Icebox Cookies

About a month ago, the other half and I thought it was time to begin looking to buy a house; a fairly impulsive decision at best, as it was essentially made in one night over a glass (or two) of bourbon. We’ve been throwing the idea around for quite a while, but the timing just never seemed to feel right. Since we moved to Maine three years ago, our financial situation has been nothing short of unpredictable. It’s an interesting voyage from ramen to filet mignon, to then settle somewhere around a good pork roast.  
As in all high voltage situations, it is important to stay grounded. A momentary lapse of sanity can send me spiraling into the very pit of desperation (much like a bad hair day). It can be near impossible to maintain a hold on future rewards if the present is a slippery, uphill battle against the elements. The solution? A six by two inch, half pound hunk of Icebox cookie dough. When frozen, it’s a handy projectile that may be launched at walls, husbands, or your nearest real estate agent.  
On second thought, this dough is too good to be a weapon. I’m sure there’s a fruit cake or two lying around that we can use instead. And there is always the tried and true ‘screaming into a pillow’ routine that works almost as well, without any culinary casualties.
 
Icebox cookies, in addition to relieving stress, are also quite delicious. They’re a cousin of the quintessential sugar cookie, with a texture resembling shortbread. Not too sweet, crisp and lightly browned on the edges with a delicate center; as my mother-in-law would say, they are perfect with a cup of tea. (She and my husband have a way of saying that about most every baked good…though it is usually true.) The three variations I have suggested below prove that the base dough is a fantastic canvas for whatever may strike your fancy. Just be sure any additions are chopped or food processor-ed enough to not add bulk to the cookies. You don’t want any oversized bits leaving a gaping hole when you slice up the dough before baking. 
I am currently enjoying a maple walnut icebox cookie with a glass of chardonnay. It’s actually much tastier than you’d expect. The oakiness (a technical term, of course…) pairs quite well with the slightly smoky maple flavor. Have I discovered a new pairing for the persnickety sommeliers to ponder? Maybe not, but after a busy day of house hunting and decision-making, it sure as heck works for me.
Icebox Cookies
Adapted from The Complete Canadian Living Cookbook by Elizabeth Baird
Makes about six dozen cookies

The best thing about this recipe is that you can store the raw cookie dough logs in the refrigerator for up to three days or in the freezer (tightly wrapped) for up to three months. Who could resist freshly baked cookies at any time with minimal effort?
Dough:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Suggested Additions

Craisins:
¾ cup chopped Craisins (I chop by hand, as I’ve found using a food processor tends to make them clump together.)

Maple Walnut:
Replace the 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract with ¾ teaspoon maple extract and ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract. Toast finely diced walnuts in a 350 degree oven for about ten minutes and cool. Fold into the dough.

Chocolate Chip:
Add mini chocolate chips, or regular chips chopped in a food processor for a few seconds.

Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to a large bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside. 

Add the butter to the bowl of your electric mixer. Turn on medium and slowly drizzle in the sugar. (I’ve found that adding the sugar very slowly helps the mixture to really fluff up.) Increase speed to medium-high for a few minutes, until the mixture lightens considerably.

Add the egg and extract and beat until fully incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients slowly. Mix on low speed just until there are still a few streaks of dry flour. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in the additions of your choice with a large spoon.

Divide the dough into thirds and shape the portions into uniform logs about 6×2 inches, depending on how big you want the final cookie to be. Carefully wrap in parchment or wax paper, taking care not to squish the ends of the dough. Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least three hours, or up to three days. (The logs can also be frozen for about one month. If freezing, let the dough stand at room temperature about 15-20 minutes before slicing.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the dough into 1/3 inch thick slices, and place on parchment or Silpat lined cookie sheets, about an inch apart. (Cookies will not spread very much.)
Bake for 10 minutes, or until bottom edge is slightly browned. Cool cookies completely.
“Choose always the way that seems the best, however rough it may be; custom will soon render it easy and agreeable.” Pythagoras

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