Monday, January 28, 2013

Four Weeks of Cookies: Red Velvet Black and White Cookies

"Red velvet black and white cookies? Is this real life?"

Those were my first thoughts when I stumbled upon the recipe for these magical cookies. They seemed too good to be true, like zero calorie ice cream or Hogwarts. But, lo and behold they do actually exist; in fact, they are the brainchild of one Mrs. Rachael Ray. I'm not a big RR fan and Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off may be one of the most ridiculous shows on television (Coolio was a finalist?!? Come on.), but I have to give the woman props for these cookies. They are sheer genius.

Normally black and white cookies aren't my thing. I find the cake base to be bland and the frosting too sweet; however, a moist red velvet cake base topped with one half cream cheese frosting and one half chocolate glaze. That I can get on board with.

I decided to make these for my two friends, Tija and Darcy, whom I owed red velvet cakes per their birthday requests. The requests had been made months earlier, but better late than never, right? I figured red velvet cookies would be something novel and would also take care of the problem of leftovers. As a frequent baker, I've found that while a batch of cookies seems to disappear in no time, a cake tends to outstay its welcome, like the party guest that never leaves. 

Once I had the recipe and the occasion, the only thing left to do was make the cookies... Not as easy as I had anticipated. These are not cookies for the casual baker. While the technique is pretty basic, the recipe requires major time and effort. Three batches later, here's what I've learned:
  1. The thinner the layer of batter, the higher the likelihood you will end up with dry cookies. Don't make your batter layer super thin. Moist fluffy cookies win over dry thin ones any day. If you want super thin cookies, adjust the baking time accordingly.
  2. Use the traditional double boiler method to make your glaze. I know it's tempting to use the microwave, but DON'T. I somehow managed to screw up my glaze that way. It turned out chunky and grainy, and far from pretty. The second time around I made it according to the recipe method and it was perfectly smooth and silky.
All of that being said, if this recipe intrigues you, I say take it on! The cookies are a lot of work, but the end product is worth it, they're uber tasty and impressive.

I used a biscuit cutter to shape my cookies into even circles after baking
Bon appetit!

Red Velvet Black & White Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen, depending on size
2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp red food coloring
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 c buttermilk

Cream Cheese Frosting 
1/2 block (4 oz) cream cheese, softened
4 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (plus 1/2 scraped vanilla bean if desired)

Chocolate Glaze
5 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate (chips or coarsely chopped chunks)
1/4 c light corn syrup
Pinch of salt

Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. 

Whisk together flour cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 to 5 minutes). Add egg and yolk and beat for one minute, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add food coloring and vanilla extract and beat on medium speed until thoroughly incorporated.

Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed. Add all of the buttermilk in a slow stream. Add remaining flour mixture and beat on low speed until no flour bits remain.

Spoon batter onto prepared baking sheets by the heaping tablespoonful. Spread batter out into a circle. The layer of batter should be relatively thin, as shown about halfway down the page here. Keep the cookies spaced 2 inches apart. Bake cookies until dry on top and slightly firm to the touch, 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

To frost the cookies, turn cookies bottom side up and gently wipe off any crumbs. If you would like uniform cookies, use a biscuit cutter to cut cookies before flipping over (I used a 2-inch diameter cutter). Using two separate butter knives, cover half of each cookie with cream cheese frosting, and the other half with chocolate glaze. Allow cookies to set for about 30 minutes. Cookies are great individually wrapped or can be stored in an airtight container with a sheet of parchment paper separating any stacked layers. Cookies can be stored, wrapped or sealed, in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Cream Cheese Frosting

For smooth frosting, whip cream cheese before adding butter and use sifted powdered sugar

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the cream cheese on medium speed.  The cream cheese should be as soft and smooth as possible. Stop the mixer.  Add the softened butter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat the two together over medium speed until smooth and incorporated.

Add one cup of powdered sugar.  Blend until incorporated.  Add vanilla extract (and bean, if using) and remaining half cup of powdered sugar.  Beat on medium high speed until frosting is smooth and silky.

Chocolate Glaze

Use the stove to achieve a perfectly smooth glossy glaze

In a heatproof bowl, combine butter and chocolate pieces. Set bowl over a pot of simmering water so that the water does not hit the bottom of the bowl (creating a double boiler). Stir until butter and chocolate are melted and smooth. Resist the temptation to use a microwave here. I made that mistake on my first batch of cookies and accidentally overheated the mixture, which resulted in a glaze with a funky, grainy texture.

Turn off heat and remove the bowl from the pan.  Stir in corn syrup and pinch of salt. Set aside to cool slightly before glazing cookies. 

Source: Joy the Baker

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