I knew that there are a lot of would-be bakers out there that have looked at all of the cookie recipes I have posted this week and thought, “yeah, that’s great but it’s just never going to happen,” and I wanted to have a recipe that was just for you. The basic slice-and-bake icebox cookie that takes to a thousand variations is something that every cook–even the intimidated ones–should have in their repertoire, for several reasons.
First of all, if you’re looking to please a crowd, you can’t go wrong with simplicity. You can leave these so-called “plain” (but I don’t think they are) or include an add-in, or several, from nuts, dried fruit, zest, extracts or ground nuts swapped or cocoa swapped for an equal quantity of flour. You wouldn’t believe how many famous cookie recipe have slice-and-bake style dough at their base.
The second reason a recipe such as this is awesome is that it doesn’t require a cookie cutter (but could be shaped, if you wanted to roll them out). But the third is really the clincher, and that is that you can make these cookies into their ready-to-slice tube and freeze them for a month or even longer, until you need them. I had no immediate need for these, so I sliced off a few to bake for pictures and tasting, and will use the rest for parties later this month. You can slice them right from a freezer with a sharp knife, though I find it a bit easier after leaving them in the fridge overnight. However, in order to keep them fresh, I wouldn’t store them in the fridge for more than a day or so.
I’m not the only one who dreamed of a basic cookie with infinite varieties this winter, but unfortunately the recipe I auditioned from the Everyday Food Magazine didn’t suit my finicky tastes. It was missing something I couldn’t put my finger on, but I think it was richness. Instead of encouraging you to use the Everyday Food recipe as your foundation, I’m suggesting different a base cookie recipe, adapted from (who else?) Dorie Greenspan. The optional add-ins are the same–with infinite varieties, or just the lemon-poppy and cranberry-orange I made–as is the technique. But I think you’ll like the core cookie a lot more.
Good luck and don’t forget to report back with your variations. I can’t wait to read what you all come up with.
Smitten Kitchen Went to Aruba and All I Got Were These Lousy Cookies! Deb and Alex have flown the snowy, slushy and biting cold coop this week for warm, sandy island shores and countless tubes of SPF 50, so comment responses are going to be slow until they return. In our absence, we leave you a Week of Cookies–this is recipe four of four.
Adapted loosely from Dorie Greenspan
Makes about 50 cookies
2 sticks (8 ounces; 230 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (80 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla or almond extract
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
- Mix in grated zest of 2 oranges and 1/2 cup dried cranberries (I finely chopped them)
- Mix in grated zest of 2 lemons; coat with or mix in 1/4 cup poppy seeds (I mixed the poppy seeds in)
- Mix in grated zest of 2 limes; coat with 1/4 cup cornmeal
- Mix in 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots; coat with or mix in 1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios
- Mix in 1/2 cup mini chocolate or peanut-butter chips
- Mix in 1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger; coat with or mix in 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- Swap 1/4 cup of flour for unsweetened cocoa
- Swap 1/2 to 1 cup of flour for ground almonds, pecans, hazelnuts or walnuts
1. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until it is smooth. Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla or almond, followed by the salt and any dried fruits, zest, nuts or seeds. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, beating just until it disappears. It is better to underbeat than overbeat at this point; if the flour isn’t fully incorporated, that’s okay just blend in whatever remaining flour needs blending with a rubber spatula. Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
2. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 1/4 inches (2.5 to 3.2 cm) thick. (Get the thickness right, and the length you end up with will be fine.) Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 2 hours. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. While the oven is preheating, roll cookie logs in any coatings of your choice. Then, using a sharp slender knife, slice each log into cookies about 1/3 inch (10 mm) thick. (You can make the cookies thicker if you’d like; just bake them longer.) Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) space between them.
5. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.
Do ahead: Packed airtight, the cookies will keep for about 5 days at room temperature, or in the freezer for a month. Unbaked logs can be frozen for longer.