Introduction: Old Fashioned Ice Box Cookies (Three Variations)
A classic holiday recipe that is versatile and time saving, these cookies have been a favourite in our family since before I was born. The dough can be made 4-6 weeks ahead of time and then frozen so you can have warm, fresh baked cookies in just minutes any time you want them.
That is, if you are not a procrastinator who leaves all of your baking to the last minute. Which, of course, is what I did. And then just a few days before Christmas, I got hit with a nasty flu virus, and therefore did not get any baking done.
The lesson to be learned here is, of course, don't be a procrastinator. Mark your calendar, record a memo on your smart phone, and set a date to make this recipe in November.
What You Need:
2 1/2 Cups of All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 Cup Butter or Margerine
1/2 Cup Shortening
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- Candied fruit or cherries
- Chopped pecans or other nuts
- Candy cane pieces
- Melted chocolate, chocolate chunks/chips/wafers
- Coloured sugar, for decorating
Step 1: Dry Ingredients
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt until thoroughly combined. Then set it aside and get another bowl to mix your wet ingredients.
Step 2: Wet Ingredients
1) Cream* the shortening and butter/margarine until well blended and very soft.
2) Add the sugar and whisk in until completely blended.
3) Crack your eggs, one at a time, into a small bowl**. Add to the mixture with the vanilla and beat until it is light and creamy and slightly increased in volume. (Be sure to give it a good beating at this stage to give your cookies a lighter texture.)
* In baking terms, to "cream" something means to beat it until it is very light and creamy in appearance.
** Breaking eggs one at a time into a separate bowl gives you a chance to check for bits of shell and remove them before adding the egg to the rest of the mixture. It is also a good idea to this in case you happen to have a bad egg, which can happen on occasion.
Step 3: Put It All Together
Now you need to mix it all together.
Trade your whisk in for a spoon and add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring gently to combine. Don't over mix at this point but make sure everything is blended together. I like to add just half of the flour mixture, blend, then add the other half.
Once it's all blended, if you are only making one variety, you can stir in your add ins. The original recipe calls for 1 cup of chopped candied fruit or cherries and 1/2 cup of chopped pecans. For amounts of chocolate/candy to add, I usually look up another cookie recipe that is similar and go by that. It really doesn't have to be exact.
I wanted to make 3 varieties, so I divided my dough into 3 more or less equal portions.
Step 4: Variation #1: Classic Fruit and Nut
Add chopped candied fruit, or glacé cherries (or a combination of both) and some chopped pecans or other nuts.
I didn't actually measure the amount I used here. I just keep adding more until it looks like enough. If you are making a full batch you will need about 1 cup of candied fruit and 1/2 cup of nuts.
I gave my pecans an extra fine chop for the sake of family members who are somewhat lacking in the tooth department. It also stretches the pecans, which are very expensive, a little further. However, I would recommend using slightly larger pieces for a more noticeable pecan flavour.
Step 5: Variation #2: Double Chocolate
Add melted semi-sweet chocolate and white chocolate chunks.
I used 2 ounces of chocolate (maybe a little less after "quality control" test) and about 12 white chocolate wafers. Melt chocolate in the microwave, in 10 second intervals, stirring each time. It should only take about 30 seconds. Roughly chop the white chocolate, or use chocolate chips.
Step 6: Variation #3: Candy Cane
Simply add crushed candy canes. I used about 3 tablespoons of crushed candy cane, so about half a cup if you were making a full batch. You can buy crushed candy canes at a bulk store, or crush whole ones with a rolling pin or heavy pot.
Usually I like to use a little peppermint extract with the candy cane pieces, but it is difficult to blend it in to the finished cookie dough. Difficult, but not impossible. I have done it before and it worked.
Step 7: Wrap and Freeze
If your dough is very soft, you may want to put it in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up a bit.
Spoon dough onto freezer paper or waxed paper and shape it into a log. Roll it up, tuck the ends in, and secure with a little tape if necessary. I like to make my cookies a little on the small side, so they can be served with other desserts, so I make my logs about 1 inch in diameter. If you want larger cookies, make the log a little wider.
You can place the logs in your freezer as is, but I like to put them in a bag to make it easier to keep track of them. Otherwise, they tend to get shoved behind or under other things and forgotten. I labeled each log as well so I can easily pull out the one I want.
Step 8: Slice, Decorate and Bake
When you want to bake some cookies, simply unwrap a log and slice it with a sharp knife into 1/4 inch thick slices. Decorate the tops of the cookies with coloured sprinkles, glacé cherries, candy pieces etc.
Bake at 375 F for 8-12 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on a rack or plate.
The best part is, you can bake just as many as you want, anytime you want. If you only want half a dozen then just slice off 6 pieces and put the rest of the dough back in the freezer. I sometimes throw a few in the oven just as we're finishing dinner and in 8 minutes, we have dessert.