and make customized designs. It really is very flexible and has the potential to be quite an impressive petit four.
In this post I'm going to go through the checkerboard method with 2 flavors, chocolate and cinnamon - here's the recipe and it yields about 24 checkerboard biscuits.
250g all purpose flour
100g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
10g cacao powder
Pinch of salt
5g ground cinnamon
1 egg white
Touch of water
- Sieve together the flour, icing sugar and salt.
- Rub the butter with the flour (sablage/sanding method – basically cut the butter into cubes and put it into the flour mixture, using your hands rub the butter into the flour until you achieve a sandy consistency, if you over do it, it becomes more of a dough). Note: If you have a kitchen aid, this can be done using the paddle attachment, just be careful not to over mix it in the initial stages, make sure the speed is slow.
- Add the egg yolks and bring the mix together with a scraper. Note: the mixture is going to be very soft and sticky - it's normal, don't panic!
- Fraiser the dough just a few times to obtain a smooth texture. Fraiser is a french technique of blending the dough without overworking it (if overworked the end result is a very tough biscuit, not light and delicate when baked). With the heel of your hand push the dough away from you while flattening it on a work surface.
- Divide the dough in half, mix one half with cacao powder and the other with cinnamon.
- At this point it is going to be extremely soft and difficult to handle, roll each out between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper to about 4mm thickness and try hardest to keep it in a somewhat rectangular shape (it helps to have the rolling pin spacer bands to make sure you're rolling it all out evenly to the same thickness). Remove the top layer of greaseproof paper and slip the bottom sheet onto a tray and in the fridge until the butter in the dough firms up and the dough is easier to handle.
- Make the assemblage by mixing the egg white with a touch of water, just enough to make it fluid.
Assembling the checkerboard:
- Using the egg white mixture as glue, assemble your chilled and rolled out chocolate dough on top of your cinnamon dough. You'll have to work fast because this dough becomes extremely soft, very fast and once that happens it's difficult to get those neat, sharp edges to the checkerboard.
- Cut in half and glue one on top of the other again, making sure to alternate flavors. Trim to the same size and keep the trimmings aside. Chill the assembled dough until firm again.
- Cut into long batons of about half a centimetre width and depending on how big you want your checkerboard biscuit to be, assemble 3 (or more) batons on top of one another making sure to alternate flavors and achieve something similar to what is shown below:
- After the checkerboard has been well chilled, on a work surface dusted with icing sugar, roll out the trimmings that you kept aside to about 2mm thickness. Working quickly, brush lightly the assemblage over the rolled out trimmings and wrap the checkerboard as tightly as you can. Brush away any excess icing sugar and chill well. Note: Don't be too generous with the egg white glue as the biscuit tends to soufflé in the oven if there's too much used.
- Cut the checkerboard into 1cm slices and bake at 180 degrees celsius for 10 minutes on a baking tray lined with a silicone mat (this distributes the heat equally and cooks the biscuits evenly). It's difficult to quote an exact cooking time because it depends on a lot of different factors, but the biscuits should be ever so slightly golden brown at the bottom. Also they are best baked chilled, straight from the fridge, it helps keep their sharp, clean edges.
And there you have it foodies! My all time favorite butter biscuit recipe! Enjoy! xo