I’d first heard of Sarah Kieffer through Instagram. When you follow as many baking profiles as I do, you start to get a feel of those in the industry who make waves. In looking more at her stuff, I realized that she’s the brain behind the pan-banging method- a style of cookie that I’d noticed was trending a couple years ago. I now have more than enough chocolate chip cookie recipes under my belt, so I wanted to venture out to one of her other popular recipes: Neapolitan Cookies. These have taken Instagram by storm- with their tri-colored and flavored magic that I wanted to try for myself. I’d actually shelved this recipe for a while, because I had just thrown out the last of my strawberry powder as it had gone bad. With Guam’s limited grocery supply and the post offices being what they are, I wasn’t about to wait for a new shipment. I decided to try my hand and a little experimentation, hoping to use Sarah’s recipe as a basis to try out some new flavors. The jury’s still out whether my swap in flavor still makes these “Neapolitan” but I’m sticking to it.
I can’t say I make a lot of sugar cookies, however I don’t believe Sarah’s recipe is a venture from the traditional. Softened butter and white sugar get creamed in a mixer until fluffy, after which we add in an egg and egg yolk, followed by some vanilla. Next comes the dry mix consisting of flour, baking soda and salt which have been whisked together. Mix on low until well incorporated. My dough seemed a bit soft- certainly not firm enough to roll into balls- so I added 2 more tablespoons of flour which seemed to do the trick. Next comes the flavors- which for me is reason alone to make this. I divided the dough in trees and added cocoa powder to one third, per the recipe. Sarah calls for black or Dutch processed cocoa- neither or which I have on hand, so I went with your standard cocoa powder which worked great. The other third I left plain as our vanilla layer. I originally wanted to make the last one all matcha, but seeing as how it’s not always a favorite among others, I decided to split it in two- adding matcha powder to one portion of dough and this taro drink powder plus some extract into the other. They incorporated well, but didn’t have the bright colors I was looking for- nothing that a drop or two of food coloring couldn’t fix. All in all, I ended up dividing the dough into three, and then took one of the thirds and divided it in half (so one third, one third, one sixth and one sixth- sorry if that’s confusing). One of the thirds was plain and the other third got 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. One of the sixths got 3 tablespoons of taro drink mix plus 1/2 teaspoon of extract, while the remaining sixth got 1 tablespoon of matcha powder and some green food coloring. Matcha is pretty strong, so I held back on that amount, while taro tends to be pretty subtle, so I bumped it up. I then portioned out the balls using a 1 tablespoon mini ice cream scoop. The recipe then tells you to press the dough pieces together, and give it a slight roll to make them stick. I had four flavors, so I made up just every combination until I ran out of dough. These then get rolled in more sugar and baked for about 20 minutes or until the edges are set and the tops are puffy.
I know I’m a bit of a sugar cookie naysayer, but if they were all made like this, I wouldn’t complain one bit. The cookies held their shape beautifully, with each flavor staying put in the oven. I’d have to say my favorite is the chocolate, as the cocoa powder adds a nice bitterness to counteract the sweet dough. Matcha is a second place tie- again giving the dough that added bitterness to what is typically an overly sweet cookie. The taro was pretty good too- though taro by itself is a pretty mellow flavor. I think the drink mix and extract combo actually helped push the flavor up a notch. Sadly the vanilla one was my least favorite. It’s not bad by any means- I’m sure kids would love the taste. However, I’m in the camp that desserts shouldn’t be too sweet- so the lack of any offsetting flavor left it just ok in my book. At first, the texture is a bit soft, however after letting it sit for a while, the cookie firmed up nicely with crisp edges. Would I make this again? Definitely. I like the idea of a cookie made up of three flavors that has something for everyone. The little pinwheel effect is really cool and definitely something that would get great reviews at parties. I may just bake them off as all chocolate, all matcha, or all taro, though, to avoid any people wasting the flavor they don’t like. The last note is that the cookie is pretty huge, so maybe scale back your dough balls if you want something easier to manage. All in all, I’m glad my little experiment worked and I was able to make her Neapolitan Cookies with my own little spin.
Full Recipe | Method from Sarah Keiffer, posted with permission on Hummingbird High: