Are you constantly bummed out that there is no perfect recipe out there for the curry and maple sugar cookie you've always craved? Do you feel like there is a unexplored niche market in the recipe world for a cookie that combines the sublime greatness of avocado with the perfection of the pecan? Fortunately for you, building on a theme is a time-honored practice in baking, and it's made easier in the cookie world by the fact that there are some easy-to-customize templates out there from which almost all cookie recipes are built.
All you need to do, as a budding cookie inventor, is choose the basic type of your cookie, decide what kind of flavor substitutions you want to make, and start mixing!
A few words on substitutions
If you make changes to any of the basic components of the cookie (the butter, shortening, sugar, etc), the final product will be much more changed, since those are structural ingredients which determine how the cookie forms. Not to say that you can't change those, but that takes a more adventurous cookie inventor. (Avocado would make a thrilling butter substitute.)
An icebox cookie is made from a basic dough which has been refrigerated or frozen. The general method of making icebox cookies is to make the dough, then form a roll from it and chill it until it has stiffened up significantly. Once the dough is chilled, you slice it into round cookies and bake them.
Icebox cookies are incredibly easy to customize. Mix in whatever special ingredients you want, chill, slice, and bake. Because you shape the dough in large pieces first, and slice later, it's even easy to do things like flavor two or three batches of dough separately and make the dough logs from a combination of the three.
Basic Types of Cookie
Here are a few basic types of cookie which are easy to customize. We will look more in-depth at icebox cookies below, but the same techniques will apply to any of these. Just find a basic recipe for any of these and start experimenting!
- Icebox cookie - sliced cookies made from refrigerated dough
- Rolled cookie - dough is rolled out with a rolling pin, and cookies are cut from this. Consider starting with a sugar cookie recipe
- Drop cookie - dough is dropped from a spoon onto the baking sheet. A basic chocolate chip cookie recipe makes a great starting point.
- Shortbread cookie - a buttery, delicious dough is pressed into a pan and sliced or broken into individual cookies.
- Bar cookie - baked in a single pan and then sliced into bars after they've been removed from the oven.
- Filled cookie - Two cookies filled with something creamy and delicious
Basic Icebox Cookie Recipe
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
2. Add the vanilla and eggs. Mix until combined.
3. Stir in the dry ingredients and blend well.
4. Divide the dough into three parts and shape each part into a log. Wrap each log in saran wrap and chill at least two hours. You can leave the logs in the refrigerator for a week before using, or freeze them for up to six weeks.
5. When you are ready to make your cookies, preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove the roll from the refrigerator, remove the saran wrap, and slice it into 1/4-inch slices. Place the slices 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, until golden.
Ideas For Customization
Now that we have the basic model, we can start customizing.
Once you have the basic flavor, consider spices. You don't have to think inside the box for this: experiment with wild flavors like fennel, anise, saffron, or pumpkin pie spice if you prefer them to the standard cinnamon or ginger. Dry spices should be added with the flour, and any kind of herb or seed should be added with the eggs to maximize flavor.
Do you like nuts, dried fruits, or chocolate chips? There are two fun options for adding them to an icebox cookie.
- Mix them into the dough before adding the flour
- After you have formed the logs and before you wrap them in saran wrap, roll the logs in the chopped nuts, dried fruit, or other add-ins. When you slice the cookies later, they will have an outer ring of nuts around them.
Experiment with different shape logs, or combinations of flavors and colors where you join two or three logs together (or many, many logs).
You can add a topping once the cookies are baked. Various frostings, glazed, or sprinkled toppings can add an extra bit of oomph to your cookie.
Most importantly, have fun! Not every experiment will come out perfectly, but the process of exploring will give you confidence and help teach you what makes the perfect cookie.