Ice Boxed

Icebox cookies are cookies that are made from dough that has been refrigerated or frozen, usually in a log shape. The freezing or cooling makes the dough stiffer and easy to slice into thin rounds for baking. There are simple, round icebox cookies, or more elaborate patterned ones, like pinwheels and checkerboard cookies, where chilling the dough helps keep the design in shape.

The concept of chilling doughs to make them easier to work with is not new. Busy cooks realized that if they chilled cookie dough in a rolled log, they could simply cut off cookies as needed for baking, rather than having to roll the dough out and use cookie cutters. Recipes which could be chilled came to be known as icebox cookies, in a reference to the iceboxes which, of course, preceded refrigerators as the first kitchen coolers.

Lemon Icebox Cookies

2 cups flour

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup (2 sticks) margarine, cut into pieces

2 large egg yolks

1/4 cup granulated sugar, for rolling

In a food processor, pulse flour, confectioners’ sugar, salt, and lemon zest until combined. Add margarine and process until sandy. Add egg yolks and lemon juice; pulse just until dough comes together. Divide dough in half and form each into a 1-1/2-inch-wide log. Wrap in plastic and freeze until firm, about 2 hours (or up to 1 month).

Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Spread granulated sugar on a piece of parchment; roll logs in the sugar to coat. Slice logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange, 1 inch apart, on the baking sheets. Bake until cookies are golden brown around edges, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Remove from oven and cool.

Mocha Slice Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons instant
espresso powder or instant coffee pulsed in a food
processor until fine

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 sticks margarine, softened

1 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sanding sugar

Sift together flour, cocoa, salt, espresso powder, and cinnamon into a large bowl; set aside. Put margarine and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle; mix on medium until pale and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface; roll into a 2-inch-diameter log. Wrap in parchment, rolling to ensure it’s well rounded. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°. Unwrap log, and let soften slightly about 5 minutes. Brush with water and roll in sanding sugar. Cut log into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake until centers are set, about 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Cream Cheese
Pecan Icebox Cookies

4 cups flour

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted
butter, softened

6 ounces cream cheese (not whipped), room temperature

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups pecans (1 1/2 cups toasted and coarsely chopped and 1 cup finely chopped)

Put butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in sugar and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour and mix until just combined (do not overmix). Mix in toasted pecans.

Transfer dough to a work surface. Divide in half; shape each half into a 2-inch-wide log. Wrap each log in parchment paper; freeze until firm, about 1 hour or up to 2 weeks.

Preheat oven to 350°. Unwrap 1 log, and roll in 1/2 cup chopped pecans, coating completely. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake cookies, rotating halfway through, until golden around edges, 18 to 20 minutes. Repeat with remaining log.