Sophisticated Ice Box Cookies

I've been researching cookies for the last couple weeks trying to find just the right thing to make for mother's day. I wanted to find something that was delicate (and feminine) enough for the holiday - something that would pair well with a cup of afternoon tea. And something appropriate for the time of year - nothing too rich, or dark, or dense. And, because I live across the country from my mother, it would also need to be rather sturdy and prime for shipping. I was inspired by this recipe on Lottie + Doof for Claudia Fleming's Lemon-Poppy Seed Shortbread, but I didn't want to stop at one variety. So, still looking along the lines of shortbread, I thought about this Earl Grey Ice Box Cookie from Martha Stewart. Since I'd made these as part of my Christmas package this past year I wanted to find a variation on the flavor. Which then lead me to these recipes from Smitten Kitchen and Martha Stewart for "slice and bake" or icebox cookies that can be adapted for various flavorings. In the end I went with a recipe from Martha's Baking Handbook, that wasn't so much a shortbread but a crisp butter cookie with eggs and granulated sugar.

And while I had my base recipe set, I still had to determine the flavorings. I still liked the lemon poppy seed idea, it's classic, and something my mom would like. But I wanted to step outside the box a bit for the others. I doubled the recipe and made 4 variations. There would need to be something chocolatey. And perhaps some espresso. And lots of citrus, and a few nuts. And maybe some dried fruit. Or tea, I do really love the earl grey cookies. And I made some lemon chamomile shortbread growing up that was absolutely delicious. And maybe some spices and herbs like tyme or rosemary. So after much brainstorming, I came up with the following: Lemon Poppy-Seed, Chocolate Orange Espresso, Rosemary Grapefruit, and Almond Chai. But then I thought about it some more, and decided to change things around a bit: Lemon Poppy-Seed, Grapefruit White Chocolate, Espresso Cardamom, and Orange Espresso. It didn't help that I kept reading recipes and kept looking for flavor combinations. And then I discovered that my white chocolate had been, emm, invaded by some little creatures, and decided that would be scrapped. So the final combination was Lemon Poppy-Seed, Orange Pistachio Dark Chocolate, Espresso Cardamom Walnut, and Ginger Grapfruit Almond.

Icebox Butter Cookie
Adapted From Martha Stewart Baking Handbook

Makes about 5 dozen cookies

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sanding or granulated sugar, for rolling

Cream butter and 3/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 min. Add egg and vanilla, beat to combine. Slowly add flour until thoroughly combined. Divide dough for desired flavors.

Note: To make all 4 varieties described below, you will need a double batch of the above recipe.

Add ins -

Lemon Poppy-Seed Variation
1/2 tsp lemon extract
Zest of 2 lemons (about 2-3 tbsp)
2 tsp poppy seeds

Orange Pistachio Dark Chocolate Variation
Zest of 1 orange (about 2-3 tbsp)
3 tbsp finely chopped unsalted pistachios
2 tbsp finely chopped dark or bittersweet chocolate

Espresso Cardamom Walnut Variation
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
2 tbsp finely chopped walnuts (raw)
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

Ginger Grapfruit Almond Variation
2 tbsp finely chopped candied ginger
Zest of 1 grapefruit (about 3 tbsp)
2 tbsp chopped sliced almonds

Add flavorings described above, mix to combine thoroughly. It's easiest to do this with your hands since the dough is quite firm at this point.

Preheat oven to 350. Shape dough into long tube shape, wrap in parchment paper and squeeze with a straight edge to make a uniform tube. Slip into a paper towel cardboard tube and twist ends to compress. Freeze for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from tube and roll in sugar to evenly coat perimeter.

Slice into 1/4" rounds. If you're using larger add ins such as nuts of dried fruit, the cookies may break apart when slicing. Form them back together and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil. Bake for 15 minutes until edged are slightly golden. Transfer to a cooling rack. Cookies should last about a week stored in an airtight container at room temperature, or longer in the freezer.

Alternately, you can save the uncooked sliced dough for baking later. Dough will last about a month.

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