Make and freeze this cookie dough and you will always be ready to entertain.
When it comes to home baking, the idea of convenience has been kidnapped by well-meaning manufacturers who have created a culture of pre-rolled pie crust, shrink-wrapped cookie mix and frozen cudgels of bread dough.
Granted, the pie crusts do save time, and the bread dough may serve as training wheels for those tentative about dealing with yeast. (Come on, you can do it!)
But the convenience of refrigerated cookie dough is hardly modern. Our great-grandmothers knew this with their recipes for icebox cookies, as they once were called. These mostly humble treats got a boost in the 1930s when electric refrigerators became more affordable. Manufacturers trying to drum up business created recipes that required refrigeration, and icebox cookies were rechristened as refrigerator cookies.
When cookies became even more convenient — already baked and packaged! — the appearance of dough in our grocer’s dairy case seemed positively homespun. All well and good, but making your own gives you greater control over ingredients, and can be way more fun, depending on what additional ingredients you want to stir in. How about chopped dried cherries, figs or apricots? Roll the tube of dough in chopped nuts, candy sprinkles or sparkling sugar. Blend in flavors such as cocoa, coconut, and flavored chips. Even better, a tube of refrigerator cookies lets you bake as many or as few cookies as you desire. Treat your kids to a half-dozen warm cookies when they walk in the door after school. Or show them how to bake themselves a quick snack. Best of all, involve them in the mixing so they can create their own personal tube of dough, waiting in the fridge.
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Great-Grandma would be proud.
Refrigerator Shortbread Cookies:
Makes 3 dozen.
Note: This buttery shortbread is great plain, but can be jazzed up with additional ingredients. This recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart, may be refrigerated for up to four days or frozen for up to three months.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cup flour, plus more for rolling out dough
Mix-ins (see list below)
1. With an electric mixer, beat together butter, sugar, vanilla and salt on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Reduce mixer to low speed and add flour, mixing until a dough forms. If desired, stir in any of a variety of mix-ins (see below).
2. Divide the dough in half. Working on a lightly floured surface, gently roll each piece of dough into a log about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. (You may need to flour your hands a bit as well.) If desired, roll each log in a decorative coating such as finely chopped nuts, candy sprinkles, coconut, etc., pressing in gently. You’ll need 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of coating to cover both logs.
3.Wrap logs tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, or place in freezer.
4. To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap log and, with a sharp knife, slice into 1/4-inch slices. (If using a frozen log, let sit at room temperature 15 minutes before slicing.)
5. Place slices 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until golden around the edges. Gently transfer to wire rack to cool.
Some mix-in options:
1/3 cup chopped dried cherries or other dried fruit
Grated zest of 2 lemons or limes
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, peanuts or pecans
1/2 cup mini-butterscotch or other flavored chips
Pinwheel Refrigerator Cookies:
Makes 4 dozen
Note: Intimidated by a pinwheel? A simpler bulls-eye variation is below. This recipe is adapted from “The Betty Crocker Cookbook.”
1 1/4 cup unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 cup flour, plus more for rolling out dough
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa powder (not cocoa drink mix)
1. With an electric mixer, beat together butter, sugar and egg on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed and add flour and salt, mixing until a dough forms. (You may need to use your hands to shape it into a ball.)
Remove dough from bowl and divide in half.
2. Return half to mixing bowl. On low speed, beat in cocoa powder until evenly mixed.
3. Divide each flavor of dough in half. On a floured surface, roll plain dough into a rectangle about 8-by-10 inches. Shape the edges to make all sides straight. Repeat with the chocolate dough, then place it on top of plain dough and roll up tightly. (You may need to run a knife or metal spatula under the dough to loosen it from the floured surface.) Repeat with remaining dough.
4. You can also make a simpler bulls-eye cookie by dividing and rolling the chocolate dough into two cylinders 8 inches long, then dividing and rolling the vanilla dough into two rectangles 8 inches long and about 3 inches wide. Place the chocolate tubes on the vanilla dough and wrap, pressing the seam to seal.
5. Wrap logs tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, or place in freezer.
6. To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap log and, with a sharp knife, slice into1/4-inch slices. (If using a frozen log, let sit at room temperature 15 minutes before slicing.) Place slices 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until golden around the edges. Gently transfer to wire rack to cool.
Chocolate Chip Refrigerator Cookies:
Makes 4 dozen
Note: Save money along with time by keeping your own tube of chocolate chip cookie dough in the fridge. This recipe is adapted from “Taste of Home Cookbook.”
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini-semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, if desired
1. With an electric mixer, beat together butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed and add flour, baking soda and salt, mixing well. Stir in chips and, if desired, nuts.
2. Divide dough in half and shape each piece into a log about 2 inches wide. Wrap logs tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, or place in freezer.
3. To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap log and, with a sharp knife, slice into 1/4-inch slices for crisp cookies. For a slightly softer cookie, cut 1-inch slices, then cut into thirds. (If using a frozen log, let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before slicing.) Place nuggets or slices 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden around the edges. Gently transfer to wire rack to cool.