Monday, December 19, 2011

Zebra cookies

I'm not much of a cookie person so for me, this time of year is not all about endless hours in front of the oven, baking batch after batch of cookies.

The only cookies I do make repeatedly during the holidays, are Greek traditional Christmas cookies, melomakarona and kourabiedes. Those I can't live without. They are embedded deeply in my Christmas-cooking/baking DNA.

I have been meaning to share them with you for the past two years but something always happens. Either I don't have the time to take photographs, or it's too dark outside to take photographs (that's Holland for you), or I just give priority to other recipes, ignoring to post them altogether. I will be baking them this week though, so I do hope I get the chance to post them. Fingers crossed.

Every year however, I try a new cookie just for fun. Just to see what I've been missing. And this year, I gave zebra cookies a chance. I found the recipe on last year's Christmas issue of Dutch Delicious magazine and once I made them, I became instantly addicted.

These zebra cookies are quite easy to make and require ingredients that I am certain you already have in your kitchen cupboards. Flour, sugar, egg, vanilla, baking powder. Oh, and some icing sugar and cocoa for the dark stripes.

These are basically a kind of sugar cookie (an American/English type of cookie) and they are sweet and biscuit-y, i.e. crunchy and utterly delicious. But don't go thinking that these are boring cookies. They are anything but boring.

The fact that this is a two-in-one kind of cookie, really explains it. Two doughs, one vanilla-flavored and one enhanced with the all-encompassing flavor of cocoa, make up the stripy zebra cookie. Vanilla and cocoa. What more can you ask? Ok, some may say icing, a glaze, chocolate coating. Well, to those I say, do it! You can ice them, you can glaze them, you can dip them in chocolate, you can even make two separate cookies instead of one, if you're so inclined. Just make sure you make them!

Zebra (Vanilla and Cocoa) Cookies
Slightly adapted from Dutch Delicious

The vanilla-flavored dough is a basic type of sugar cookie dough which you can use to make many kinds of cookies. This dough yields cookies that don't lose their shape since it holds well during baking, but it is also smooth and very easy to roll out.

You can add chocolate chips to the dough to make chocolate chip cookies and you can make simple jam cookies just by sandwiching your favorite kind of jam in between two cookies.

These are perfect as Christmas presents. Wrap them up in some cute paper, tie them up in a bow and you're set.

Yield: 40-45 cookies


for vanilla-flavored cookie dough
130 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
185 g caster sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
280 g all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder

for cocoa-flavored cookie dough
20 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
20 g icing sugar

Special equipment: sieve, hand-held or stand mixer, rolling pin, 2 large baking sheets, baking paper, plastic wrap


basic cookie dough (vanilla-flavored)
Sieve the flour and baking powder in a medium-sized bowl, add the salt and mix it in.

In a large bowl and with a hand-held mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment), beat the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy, for about 10 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well until incorporated. Fold in lightly half of the flour-baking powder-salt mixture, using a rubber spatula. When it is incorporated, add the rest of the flour mixture and fold it in using your hands this time, because it will be a little too stiff for the spatula. In the end you should have a smooth, soft and pliable cookie dough that doesn't stick to your hand.

Cut the dough in half. Take one half, shape it into a disk, cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes.

cocoa-flavored dough
Take the other half of the dough, return it to the bowl you made the dough in and add the sifted cocoa powder and icing sugar. Knead with your hands until incorporated. Shape the dough into a disk, cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes.

Rolling out the dough
Take first the vanilla-flavored dough out of the fridge and place it in between two large sheets of plastic wrap. This will ensure that once you have rolled it out, it won't break when you try to move it. Roll it out using a rolling pin, into a 20 x 20 cm square.
Then take out the cocoa-flavored dough and roll it out in the same manner.
If you find it difficult to roll the dough out neatly enough to make a square (like I do) then roll it out a little wider and longer and trim it to 20 x 20 cm. Don't throw away the trimmings; use them to make some extra cookies.

Place the cocoa-flavored rolled-out dough on top of the vanilla-flavored rolled-out dough and trim the edges. Cut the dough into 5 cm squares (you'll end up with 16 squares) and make 4 blocks of squares; each block consisting of 4 layers of vanilla and 4 layers of cocoa-flavored cookie dough. Press them gently to seal the layers of dough together. Don't press them hard because they'll lose their shape.
Cover each block with plastic wrap and place them in the refrigerator for 30-40 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Cutting and baking the cookies
Cover your baking sheets with baking paper.

Take the blocks out of the fridge and unwrap them from the plastic wrap. Take each block and cut it into 3/4 cm-thick slices. Place each slice on the baking sheet, spaced apart (3-4 cm) so they don't stick together when cooked. They will expand slightly during baking because of the baking powder.
Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, until lightly golden. They should be a little soft when they come out. They will become harder as they cool.
Once ready, take them out of the oven and place them immediately on a wire rack to cool.
Continue baking the next batch.

They will keep for a week to ten days, in a cookie tin.


  1. oh my. The cookies are wonderful to look at! Pretty layers and all!

  2. Magda, these cookies look so stunning with the contrasting colors! you're right -- these would make lovely christmas presents!

  3. I have seen versions of this beautiful cookie in cooking books but the directions were not as easy to follow as your step-by-step photo instructions are. You have made a lovely Christmas cookie.

  4. Your layers are perfect. I agree they would make for a beautiful holiday gift.

  5. These are beautiful. I remember getting these at the Watergate Pastry Shop in Washington when I was young - and I loved them so! What fun to be able to make them - possibly for the New Year! Have a great Christmas, Magda! ~ David

  6. Magda,
    Your zebra cookies are beautiful! I have made these years ago and forgotten about them (actually I made them like checkerboards). I will use your recipe next time since I lost mine! Happy holidays!

  7. So pretty! They must taste divine too.

    Happy Holidays!



  8. It's a funny coincidence - I made a zebra cake last Sunday! :) I am not much of a sweet tooth myself either but I will definitely try to make these cookies this Sunday! They are so easy to make and they look very cute! Thank you for the recipe, Magda! And I hope you will post the recipes for your Greek Christmas cookies soon!

  9. Wow these are gorgeous, and highly photogenic. The problem is, highly addictive, as you say!!!! Merry Christmas, Magda!

  10. I've never seen cookies like this before; they are beautiful (I would want to eat the cookie dough!). I have to bookmark to make for next year (or next week)! Happy Holidays to you!

  11. These cookies look very creative and I'm sure they taste amazing!

  12. Looks amazing. I was wondering if this can be prepared without egg (may be with an appropriate substitute). Was concerned if the layers will stay together after baking if egg is not used. Any ideas on this? Thanks for the wonderful recipe.