The icebox or refrigerator cookie has been around as long as there have been ‘iceboxes’ to store them in. The recipes produce large yields and are the quickest way to make ‘homemade cookies’ in a short space of time. The technique of what has also been called ‘slice & bake’ cookies, is nothing if not do-ahead and convenient. After the dough is mixed and shaped into logs, it may be either refrigerated or frozen. Then, when you’re ready to bake, simply remove the logs from the freezer; let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes, slice and bake. Just slice off as many cookies as you need; any dough you don’t use can be refrozen. For a little extra pizzaz, roll the logs before slicing in crushed nuts, colored sugar, poppy seeds or finely chopped candied fruit such as crystallized ginger. The rolls of dough will keep in the refrigerator for about three or four days or frozen for up to three months.
The icebox cookie originated before my time but I do remember my mother making a chocolate icebox cookie with walnuts in them. Refrigeration methods had come a long way by then but the original concept of the icebox cookie never changed.
In early North America, ice was harvested from ponds and then stored in sawdust insulation to last into the summer months. In the advent of the railroad, insulated box cars hauled ice to keep foods cold in the markets and restaurants. In the early 1800’s, iceboxes were developed for home use. They were simply chests with a compartment for food and another for ice. The ice was replaced as it melted.
In the 1840’s, compression methods for making ice were developed. Eventually, new refrigerated iceboxes became common in homes. By the 1920’s recipes for icebox ‘cakes’ began appearing in cookbooks. These icebox cakes evolved into today’s time-tested, icebox cookies.
At this busy time of year, having a stash of pre-made slice & bake cookies on hand is priceless. Many people love the idea of giving homemade cookies as gifts or using at office cookie exchanges. Thinking about that, I decided to feature a recipe and gift idea for some inspiration on the subject.
The gift could include an inexpensive little cookie jar with some baked cookies in it as well as some frozen logs of cookie dough (ready to slice & bake), a tea towel, a rimless baking sheet, a cooling rack, a flexible lifter, a set of dry measures, a roll of parchment paper and the recipe for CHOCOLATE TOFFEE COOKIES.
Vintage Ice Box Cookies
In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy; beat in milk, egg & vanilla.
In another bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder & salt; stir into butter mixture in 2 additions. Stir in toffee bits & nuts.
Divide dough in half; place each half on a piece of plastic wrap, roll into log about 12-13-inches long. Refrigerate, re-rolling 2 or 3 times to keep round shape if necessary during the chilling time of 4 hours.
Let stand at room temperature just long enough so you can slice them without the dough cracking or changing shape. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. With a sharp knife, slice into 1/4-inch thick slices; place on baking sheet & bake about 8-10 minutes. Immediately transfer cookies WITH parchment to cooling rack.