Checkerboard Butter Cookies

Stage 8If you like math challenges and geometry, these cookies are for you! I created many drawings and cut countless strips of dough to get the exact ‘look’ (…Is that a phrase in baking?)that I was looking for.

Over the years, I attempted to bake checkerboard cookies many times and now feel I have perfected this cookie. I learned a few tips from Nick Malgieri, in his cookbook Cookies Unlimited. To qualify this unfamiliar name, Nick Malgieri was once the Executive Pastry Chef at Windows on the World Restaurants in The World Trade Center NYC,*  and has written many detailed and tutorial cookbooks on baking.

I think any plain refrigerator cookie recipe will work…just know that using untweeted cocoa powder is recommended to add to the flour, when preparing the chocolate dough. Malgieri’s recipe is a simple butter cookie…not very sweet, but just enough so you don’t miss the chocolate, vanilla bean and the butter flavors. (Some of my tasters said these cookies just aren’t sweet enough for their taste.) The bigger issues in successfully making these cookies are how to put the 2 doughs together. Explaining the steps are conveyed more easily through pictures than in words. I made the recipes three times, trying different configurations, and once using the dough to wrap the checkerboard, for a more finished look.

COmbo Picture

Here are a few tips I learned along the way:

  • Use a clear, plastic, washable ruler to measure each strip you plan to cut; precision matters when making the checkerboard.
  • With a food brush, use an egg white wash to ‘glue’ the pieces together.
  • Use a sharp, non-serrated knife when cutting the dough.
  • The dough ALWAYS needs to be cold…after most every step, the dough needs to be returned to the refrigerator for about 30-45 minutes…or longer.
  • Wrapping with vanilla or chocolate dough makes the cookie have a more finished look…not necessary, though.

The cookies are truly fun to make and eat…I look forward to hearing about your experience in making these cookies!

*Windows on the World was a complex of venues, on the Floor 106 and 107 of the North Tower of the original World Trade Center complex

Chocolate Checkerboard Cookies

In Nick Malgieri’s cookbook, these are called Vanilla Sables and Chocolate Sables.

Vanilla Sable Dough
  • 1.5  stick unsalted butter (room temperature
  • 1/3 cups sugar 
  • 1 egg yolk (save the egg white for later when putting the strips together)
  • 1 tsp  vanilla extract (I use vanilla paste)
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour 
Chocolate Sable Dough
  • stick unsalted butter (room temperature )
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla ( I use vanilla paste)
  • 1 egg (room temperature… warm up the egg quickly by placing in a bowl of warm water)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder (sifted after measuring)
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. For vanilla dough, cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl until well blended, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in vanilla extract and egg yolk.
  2. Gradually mix in flour on low speed.
  3. Knead dough to bring it together. Turn dough onto a clean working surface. Shape into a rectangle. Wrap with plastic and chill for about 30 minutes (or longer).
  4. For chocolate dough, cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl until well blended, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix in flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
  6. Beat in flour-cocoa dry ingredients on low speed.
  7. Knead dough to bring it together. Turn dough onto a clean working surface. Shape into a rectangle. Wrap with plastic and chill for about 30 minutes (or longer).

The Checkerboard Assembly Directions here show one way to create the checkerboards.  This is where you can get creative and or do what feels right to you…you can make strips narrower, wider, create a 3×3, 4×4 or I did a 3×4, as well

  1. Prepare 4 sheets of parchment or wax paper.  (I used a ruler and made the strips 1/2 inch each) Draw a 7-inch x 7-inch square in the middle of 2 of the 4 sheets of parchment or wax paper.

  2. When both types of dough are chilled, remove from refrigerator.
  3. Place a sheet of the parchment paper with the drawn side of the 7-in x 7-in square facing down on your work surface. Unwrap dough and place in the middle of the 7-in x 7-inch square. Then place another sheet of parchment paper (not drawn) on the top of dough. Roll out dough to the outline of the 7-in x 7-in square. Use a knife or spatula to push dough into the square so as to minimize wastage. Trim dough if necessary.
  4. Remove the top parchment paper and cut dough into three slabs of equal width.
  5. Do the same for the other flavor of dough.
  6. Place three slabs of dough, alternating vanilla and chocolate dough one on top of the other. Gently press the slabs together.
  7. Cut each slab lengthwise into 3 strips of equal width.
  8. Rearrange the strips of dough to create 2 slabs forming 9 small rectangles cross-wise
  9. Wrap each slab with plastic and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.
  10. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  11. Remove dough from refrigerator. Unwrap the dough and slice each log into ¼ inch thick slices cross-wise.
  12. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  13. Place onto non-stick baking sheet or parchment paper and bake for about 12 minutes per batch.
  14. Remove and let cookies cool for 5 minutes before transferring onto a wire rack to cool completely.

1 thought on “Checkerboard Butter Cookies”

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