I have been enjoying watching The Great Australian Bake Off (GABO) the last few weeks. In the first episode, the technical bake challenge was a Checkerboard Cake which I have noted as another recipe on my to-bake list. This week’s episode on biscuits was another fantastic episode with the oh-so-creative gingerbread structures from the contestants, and they’ve inspired me to make some biscuits.
Not thinking just some simple biscuits, but something more technically challenged, so checkerboard biscuits was the go, thanks GABO for the inspiration. I decided to go for the pandan flavour rather than the classic chocolate version. Although the recipe itself was very simple, basically a shortbread/melting moments type of biscuits, it was the chilling and shaping that took quite a long time to accomplish. But don’t they look good in the end, if I may say so myself, LOL…
Makes approx. 5 dozens biscuits
250g butter *, softened
110g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
400g plain flour, sifted with
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon pandan paste
* If using unsalted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt to the flour.
1. Cream softened butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg until combined. Add vanilla and mix well. Fold in sifted flour mixture, and mix into a soft dough.
2. Divide dough into 2 equal portion, about 400g each. Mix pandan paste into one portion and leave the other portion plain.
3. Take the green portion and remove about 150g from it to make the smaller green portion. Pat and slightly flatten both green portions into a rough rectangle, wrap individually in cling wrap and put into the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour, or overnight, to harden. Repeat the same process with the plain portion.
4. Take the larger of the green and plain doughs out from the refrigerator and leave on the counter for 15 to 30 minutes to soften slightly.
5. Roll out the green portion to 1cm thick (see hint below) and a rectangle of about 10cm × 20cm. Using a ruler, mark out 1cm intervals on the short side, you want nine 1cm × 20cm strips. Discard the rugged strips from the two ends, but don’t throw them away, just stick them back onto the smaller green portion in the refrigerator. Using a pizza wheel or a knife, cut out the strips, using a ruler for accurate cutting (see pics 1 and 2). Repeat the process with the large plain portion.
6. Take 4 green strips and 5 plain strips (see pic 3), and make a log with a checkerboard pattern (see pics 4 to 6), pressing lightly to help them stick together. You can brush the strips with a little water or lightly beaten egg white to help them stick together better, but I did not bother with it. Repeat the process with the remaining 4 plain strips and 5 green strips to make another log, in reverse colour of checkerboard. Wrap the logs separately in cling wrap and chill again until harden, at least 1 hour. In all stages, chill the dough immediately if you feel the dough starts to soften and difficult to handle, especially in hot weather.
7. Take the small green and plain doughs out from the refrigerator and leave on the counter for 15 to 30 minutes to soften slightly.
8. Roll out the green dough into a rectangle of about 15cm × 20cm. Place a checkerboard log, the one with plain colour on the four corners, on the roll-out green rectangle, matching the 20cm side of the log with the 20cm side of the green rectangle (see pic 7). Roll up like a Swiss roll, so that the log is completely encased in the green dough. Trim off edges (don’t throw away, round any trimmings into small balls, flatten and bake). Wrap the complete log in cling wrap and chill again until firm, preferably overnight. At this stage, the log can be frozen for up to 1 month if you are making a large amount in one go, but cut the log into smaller portions enough for each bake and wrap individually before freezing; thaw in refrigerator overnight before slicing and baking. Repeat process with the other log and plain dough (see pic 8).
9. Preheat oven to 180°C. With a very sharp knife, cut the log into 6mm thick (1/4-inch) slices and arrange them on a lined baking sheet, about 2cm apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until firm and just slightly golden brown around the edges. (You may also bake them in 150°C oven for 25 to 30 minutes.) Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To get even thickness when rolling out. Find two wooden spoon handles, or any rods or wooden dowels, with exactly 1cm diameter or thickness as guide to roll out the dough. Place the spoons on two sides of the dough and put the rolling pin on top of the dough at right angle to the spoon handles. Start rolling out the dough and when the rolling pin touches the spoon handles, you know the dough is now 1cm thick.
Taste: Pandan flavoured short biscuits
Consume: Best within a week
Storage: Unbaked dough logs may be frozen up to 1 month; store baked biscuits in airtight container
Recipe Reference(s): Assembling based on Checkerboard Cookies by Baking Obsession