Most people know that perfection is an unattainable goal, that striving for it is futile. It’s the flaws that make life interesting, as Leonard Cohen reminds us in his beautiful song Anthem: “There is a crack, a crack, in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
And so it is with icebox cookies. Such a wonderful invention – you prepare the dough, form it into logs, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate until you have a hankering for a little something sweet. Then you slice and bake, and voilà, fresh-baked cookies in less than half an hour.
Not to put you off making these – because they are easy and delicious and cute as buttons – but as in all of life, there’s another side of the story. When you add nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit and other solid things to icebox cookie dough, a clean slice is just a little trickier to get, no matter how chilled your log. But don’t sweat it, if you end up with a raggedy edge, just use your fingers to smooth things out. Imperfect, irregular-shaped cookies have a certain rustic charm.
These Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies, from the December 2006 Gourmet magazine, are loaded up with fruit and nuts and happily fall into the category of imperfect, irregular-shaped cookies with a certain rustic charm. Make the logs now and freeze them, then just before the big day, slice and bake and deliver them, packaged nicely, to the loved ones in your life.
Keep in mind that the thinner you slice these cookies, the crispier they will be. I prefer thicker slices and a slightly softer cookie, with crispy edges. Your choice.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional, I left it out)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest
- ½ cup shelled pistachios (2¼ ounces; not dyed red)
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries (1¼ ounces)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup decorative sugar (preferably coarse)
- Stir together flour, cinnamon (if using), and salt in a bowl.
- Beat together butter, granulated sugar, and zest in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until dough just comes together in clumps, then mix in pistachios and cranberries. Gather and press dough together, then divide into 2 equal pieces. Using a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper as an aid, form each piece of dough into a log about 1½ inches in diameter. Square off long sides of each log to form a bar, or keep the log round. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until very firm, at least 2 hours.
- Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Brush egg over all 4 long sides of bars (but not ends). Sprinkle decorative sugar on a separate sheet of parchment or wax paper and press the bars into sugar, coating well. Cut each bar crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices (or thicker, depending on preference), rotating bar after cutting each slice to keep square shape. (If dough gets too soft to slice, freeze bars briefly until firm.) Arrange cookies about ½ inch apart on lined baking sheets.
- Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are pale golden, 15 to 18 minutes total. Transfer cookies from parchment to racks using a slotted spatula and cool completely.