The older I get (it’s all relative, I know), the more I realize how much some of the best things in life are also the simplest. Life gets crazy, plans have to change, but I think there’s comfort in knowing that lifting your spirits or finding your happy place isn’t nearly as overwhelming or unattainable as it sometimes seems. Whether it’s a phone call from family or rereading a favorite line from a favorite book, it’s the little, everyday kind of things that often make the biggest difference.
Baking has always been that kind of refuge for me, and I think it’s that way for a lot of people. I don’t know if it’s the amazing smell or sweet flavors or the act of creating something new from a pile of simple ingredients that I find so soothing, but it definitely rides super high on my list of things to do when life starts feeling crazy. What’s even better is finding a recipe that makes you smile by default just because it turns out so well or is so crazy cute. For me, this is one of those recipes.
Dubbed “Busy Bees” by the Williams-Sonoma Cakes, Cookies, Pies and Tarts cookbook where I found the recipe, these sweet little biscuits are some of the happiest cookies I’ve ever made, simply because they look so adorable. I don’t know what it is about forming a striped pattern from dough that seems so amazing to me, but I suppose I shouldn’t waste too much time trying to figure it out. These cookies, with their simplistic color scheme and nautical-inspired loveliness, make me as happy as pie. And I certainly can’t argue with that.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cakes, Cookies, Pies and Tarts (p. 69)
• ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
• ½ cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
• 2 ounces semisweet chocolate
Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix to combine. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Then gradually add dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture, and mix until just combined.
In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate. Set aside to cool slightly.
Divide the dough in half, leaving half in the bowl and placing half between two pieces of parchment paper. Roll out the vanilla dough into an 8-by-6-inch rectangle, about ¼ inch thick. Place on a baking sheet, and cover with plastic wrap.
Stir melted chocolate into remaining dough in the bowl until thoroughly combined. Repeat rolling process with chocolate dough. Refrigerate both doughs for one hour.
Remove top piece of parchment from both doughs, and invert chocolate dough onto vanilla dough. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Using a sharp knife, trim stacked dough into an even 8-by-6-inch rectangle.
Slice dough lengthwise into three strips, each 2 inches wide. Place each dough strip on top of the next until you have six alternating stripes of vanilla and chocolate dough in an even block. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Cut dough crosswise into 1/8-inch slices, and place about 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet.
Bake cookies until they just begin to brown, about 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
What kinds of recipes brighten your mood on cloudy days? Is it something you bake? A warm-and-cozy meal? Or maybe it’s something outside of your kitchen? Whatever it is that brings a smile to your face, I’d love to hear about it!