Friday, 21 December 2007

Icebox Cookies in Four Variations

Well, I have been trying hard to ignore the impending arrival of Christmas, but it seems my steadfast refusal to face its existance has done no good, and it is just about here anyway. I did try. But last Saturday, we were obliged to gird up our loins and do some shopping, and this week I made some cookies, with perhaps a few more to come if I get ambitious. I used wheat flour, as mine is not the only face I have to feed with this venture. Besides; January already sucks, so I might as well go around with a red spotted face as not.

I like this recipe, because making it can be spread easily over two days or longer, and with one recipe you end up with four quite different cookies, all of them good. This is an old-fashioned "ice-box" cookie - the name tells you just how old fashioned - where the dough is rolled into a cylinder, chilled, then sliced and baked. Very easy, and you can bake fresh cookies in dribs and drabs, as the dough, if well wrapped, will keep in the fridge for a week. It could also be frozen for longer storage.

Cookie baking in process, above, and baked and ready for storage, below.

In the back left there are oatmeal cinnamon cookies, next to them are the cranberry (or cherry) and lemon ones. In the front, coconut and ginger on the left, and chocolate on the right.

A closer look. Note the difference in sizes. This is a result of some of them being baked straight out of the fridge, and some of them having sat out for up to an hour while the others baked. If you want big, spready cookies, take the dough out of the fridge an hour in advance. If you want smaller, daintier ones, take out each roll of dough only as you use them. Note that the cranberry-lemon dough should be fairly well chilled though, as it has the most propensity to spread.

Okay, shall we?

96 cookies, at least; probably a few more
1 1/2 hours - 45 minutes prep time, not including chilling

Cookie Base:

4 cups soft, unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups (450 grams, 1 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Measure the flour and stir in the salt and baking powder.

Don't forget to take the butter out of the fridge in plenty of time for it to soften. It's a lot of butter to be creaming. So, cream the butter, and beat in the two kinds of sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.

Mix the flour into the wet ingredients until well amalgamated. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Put one part in a smaller bowl.

Variation #1:

1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Add these to your one quarter of the dough in the smaller mixing bowl. Mix well. Turn out onto parchment or waxed paper, form into a cylinder, and roll up. Tuck in the ends to seal, and tape it closed if you don't plan to bake the cookies within the next little while. Put in the fridge to chill, preferably on a plate so you don't get a line of little grooves all along the bottom of your cylinder.

Variation #2:

1 cup dessicated unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup preserved ginger, minced

Put the next quarter of the dough into the small mixing bowl - I don't bother washing in between, it really shouldn't be necessary - and repeat the above procedure of mixing, rolling, wrapping and chilling.

Variation #3:

the grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice, generally the content of 1 large lemon
1 cup dried cherries or cranberries, chopped a little if you like
1/4 cup soft unbleached flour

Again, plonk your third quarter of the dough in your small mixing bowl. Grate in the lemon zest, and mix in the lemon juice and dried fruit. Mix in the 1/4 cup of flour. Roll, wrap, chill.

Variation #4:

3 ounces good semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon mint, orange OR almond extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder

The final quarter of the original dough goes into your little bowl. Melt the chocolate at low temperature, and mix it into the dough with one of the extracts (I am partial to mint, myself) and the sifted cocoa powder. Roll, wrap and chill.

To Bake:

I find I need to remove the roll to be baked from the fridge at least 15 minutes before it is to go into the oven; otherwise it is hard and apt to crumble rather than slice. Frozen rolls should probably be out for at least half an hour. Either can be out for up to an hour with the exception of the cranberry-lemon variation, which should only be out for the 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Unwrap the roll of dough, and cut it into 1/4 inch slices. Try as I may, I can never get the ends quite flat, and so I just press the end slices to make them the same thickness as the rest of the cookies. They may come out a little funny-looking. In which case, the cook will just have to eat them herself; too bad, such a pity.

Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, until just very lightly browned. Don't crowd them; they do tend to spread. Also be aware that the baking time may vary according to your oven, and the exact thickness of the cookies, so watch them carefully, especially for the first batch. Let cool, and pack in tins or otherwise keep well wrapped until wanted.


Kevin said...

Those are some nice looking cookies. It is nice that they all have the same base as you can make several different flavours.

Peter M said...

Ferdzy, a nice array of cookies. I will email you my address so that you may send me my "care pkge'! lol