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Recipe for Checkerboard Cookies
The recipe for checkerboard cookies is simple: flour, butter, powdered sugar and some cocoa. Because it is simple, use the best ingredients you can find because the flavor of each ingredient will come out in the finished cookie. Use Dutch-processed cocoa if you have it, because it lends a darker color to the cookies.
- 1 c. plus 7 tbsp. unsalted butter (300grams), divided
- 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar (150 grams)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3 c. plus 2 tbsp. flour (400 grams)
- 1/3 c. cocoa (25 grams)
- 1 egg white (optional)
Mix 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons softened butter with the powdered sugar and salt until fluffy. Add the flour and continue to mix until a soft dough forms. At first it will be crumbly but it will form a ball if you keep mixing.
Divide in half, or remove about 425 grams of dough to a second bowl. Mix the cocoa plus the remaining tablespoon butter into one half.
Form both doughs into balls, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1/2 to 1 hour.Continue to 2 of 15 below.
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Divide the Dough
The dough can stay in the refrigerator for an hour up to a couple of days. If you are using fresh sweet butter, don't leave it in long enough to go rancid.
Once you have the dough chilled, take them out and cut off about one fifth of it. The smaller part will go around the outside of the checkerboard and hold it all together.Continue to 3 of 15 below.
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Roll out the Dough
Roll 4/5 of the white dough into a rectangle about 3/8 inch thick (1 centimeter) on a lightly floured board. Repeat with black dough.
I used a cloth covering on the rolling pin here, to try and cut down on the amount of flour used. If you use too much flour it can make the cookies tough or crumbly. The cloth covering worked fine, but it is just as good to lightly flour the dough and rolling pin.Continue to 4 of 15 below.
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Cut the Dough into Strips
Cut each rectangle lengthwise into 10 equal strips, about 3/8 inch wide (1 centimeter) with a table knife or bench knife. Set aside.
Cut the edges off to make straight strips. If the length varies a little, that is OK. You can always piece them when you put the checkerboards together.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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Roll out the Other Piece of Dough
Roll out remaining (1/5) dough plus any scraps to a rectangle as long and wide as the first, but about 1/8-inch thick (2 to 3 millimeters). Sometimes this is easier to do between two sheets of plastic wrap. You can also use a pastry cloth and rolling pin cover to roll out the dough as shown.
The plastic wrap or pastry cloth will help you lift this dough around the checkerboard pattern in a few minutes.Continue to 6 of 15 below.
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Use Egg White to Stick the Pieces Together
Beat the egg white with 1 teaspoon of water until foamy. Brush the sheet of black dough with egg white.
If you don't want to use egg, brush with a little water, instead. It is not the best binder for these cookies, but people with an egg allergy might want to try it.Continue to 7 of 15 below.
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Continue with the Checkerboard Pattern
Lay three strips of thick dough near one edge and touching each other, alternating white, black, white. Brush the tops with egg white. You may also want to dab at the sides of the dough strips and push them together so that they touch, without losing their square shape.
If they break, just place them together like a jigsaw puzzle. The next steps and baking will have them sticking together.Continue to 8 of 15 below.
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The Second and Third Layer Form the Checkerboard
Stack three strips on top of the first three: black, white and black. Brush with egg white. The last layer is white, black white again.
Press all the layers together gently, preserving the square shape but making sure the sides touch.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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Fold the Mantle Around the Checkerboard
Brush all sides with egg white and lift the thin sheet of dough up the side and press in place. It may break a bit, but that will be smoothed out later. Press firmly so that there is good contact between the mantle and the checkerboard.
Do not worry if all the strips are not the same length. You can pinch them together and when you cut them, they will be your test cookies which you can eat right away. Everyone needs a few of those!Continue to 10 of 15 below.
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Finish wrapping and Smoothing
Finish by wrapping the rest of the outer coat around the checkerboard and smooth the seams, piecing where necessary.
Smooth the seams and any breaks with a little water and your fingers. Roll the rectangle over several times, pushing down a little on each quarter turn to ensure a tight seal with the egg white and the alternating dough strips.
If you have any bubbles underneath, press them down to the next dough layer. That way, when you slice the dough, it will hold together better.Continue to 11 of 15 below.
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Another Look at the Log of Checkerboard Cookies
Here's a quick view after I fiddled with the log and smoothed it out.Continue to 12 of 15 below.
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Do the Same With the White Dough
Just when you thought you were done! Take the white dough and roll it out like the black. The order this time:
Continue to 13 of 15 below.
- Row One: Black, white, black
- Row Two: White, black, white
- Row Three: Black, white, black
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Wrap The Dough in Plastic Wrap
Lift the logs of dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and cover all sides. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour to firm up.Continue to 14 of 15 below.
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Slice the Checkerboard Dough
With a sharp knife, cut dough logs into cookies about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick (about 5 millimeters thick) and place on cookie sheet, separated about 1 inch.
Piece together any that try and fall apart by setting the pieces close together (ideally touching). When they bake, they should adhere to each other.Continue to 15 of 15 below.
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Bake, Cool and Eat
Heat oven to 350°F. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just starting to show some browning. Remove from oven and let cool for several minutes on the sheet before moving to rack to cool.
Store in a tightly covered container. Christmas cookies made in Germany are generally dry, easy to store cookies which can be kept throughout the Advent season. That way, just a couple of days baking sets you up for many happy afternoons.
More German Christmas Cookies