The first time I tried to post about these cookies was in the middle of December, just after I had mixed up the dough, a doubled recipe, and placed a group of wrapped logs in my freezer. There were four different kinds—chocolate, lemon-chamomile, pecan and chocolate chocolate-chip—and the mixing and rolling had been a snap. It was the kind of thing I’d usually love to tell you about. But instead, the next day I just stared at my blank computer screen, watching the clock tick by in the upper right-hand corner. It was actually pretty horrible, now that I remember it. I’d try to think about the cookies, and I’d look at the photos of them, and, well, nothing.
So I tried again a week later, after I’d sliced the logs into thick coins and baked several batches for a holiday party, stacking them in clear containers lined with red tissue paper. Still nothing.
By the time I was giving groups of them as gifts at Christmas, I had all but given up on posting here, despite how delicious these easy, easy icebox cookies turned out to be, the perfect kind of slice-and-bakes, with infinite varieties limited only by your preferences.
Yet now, here I am, almost a month later, and I’ve decided to try once more. The thing that really did it for me was coming home Monday night, tired and achy and a little discouraged, and pulling out the frozen lemon-chamomile ones for dessert. A quick defrost in the microwave—30 seconds or so should do it—and they were just as good as when they first came out of the oven. I think I ate eight of them, right there at the counter. I decided then, for goodness’ sake, it was time to post these already.
These are cookies you want to have in your back pocket. Or, even better, frozen in logs to be baked when you want them, or baked and frozen to be defrosted when you WANT THEM NOW. These are one-size-fits-all cookies, something-for-everyone cookies, mix-today-for-later cookies. With a shortbread-like texture and a million possibilities, they’re simply delicious, and you have to try them.[And if that sounds a little, well, lacking? Cut me some slack. I tried three times, OK? These cookies want to speak for themselves.]
Versatile Slice-and-Bake Cookies
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
The possibilities are endless with these guys: anything you think you might like in a shortbread-style cookie, try. Because there are so many varieties imaginable, I just went with ingredients I had on hand: crumbled lemon-chamomile tea & lemon zest; chopped pecans; chocolate chips; cocoa powder and chocolate chips. Also, because they are slice-and-bake style, you can make the dough, form it into a log and freeze it for up to one(!) month(!). Then, anytime you want fresh-baked cookies, just slice and pop them in the oven.
2 sticks (8 ounces; 230 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
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, 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.
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.)
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 or Silpats.
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.
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.
Keeping: 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.