Surely the most important part of
I’m joking. But honestly, such is my obsession with anything food-related that I was almost as excited to bake and eat these cookies as I was to watch the results on TV.
J and I were headed to his friend Susan’s house since we don’t have a television. Since I was the one who suggested the gathering, I felt it only right that I bring something to snack one as we watched the red and blue (yes!!) states roll in.
I felt like making cookies, so I trolled the recipe archives of one of my favourite blogs, smitten kitchen, looking for ideas. I knew I wanted something that could be made in advance, since I wouldn’t have time to make cookies after work on Tuesday before going over. A few recipes jumped out at me – for icebox cookies.
Icebox cookies – otherwise known as slice-and-bake – are like homemade Pillsbury. They’re very convenient because you can chill the dough for up to several days, or freeze it for a few months until you need it. The two recipes I picked – one for sugar cookies (I made the lemon poppyseed variation) and one for chocolate cookies – looked very simple.
And they were! I made them both in one night with no difficulty, formed the dough into logs, and chilled it until the next morning, when I baked them.
And the results?
Well, to be honest, not as thrilling as those of the election. Here are the official results of the Little Red Kitchen Icebox Cookie Bake-Off:
These cookies, just like Obama, hit the ball out of the park. They were slightly firm on the outside and moist on the inside, with a nice crumbly texture. They also had just the right amount of chocolatey flavour, from cocoa and chocolate chips, that married perfectly with a slight saltiness. Ten out of ten.
My friends, these cookies were only a bit more promising than McCain’s chances of winning Tuesday night. I like plain, simple cookies, and have an adoration for all things lemon, so I had high hopes. But they didn’t really have much flavour – neither sweet enough or lemony enough. Maybe it was the powdered sugar? I’m no cookie scientist, so I’m not sure what’s wrong with this recipe, but even the zest and poppy seeds didn’t jazz them up enough. I took the leftovers into work today to foist on my colleagues. I do have another whole log of dough in the freezer though, so I might sprinkle some extra sugar on top when I bake them some time. Five out of ten.
I think I’ll always remember where I was the night Obama won the election. Maybe when I tell my kids about it, I’ll also add, “Oh yeah, and that was the first night Mom ever made those great chocolate cookies you guys love so much!”
Election Night Chocolate Cookies
The only problem I had with this recipe was when it came to slicing them. They were in the fridge overnight, but the dough was so crumbly that they started falling apart as I sliced them. My trick was to immediately press the slice together with my fingers so it wouldn’t fall apart. It worked!
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
Makes about 36 cookies
Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.
Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)
GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.
SERVING: The cookies can be eaten when they are warm or at room temperature — I prefer them at room temperature, when the textural difference between the crumbly cookie and the chocolate bits is greatest — and are best suited to cold milk or hot coffee.
STORING: Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days (Deb note: not a chance); they can be frozen for up to 2 months.
Slice-and-Bake Cookies – from smittenkitchen.com
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Makes about 50 cookies
2 sticks (8 ounces; 230 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
- Mix in grated zest of 2 oranges and 1/2 cup dried cranberries (I finely chopped them)
- Mix in grated zest of 2 lemons; coat with or mix in 1/4 cup poppy seeds (I mixed the poppy seeds in)
- Mix in grated zest of 2 limes; coat with 1/4 cup cornmeal
- Mix in 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots; coat with or mix in 1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios
- Mix in 1/2 cup mini chocolate or peanut-butter chips
- Mix in 1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger; coat with or mix in 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- Swap ¼ cup of flour for unsweetened cocoa
- Swap ½ to 1 cup of flour for ground almonds, pecans, hazelnuts or walnuts
1. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until it is smooth. (Or just use an electric mixer.) Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky. Beat in the egg yolks, followed by the salt and any dried fruits, zest, nuts or seeds. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, beating just until it disappears. It is better to underbeat than overbeat at this point; if the flour isn’t fully incorporated, that’s okay just blend in whatever remaining flour needs blending with a rubber spatula. Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
2. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 1/4 inches (2.5 to 3.2 cm) thick. (Get the thickness right, and the length you end up with will be fine.) Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 2 hours. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. While the oven is preheating, roll cookie logs in any coatings of your choice. Then, using a sharp slender knife, slice each log into cookies about 1/3 inch (10 mm) thick. (You can make the cookies thicker if you’d like; just bake them longer.) Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) space between them.
5. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.
Keeping: Packed airtight, the cookies will keep for about 5 days at room temperature, or in the freezer for a month. Unbaked logs can be frozen for longer.