These icebox cookies are buttery and crisp.  They keep well and will taste just as good a week later and longer. If you intend to bake to give away, these cookies always pleases everyone. This cookie will look best if you get a cookie stamp to emboss it with. This way, all the rough edges are forgotten as one admires the embossed surface instead. Don’t have a cookie stamp? Use the back of a fork to press on the sliced cookie instead to create your own embossed pattern.

Of all the lineups of Christmas cooking to do, none signals the start of Christmas more to me than the baking of cookies.  It is not so much the baking of the cookies but it is the act of going out to the store to buy the paraphernalia that goes with baking the cookies. I park myself in front of the store shelves displaying spools of festive themed ribbons and look through every spool as I contemplate the theme for this year’s Christmas. My shopping partners, going giddy and bored staring at circular spools which they cannot appreciate, decide to leave me there only to return 20 minutes later and comment in disbelief, “We left her here 20 minutes ago and she has barely moved three feet!” One needs endurance to shop with me. I have my baking supplies ready for Christmas. Three new cookie stamps, cute cupcake liners, loads of Christmas ribbons to choose from and clip top glass jars in varying sizes. Big ones for bigger families and smaller ones for those watching their waistlines!

I like using clip top glass jars for storing cookies. Not only do they come in a wide range of sizes, they work much better than screw top glass jars or those with silicon seal push tops. Clip top glass jars keep the cookies crisp and fresh for a longer time.  I have had too many cookies go soft as not everyone can be trusted to screw the lid back on tightly enough. Moreover, gifting home baked cookies in clip top glass jars look so much prettier.

Despite, featuring those cute cookie tins on my cover photograph, I never store cookies in tins. I save those tins for decorative purposes or store my heirloom cookie cutters in them.

Another cookie recipe that you might want to try this festive season is, Checkerboard Cookies. These are hugely popular amongst family and friends. None of  them will let Christmas past without requesting that these be made for them. The chocolaty bits are very chocolaty as I use 70% minimum cocoa bittersweet chocolate instead of conventional chocolate powder. Then I add ground almonds to give it that extra rich mouthfeel. They are well worth the effort to bake. If time is a constraint, bake the butter cookies instead.

Buttery Butter Cookies

Prep: ~ 15 minutes 
Cook: ~ 12 – 14 minutes per tray
Inactive: 2 hours
Level: Intermediate
Makes: 72 cookies (cut/stamped from the rolled log)
Oven Temperature: 320 F (160 C) Oven rack lower middle shelf
Can recipe be doubled? Yes
Make ahead? Cookie dough can be made and chilled up to 2 days in the chiller and frozen up to 2 weeks in the freezer. Stored in air tight jars, baked cookies tastes just as fresh a week after baking.

Ingredients

1 cup = 250ml =8.45 US fl oz

8 oz (225 g) unsalted butter*
5 oz (140g) caster sugar
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
11 oz (310 g) all-purpose/plain flour
2 Tablespoons rice flour**
1/4 teaspoon salt***
* I use butter with a butterfat content of at least 82 to 83%. I am partial to the French brand, President for baking these cookies. The higher butterfat and lower water content content means a more buttery and crisp cookie. There is pretty much just flour and butter in this recipe, so the better tasting your butter, the better tasting your cookie.
** This makes the cookies that bit more crispy.
*** Omit if you are using salted butter.

Method (instructions are very detailed to cater to the new baker)

The cookie dough
These are icebox cookies – the cookie dough is rolled into a log and must be refrigerated to firm up.  Slices are then cut off the log and baked.  These cookies are too soft to be cut with cookie cutters. It is best to get a cookie stamp to emboss the cookies. Alternatively, use the back of a fork to create your own embossing.

Creaming
1. Cut butter into cubes and add to the mixer bowl and let it soften to room temperature. ‘Soften’ means if you use your index finger to push into the butter, the butter is not at all hard. It is still firm but your can push your finger down into it. If it is at all ‘melty’, return it back to the refrigerator to firm up.
2. Sift the all-purpose/plain flour, rice flour and salt together. Set aside.
3. Add sugar to the soften butter. Attach the whisk attachment and turn on the mixer to medium high speed and whisk until pale, light and creamy.

4. Turn speed down to medium low and add the egg yolk. Let the mixer run for 1 minute.
5. Turn off the mixer, if you see any traces of egg yolk, use a spatula to mix it in.
6. Add the vanilla extract and turn on the mixer to medium-low and let it run 30 seconds to incorporate everything well.
7. Turn off the mixer and incorporate any traces of vanilla extract with the spatula.

Add the dry ingredients
1. Switch to a paddle attachment if you have one, if not continue using the whisk attachment.
2. Turn the machine back on to low speed, gradually add in the sifted flours and salt. It should take about 1 minute.
3. Turn off the mixer before the flours are completely mixed in.
4. Use a spatula and cut and fold the batter over itself to incorporate any visible flour. Remember  to scrape the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl as you do so. It should not take more than 30 seconds. Do not over mix or your cookie might not be as light.

5. If the dough looks too sticky, add 1 Tablespoon of all-purpose/plain flour at a time. Go slow on the flour. You want to add just enough so that it isn’t sticky looking. The texture of the dough should look similar to the image above.

Shaping
1. Lay out an arm’s length of plastic wrap on your work surface. Transfer the dough on it and with a bench scrapper, shape into a rough log with a diameter of 2″ (5 cm). Next, use the plastic wrap to enclose and roll the dough, shaping it into a cylindrical log. Twist the plastic ends closed and tucked under the dough log to secure.
2. You have 3 options to choose from for the final look of your cookie. Scroll below. If you choose Option 3: ‘Rounder looking cookies’  , instructions for shaping will change.  You will have to shape more than 1 log of cookie dough. Find details under Option 3.

Refrigerating
1. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to firm dough thoroughly or up to 2 days. If not, freeze up to 2 weeks. Read how you should refrigerate the dough and why you should not refrigerate any longer than 2 weeks by scrolling down to ‘Tips’.

3 Options to choose from on how you want your cookies to look

Option 1: ‘Embossed/Stamped cookies’

Option 2: ‘Roughly shaped, homestyle cookies’

Option 3: ‘Rounder looking cookies’ 

If you have a sharp eye, you would have noticed that these have lemon zest in them. I lost my image of ’round-cut’ Butter Cookie Dough’ so here’s a tray of my ’round-cut’ Lemony Lemon Cookie dough.

Let’s slice/emboss & bake!
20 minutes before you are ready to bake, turn the oven on 320F (160C), oven rack adjusted to lower middle shelf. Line baking trays with silicon sheet/parchment paper.

Option 1: ‘Embossed/Stamped cookies’

Slicing
1. When the oven is heated to the right temperature, remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator.
2. Remove the plastic wrap. Cut 0.2″ (0.5 cm) thick slices, place them on the baking trays ~ 1″ (2.5cm) apart and push in the edges slightly to form a squat circle.
3. Once tray is half filled, move on to embossing/stamping those sliced cookie dough first. If at any point you feel the dough has become too soft to cut neatly, return it to the refrigerator to firm up.

Embossing/stamping
1. When the baking tray is half filled with sliced cookie dough, it’s time to emboss the cookies whilst they are still cold and reasonably firm.
2. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap to just cover loosely, the cookie dough you are about to emboss. Push down the cookie stamp on it. Try to put even pressure as you push down so that the cookie has an even thickness. Lining the sliced cookie dough with plastic wrap beforehand is the best way to get the sharpest embossed imprint and best of all nothing sticks to the cookie stamp and there isn’t a need to flour anything.
3. Refrigerate if not baking immediately. Left on the work surface, they will start to melt and this will affect the texture of the cookies. Cold cookie dough bake into crisp cookies and retain all the embossed features during baking.

Baking

1. Bake for 6 minutes. Then rotate the cookie tray front side back and bake for another 4 to 6 minutes or until the bottoms are slightly golden brown. The tops will probably still be mostly pale or perhaps a little golden brown along the circumference. When baking cookies, your nose and eyes serve as a better guide than any recommended timing.
2. Remove from the oven. Let it cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. Store in air tight jars.

Option 2: ‘Roughly shaped, homestyle cookies’

Slicing
1. When the oven is heated to the right temperature, remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator.
2. Remove the plastic wrap. Cut into 0.2″ (0.5 cm) thick slices and place them on the baking trays. Leave a 0.4″ to 0.8″ (1 to 2 cm) gap between cookies.
3. If at any point you feel the dough has become too soft to cut neatly, return it to the refrigerator to firm up. Cut cookies, must be refrigerated if they are not baked immediately. Left on the work surface, they will start to melt and this will affect the texture of the cookies. Cold cookie dough bake into crispy cookies and keep its cut shape better as it bakes.

Baking
1. Bake for 7 minutes. A little longer as they are slightly thicker as the dough has not been compressed thinner by a cookie stamp. Then rotate the cookie tray front side back and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes or until the bottoms are slightly golden brown. The tops will probably still be mostly pale or perhaps a little golden brown along the circumference.  When baking cookies, your nose and eyes serve as a better guide than any recommended timing.
2. Remove from the oven. Let it cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. Store in air tight jars.

Option 3: ‘Rounder looking cookies’

Shaping

1. I have come up with an even shorter way of getting ’round-cut’ cookies. Previously, I had used parchment paper, plastic wrap and the cardboard tubes of kitchen paper towel. Now, I skip the parchment paper entirely.
2. You would need to eyeball the number of cardboard kitchen paper towel tubes you will need as those cardboard tubes come in varying lengths and diameters. So look at the cookie dough you have and decide.
3. Tear off lengths of plastic wrap that is 1.5x longer than the cardboard tubes.
4. Roll the cookie dough into the required numbered of plastic wrapped logs to fit the cardboard tubes. Be mindful that you have to roll it into a diameter that will fit through the cardboard rolls.
5. Secure one end of the plastic wrapped dough with a dead knot. Slide this end first through the cardboard tube. Keep the knotted end as the base, let the ‘plastic tail’ hang outside and turn the tube upright.
6. To fit the dough compactly into the cardboard tube, with the tube upright, cup the base of the cardboard tube with your palm and fingers, making sure you have the end of the ‘plastic tail’ pinned securely against the outside of the cardboard tube.
7. With your other free hand, hold on to the other end of plastic wrap.
8. Lift and then bang the tube down onto your work surface. Do this a few times until you have a compressed cylindrical tube of dough. Twist the open end of plastic wrap secure to seal.

Refrigerating
1. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to firm dough thoroughly or up to 2 days. If not, freeze up to 2 weeks. Read how you should refrigerate the dough and why you should not refrigerate any longer than 2 weeks by scrolling down to ‘Tips’.

Slicing

1. When the oven is heated to the right temperature, remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator.
2. Slide out the cookie dough from the cardboard tube.
3. Peel back a little of the plastic wrap as you slice. Leaving most of the plastic wrap on, gives you a better grip of the cookie dough as you slice.
4. To keep the cookies as round as possible, turn the circular log of cookie dough a little each time you cut off a slice. This way, you do not put undue pressure on one particular length of the dough and end up with a flat sided round cookie.
5. Cut into 0.2″ (0.5 cm) thick slices and place them on the baking trays. Leave a 0.4″ to 0.8″ (1 to 2 cm) gap between cookies.
6. If at any point you feel the dough has become too soft to cut neatly, return it to the refrigerator to firm up. Cut cookies, must be refrigerated if they are not baked immediately. Left on the work surface, they will start to melt and this will affect the texture of the cookies. Cold cookie dough bake into crispy cookies and keep its cut shape better as it bakes.

Baking
1. Bake for 7 minutes. Then rotate the cookie tray front side back and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes or until the bottoms are slightly golden brown. The tops will probably still be mostly pale or perhaps a little golden brown along the circumference.  When baking cookies, your nose and eyes serve as a better guide than any recommended timing.2. Remove from the oven. Let it cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. Store in air tight jars.

Tips

Refrigerating the cookie dough in the chiller/freezer

(1) These cookies are called icebox cookies as the dough needs to be chilled before slicing and baking. They taste best if baked no later than 2 days upon chilling and up to 2 weeks of freezing.
(2) To freeze dough, wrap securely with parchment paper, then aluminium foil and keep boxed in a lidded container. Bear in mind that butter dough will soak in like a sponge, any surrounding scents in the refrigerator/freezer. So if you cannot guarantee an odour free refrigerator/freezer, bake the cookies as soon as you can.
(3) The flip side is that the baked cookies keep very well without refrigeration for at least a week in an airtight container kept away from heat and direct light source so it can be made in advance without affecting its taste and texture.

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