I love the cookie — I mean, the holiday season. Well, it can be cookie season for many of us, who, around this time of year, find visions of all sorts of cookies dancing in our heads.
I’ve come to really love slice-and-bake cookies. Not from the tubes of dough sold in the store, but those from my own mixing bowl to the fridge or freezer, then sliced and baked. For years, I’ve been making some slice-and-bake cookies regularly at holiday time, including a dandy buttery pecan shortbread everyone loves.
One holiday season a few years ago, I decided to up my slice-and-bake cookie game a little. Beginning in late November (because one of the best things about slice-and-bake cookies is that you can make the dough ahead of time and freeze it), I stacked nearly a cord of cookie logs in my freezer. Actually, I made seven different kinds, about 14 logs rolled up in parchment and waxed paper, waiting to be baked.
The result was an amazing variety of cookies to eat and gift (well, I shared some), but less wearying than other cookie-making techniques. I found that making and chilling a couple of different doughs each day, then pulling them out of the freezer or fridge and slicing and baking the number desired whenever I wanted or “needed” them, made the process of cookie-manifesting seemingly so much easier. If the cookies were baked at the same temp,
I could even bake off three different kinds of cookies in one day and really feel in command of my cookie season!
During that Christmastime, I made chocolate chip, chocolate-pistachio, lemon-herb, Irish butter, ginger-molasses, pink-hued coconut “Santa’s Whiskers,” and some delectable mocha slice cookies that are dipped in chocolate after baking and cooling.
Refrigerator cookie dough — whether homemade or from the grocery — is not a new thing. In my favorite old cookie book (upon which I cut my cookie teeth), “McCall’s Cookie Collection” (Advance Publishers, Inc.; 1965), there is an entire section on “Refrigerator Cookies,” also known as “sliced” or “icebox” cookies, that included a range of flavors and styles, including pinwheels and Neapolitans, resulting in a three-flavored (and colored) cookie, like the ice cream. When companies like Pillsbury released tubes of cookie dough to be sold in the grocery stores, the convenience made the slice-and-bakes quite popular. Many companies now sell cookie dough, and it is even an item used for groups and clubs to sell as fundraisers.
But it’s almost just as easy (with more kinds to choose from) to make your own. I share here some tried-and-true tips for slice-and-bake success, as well as some recipes to satisfy any cookie preference.
For Merry Mixing and Molding
Slice-and-bake cookies are usually made from stiff, buttery doughs that may or may not contain eggs (be cautious when consuming raw cookie dough). The cookie doughs are mixed with room temperature butter for easy forming of the cookie logs and to ensure they are solid after chilling.
After mixing, divide the dough as instructed in the recipe and shape into logs (or sometimes bars) by placing the dough on plastic wrap or waxed or parchment paper and use the wrap to help mold the dough into a log on the countertop. Aim for the length indicated in the recipe and you will have uniform logs (and cookies). You can use a paper towel tube, cut lengthwise, to act as a cradle type of mold for perfectly round cookies.
Make sure you seal dough logs on both ends by twisting the paper or plastic wrap. If freezing, use a marker on the wrap to indicate the type of cookie and date.
Doughs should be chilled in the fridge for several hours or overnight. They can be kept in the fridge for two or three days and two months in the freezer. Chilling helps the dough to relax and hydrate, as well as hold the cookie’s shape. It helps the baker relax a little, too!
If frozen, doughs do not have to be thawed out — you can either slice-and-bake them frozen, allowing a slightly longer baking time, or leave the cookie dough log on the countertop for 5 to 10 minutes to soften them slightly.
Slice and Bake
I always use a sharp paring knife to slice my cookie logs, but a thin serrated knife is also recommended, too. Follow recipe directions for how thin to slice. Adjust baking time as needed (don’t over-brown). Cool cookies on the sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks.
Deck the Cookies
While many slice-and-bake cookie recipes require no frosting or decorating, you can embellish some afterward with a drizzle of glaze or try dipping in melted dark or white chocolate and adorning them with nuts, sprinkles, sparkling sugar or candies.
So stack up some cookie dough logs this season. An added bonus? Like me, you might find a leftover roll of dough in the freezer for fresh cookies in February.