Slicing and baking through the holidays

I’ve been pretty obsessed with slice-and-bake cookies for…awhile. Like many things I become obsessed with, I spend most of my time obsessing and not enough time doing. Every Christmas cookie season, it has been my aim to have a catalog of cookie logs in my freezer, ready to go, so that I would have as few or as many cookies at the ready for holiday treats.

In order to do this, one has to have some favorites, tried and sure-to-work tested cookies that one knows will not only slice and bake, but be tasty and exhibit all the best textures and tastes. I have a few of these for the past few years— a pecan shortbread (see blog entry of 12/13), a new jammy pinwheel (see blog entry of 12/17), and one I had not yet shared on my blog, a Chocolate Pistachio Sable, from Bon Appetit magazine.

So over the summer, I dreamed, and looked up recipes, and looked up more recipes, and like anything I begin to focus on, it seems slice-and-bake cookie recipes were coming at me from every direction. I decided on a few (actually five new recipes), and by late November, was stirring up doughs to roll up in parchment or waxed paper that I wedged into a corner of my too-small freezer.

I wanted a range of cookies, and settled on these: Santa’s Whiskers, a pecan and maraschino cherry shortbread rolled in coconut; Mocha Slices, a cocoa and coffee cookie dipped in dark chocolate; Lemony Slice-and-Bakes that I experimented with by adding chopped rosemary; Crisp and Chewy Molasses Cookies, a cookie carrying all the tastes of gingerbread; and Slice and Bake Butter Cookies, of which flavorful Irish butter has earned a reputation of making the best cookie ever. Also included in my slice-and-bake-off were a chocolate chip cookie I tried earlier in the year and my good ol’ chocolate-pistachio cookies, darkly chocolatey and topped with sea salt, one of my mother’s favorites. I share here recipes (some provided in links) to my “slice-and-bake-off” of 2018.

Despite the plethora of recipes, it’s hard to find the right chocolate chip cookie recipe, particularly one that is a slice-and-bake. I saw one earlier in the year that was a slice-and-bake that supposedly “broke the Internet.” Without going into too many details, I tried that one, and it was essentially a shortbread with chocolate chips in it. For me, it was not a chocolate chip cookie, with that right mix of chewy and softness, and toffee-like flavor and essential saltiness. But I found a slice-and-bake later in the year, that was so good and made loads of cookies that, despite any irregularity, in my rolling and subsequent shapes, baked into perfect little rounds, with all that a chocolate chip cookie should taste like, which is, the taste of childhood. You can find the recipe here: https://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/slice-bake-chocolate-chip-cookies-17262

While we are on the chocolate theme, chocolate chunks, along with pistachios, embellish one of the most darkly delicious cookies I’ve ever eaten. A rich shortbread is made with butter and brown sugar, then dry ingredients, including a good dose of the best cocoa powder, then some chopped pistachios and chocolate.All is rolled up, and can be refrigerated and frozen, then sliced for baking. A finish of sea salt on top just before baking really adds extra oomph to this marvelous cookie that I’ve made numerous times. For this recipe, go to: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/chocolate-pistachio-sables.

Where there is darkness, there is light. Another super slice-and-bake from Bon Appetit are the (aptly named) Lemony Slice-and-Bakes, more buttery beings that are loaded with fresh lemon zest and drizzled with a glaze that includes fresh lemon juice. I tested out a variation for this and added chopped fresh rosemary to half the dough, and that was outstanding (will do it again). These little rounds slice beautifully and bake up perfectly…it was if someone other than me made them! For this recipe, go to: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/lemony-slice-and-bakes

No cookie collection — slice-and-bake or otherwise — would be complete without a molasses cookie. Some like these crispy, like a true ginger snap. I tend to like them a little soft and chewy and loaded with molasses and spice. I found a recipe from Pillsbury that fills this bill and makes quite a number (each one-inch slice of the cookie log is cut into four pieces for baking) of full-of-flavor molasses gems. I embellished the tops of them with a little crunch sanding sugar before baking. For this recipe, go to: https://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/crisp-and-chewy-molasses-cookies/649f5690-2164-43cc-a32d-654ba823be79

Late in my “research” of slice-and-bake cookies, a co-worker mentioned that he saw a show on Food Network where someone claimed the best cookies were made with Irish butter. This not only made complete sense to me (as I’ve eaten Irish butter), but had me obsessed with making a butter slice-and-bake cookie with the star ingredient from the Emerald Isle. These cookies are an absolute dream, the simplest ingredients, the best buttery/salty flavor, and they melt in your mouth. I coated one log with a crusting of turbinado sugar; the other, appropriately, in green. If you can get your hands on some Irish butter, you will not be sorry you made these. For this recipe, go to: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/slice-and-bake-butter-cookies-recipe-2120220.

My final two recipes I post here, as they are from a retro holiday cookie book I inherited from a dear friend. In Better Homes and Gardens “Classic Christmas Cookies” (1992), among the many beautiful holiday recipes for cookies, there is an entire section devoted to “Special Slices.” 

This section featured a recipe for “Santa’s Whiskers,” a slice-and-bake shortbread with pecans and candied cherries and a coating of coconut. Delightful! I embellished some of the cookies with more cherry to add to their festive appearance. This made a nice, not-too-sweet cookie with a bit of a chewy texture, the richness of the pecans and the sweetness of the cherries paired nicely (and gave the cookies a jolly pink color), and the toasted coconut “whiskers” on the outside was extra yummy. 

Santa’s Whiskers

From Better Homes and Gardens “Classic Christmas Cookies” (1992)

Makes about 3 dozen

3/4 cup margarine or butter (salted)

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup finely chopped candied red or green cherries

1/3 cup finely chopped pecans

3/4 cup coconut

In a large mixing bowl, beat margarine or butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed about 30 seconds or until softened.

Add about half of the flour and all of the sugar, milk and vanilla. Beat until thoroughly combined, scraping sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat or stir in the remaining flour. Stir in cherries and pecans.

Shape the dough into two 8-inch rolls. Roll each dough roll in coconut to coat. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap, then chill 4 to 48 hours. 

Cut the dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden. Remove cookies and cool on a wire rack. 

I’ve got to say, my last cookie I completely underestimated. When I saw the recipe for Mocha Slices, I thought that a coffee/cocoa/cinnamon slice dipped in melted chocolate would add some nice variety to the range of slice-and-bake cookies I was trying. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this cookie would be so  so delicious. The shortbread slices are tender but sturdy, and the amount of coffee flavor (from instant coffee), combined with cocoa and cinnamon give the cookie tremendous taste. The gilding of melted semisweet chocolate just put the whole thing — and me — over the edge. I had to rush the recipe off to a cocoa-and-coffee-loving friend. I want everyone who loves those tastes to try this cookie. I’m so grateful I have another log of it yet in the freezer. This cookie is a year-rounder, folks. The cookies doughs are chilled, but still calling. I’ve sliced, and I’ll slice again…

Mocha Slices

From Better Homes and Gardens “Classic Christmas Cookies” (1992)

Makes about 3 dozen

1 tablespoon instant coffee crystals

1 teaspoon water

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup margarine or butter

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 12-ounce package (2 cups) 

Semisweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup shortening

In a custard cup stir together coffee crystals and water until dissolved. In a large mixing bowl, beat 1/2 cup shortening and margarine or butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed about 30 seconds or until softened.

Add about half the flour and all of the sugar, cocoa powder, egg, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, baking soda and salt to the shortening mixture. Add the coffee mixture. Beat until thoroughly combined, scraping sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat or stir in the remaining flour. Shape the dough into two 8-inch rolls. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Chill 4 to 24 hours.

Cut dough into 1/8-inch slices. Place 2 inches apart on uncreased cookie sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 7 to 9 minutes or until tops look dry.  Remove cookies and cool on a wire rack.

In a heavy saucepan, heat chocolate chips and 1/3 cup shortening over very low heat until just melted, stirring occasionally. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate mixture. Place on waxed paper and let stand until chocolate sets.

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