It’s that time of year when my kitchen often turns into a cookie factory. Each year I try to come up with a few new treats, as well as tried and true Christmas favorites like – Sugar Cookies, Gingersnaps, Peanut Butter Blossoms ,Jam Thumbprints, and Mexican Wedding Balls. This year I decided to focus on “icebox cookies” – I love the “slice and bake” ease of this type of cookie. Most recipes make fairly large quantities of small round buttery cookies. If you like shortbread, Lorna Doone’s or Pecan Sandies, then you’ll love this recipe. The brown sugar and butter create a wonderful caramel/butterscotch-like flavor which is a perfect match to the finely chopped walnuts. Great with a cup of tea or coffee, these crunchy cookies just melt in your mouth.
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon (optional)
½ cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
Turbinado sugar (commonly sold as Sugar in the Raw. Demerara sugar, sanding sugar, or another coarse sugar can be substituted.)
1. Sift the flour and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Cream the butter, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon (if using) in a stand mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 ½ -3 minutes. Stop the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of bowl.
3. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed to combine, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl again.
4. Add the nuts and mix on low speed just until incorporated, 5-10 seconds.
5. Using a rubber spatula or bench scraper, divide dough in half and place each on a large piece of parchment or wax paper and shape into logs about 9-10 inches long. Roll the dough up in the paper and twist the ends. Refrigerate the dough for 4-5 hours or overnight. (After the dough has been wrapped in parchment, it can be double-wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 2 weeks.)
6. Remove the dough from refrigerator and carefully unwrap dough. Let stand for 5-10 minutes and then sprinkle paper with sanding sugar and roll log to coat completely.
7. About 15 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a few rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
8. Using a chef’s knife, slice dough into 1/3” thick pieces. Place the cookies 1 inch apart on prepared sheets (you can also dip the tops of the sliced cookies in more sanding sugar, and place them on the sheet, sugar side up)
9. Bake the cookies until they are golden, about 40 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 10 minutes; using thin metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature. Store cooled cookies between sheets of parchment paper in airtight container for up to 1 week.