Sunday, December 5, 2010
The Shabbos Kallah Part 4: New Jersey Cake Cookies
When you've known a family for as long as the Rosenthal have known the Palmer-Shermans, some traditions are bound to accumulate, whether it's the yearly trip to the Big Apple Circus or just Shabbat dinner. Going to their house is always one of the most comforting and enjoyable experiences I have when I go home, in large part because of the routine. There's always a delicious fluffy challah, some meat that's so red it's practically still alive (only the Palmer-Shermans like their meat redder than we do), and some New Jersey cake. You may know it as checkerboard cake but since it comes from a kosher bakery in New Jersey, we've given it its own special name. Checkerboard cake often seems magical. How do they do that? we wonder as we examine the perfectly even alternating layers of black and white. Well, I'd tell you...but then I'd have to kill you. The next-best thing is making these cookies. And when I was thinking about what to make for the Shabbos Kallah, I realized that nothing could be more appropriate than these.
However, let me tell you that they are an enormous pain in my ass to make. When they make the New Jersey cake they have special pans that make just the right sized layers for stacking. (Okay, I told you.) But you have to do it by hand. And they must be as precise as possible or they will end up looking all wonky like the ones in the picture above. While it's somewhat satisfying to watch the tower go up, and while the finished product looked very impressive on a plate, I just don't think it was worth it. And that's really the bottom line. The dough is easy to make and they tasted like buttery, yummy shortbread cookies, but you could make buttery, yummy shortbread cookies that take a lot less time and effort - there were no particularly interesting flavors in here. So if you're trying to wow people with your baking skillz, or if you happen to be picking a recipe for a party that is in honor of someone who makes you think of checkerboard cookies, I would say save yourself the aggravation and make something else. This is extra-true if you've been baking for the last eight hours nonstop and this was the last thing you made, as was the case with me, so maybe I'm biased. With all those caveats, the recipe is here.