This was my first attempt at making checkerboard cookies and as you can see, they're far from perfect, appearance-wise. I certainly wasn't going to serves them to anyone other than my husband, who is often the unsuspecting victim to my kitchen foibles. This time though he surprised me by gobbling up much of the cookies at one go. I guess he isn't one who goes for appearances ... err, good to know but what does that say about me? Hmmmm...
Back to the cookies. What you need is precision and attention to detail, two things I sorely lack. What you need to do is make a basic cookie dough, divide it in half, flavour one with cocoa powder and toll them both out into identical 7-inch squares (identical in size and thickness) and then cut the squares into exact strips, about 1/2 cm wide (or slightly less). Here's where I failed. I didn't roll my chocolate dough thin enough and my strips weren't all 1/2 cm wide. The result? Imperfect squares in the checkerboard.
But all is well. I've resolved to be less uptight this year (one of my many new year resolutions that I intend to keep) and I'm not hung up over the aesthetic imperfections of my cookies. They're homemade not gourmet, and therefore it's fine that they're rustic (that's what I'm calling them, ok).
The appeal of the cookies isn't just aesthetic. The combination of vanilla and chocolate is a winner and, if you add finely chopped nuts into the dough, you're in for a treat.
Martha's Checkerboard Cookies
225g butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp lemon extract (optional)
21/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp cocoa
1 egg beaten + 1 tbsp water
Cream the butter and sugar till incorporated. Add the vanilla and lemon extracts and mix. Turn the mixer to a slow speed and gradually add in the flour (mix in the salt to the flour first).
When the dough comes together, gently knead it for about 3-5 mins and then divide the dough into two equal halves.
Mix in the cocoa to one half of the dough until it's well incorporated.
Roll each ball of dough in between two sheets of plastic into two identical 7-inch squares (thickness of about 1/2 cm thick). Using a sharp knife, slice each square into 1/4 cm wide strips.
Whisk the egg and water and keep aside.
Cover your work surface with plastic. Place three strips of dough on the plastic, close together (white, chocolate, white). Brush the top of the strips with the egg wash and repeat this time starting with the chocolate strip (chocolate, white, chocolate). Brush the top with egg again and repeat (white, chocolate, white).
Wrap the block (with the three layers) with the plastic and refrigerate.
Repeat with the remaining dough.
Chill the blocks for 30 mins. Preheat the oven to 180. Bake for 10-12 mins.