Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Icebox cookies: the hottest thing to hit your fridge this baking season.

First of all, Happy New Year! Please excuse me while I wipe the dust off my blog, and forgive my lack of updating! I know, spending time with family is no excuse. Neither is catching up on sleep.

Ah, sleep. I really do love the holidays.

Ok, enough of that. Now on to very serious business:

In case you haven't heard (and how dare you if you haven't), I must report that icebox cookies are so IN right now. And I wish they were IN my belly right now.

It's true! They are ALL the rage. Just check out today's LA Times, which features three recipes for "sophisticated versions" of what the article calls "chiller cookies": peanut butter and bittersweet chocolate, coffee-walnut and apricot butter.

The article will tell you, but in case you don't know what icebox cookies are (and how dare you if you don't), they are made by preparing the cookie dough ahead of time (a classic recipe is one that is simple with easy, but fabulous, variations), dividing them into equally-shaped logs of joy, rolling them in whatever you please (traditionally little toppings that are sweet and edible, like sprinkles), then letting them chill in the refrigerator -- or "icebox" -- and then taking them out a few hours later to slice and bake them. Unsurprisingly, they are also known as "slice and bake cookies" (please, no Pillsbury), but I like the "icebox" name much better. It gives such a retro charm, don't you think?

Anyway, the beauty of these cookies is that you can make the logs of joy ahead of time and save them in the fridge or freezer for a quick and beautiful treat later. But if you're like me, you don't have the patience and willpower to wait more than a couple hours before enjoying them.

I've indulged in and shared variations of these cookies multiple times over the past month or so (talk about hopping on the bandwagon, LA Times, yeesh), and I'm still looking forward to trying out more recipes.

Particularly, these pistachio cranberry icebox cookies were so deliciously festive at my family's Christmas party.

I find joy and satisfaction in slicing them before sticking them in the oven, too. After each slice, I excitedly proclaimed "GORGEOUS!" and showed them off proudly.

But they are gorgeous! If you look closely, you can see the flecks of cinnamon and orange zest, too. (Also, I must recognize Cha for being my lovely hand model. You are lovely. And your hand is lovely.)

I also made Carole Walter's icebox cookies, published in Great Cookies, my go-to cookbook for cookie recipes, including the marbled chocolate and cinnamon nut variations. You'll find that the "master recipe" is delicious in all its simplistic glory.

Finally, I stumbled across a recipe for Mexican chocolate icebox cookies. I'm trying these next.

Mexican Chocolate Icebox Cookies, Maida Heatter, Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup quality Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Whisk the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl and set aside. Put sugar, vanilla, and egg into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until thick and pale, about three minutes. Add butter and continue to beat on high speed until smooth, about three minutes more. Using your fingers, work flour mixture into butter mixture until dough is just combined. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a 9-inch log. Wrap each log in parchment paper, twisting ends tightly to make a uniform cylinder. Chill dough logs for at least eight hours and as long as overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap dough and slice each log into rounds 1/3-inch thick. Place rounds one inch apart on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Bake cookies until slightly puffed and tiny cracks appear on surface, about eight minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to let cool. Makes about four dozen cookies.

Happy iceboxing!

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