Sjakkruter, translated loosely to ‘checkers’ or ‘chessboard squares’, are fun looking butter cookies that many Norwegian homes count as one of their obligatory 7 types of Christmas cookies every year. I like to call them Norway’s version of the American black and white cookie, although they are very different both in flavor and texture.
My mom never made these, so I really looked forward to visiting my friend Renate, whose mom made them and I regarded them as extra exciting and “naughty” to eat. It’s funny how cookies taste so much better at someone else’s house, right?
Sjakkruter also go by the name of silkekaker, or silk cookies, most likely because the dough and cookies both are soft and feel silky in the mouth. Regardless of their name, they are considered a classic addition and brighten up every cookie platter with their checkered pattern.
For those who have kids, these are also great cookies to make together, and you can create many different patterns if you wish. With a little imagination this can be a super fun project! There are no groundbreaking ingredients in the dough, it’s mainly butter, flour and sugar. Half of the dough gets cocoa powder added to it, hence the black and white appearance. I’ve seen some recipes include potato starch, I imagine this is to keep the dough smoother and easier to handle. These cookies are also suitable for those with nut allergies. It can seem that almost all of the Norwegian Christmas cookies have almonds in them, but you are safe with sjakkruter!
This recipe was really a no-brainer to veganize, since the only thing I needed to switch out was butter. There are wonderful vegan butters on the market today which translates into delicious baked goods with the same buttery taste. Make sure your butter is at room temperature before using.
I’d recommend making the dough the day before or at least a few hours before you plan to bake them. This way, leaving the dough to rest in the fridge for a while will make it easier to handle and shape into “checkers.”
I hope you will try these and have fun – they’ll make you feel like a seasoned baker and they are really impressive looking to present for your guests!
Makes about 40 cookies
2 1/2 cups (320 grams) all purpose flour
7 ounces or 200 grams vegan butter (a little under 2 cups or 2 sticks)
1/2 cup (115 grams) sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp cocoa powder
Add the all purpose flour, vegan butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream together, and remove the dough from the bowl and divide the dough in half. Add one of the halves of the dough back into the bowl and add in the cocoa powder and combine and mix well until the cocoa is well integrated.
Wrap the two dough halves in plastic and place in fridge to chill overnight or for at least a few hours.
Divide each dough half into four pieces, and roll them out to links, about 2cm (3/4 inch) in thickness.
Place one white and one black link together, then put a black link on top of the white, and a white on top of the black, creating a checkered pattern.
When you’re finished assembling, you should have four checkered links.
Place the tray with the links in the fridge for an hour or two so they have a chance to firm up a bit.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celcius).
Cut the links into 1/2 inch pieces (1cm) and bake them in the oven cut side up for about 10-12 minutes until golden.
Cool on a rack before packing them into an airtight cookie box or container. Keeps for about 1 week.