One day, when she was eleven or twelve years old, Jerri’s sister-in-law Phyllis came home from school hungry for a snack. When she opened the icebox, she found eight rolls of her mother’s icebox cookie dough arranged temptingly on the top shelf.
Phyllis told us what happened. “I loved that cookie dough, so I took out a roll, unwrapped it and cut a little slice. It tasted so good that I cut another slice and then another. Pretty soon I had eaten half the roll. Once I had done that, I knew that Mom would see what I had done, so I just ate the whole roll and hoped that she wouldn’t notice. Mom never said anything, but I felt guilty about what I had done right up until she was in the nursing home. One day I decided to confess.”
They were sitting in her mother’s room when Phyllis found the courage to admit to that cookie caper so many years ago. “Mom,” she said, “do you remember a time when I ate a whole roll of your icebox cookie dough?”
Wilmetta, who was called “Met” by her family, still had a good memory. First she smiled, then she began laughing. “And I thought I had lost my mind and made only seven rolls, that day,” she exclaimed. “I always made eight rolls. You were in junior high and were already a little devil.”
Phyllis said she immediately felt better after confessing her transgression.
Like Jerri, Phyllis still likes unbaked cookie dough, but I prefer my cookies baked. If you want to risk eating raw cookie dough, go ahead, but be sure to bake some for people like me.
Unlike most icebox cookie recipes this one uses brown sugar to make a flavorful crunchy cookie.
4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup salted butter
4 large eggs
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
Bring the butter and eggs to room temperature and chop the pecans.
Put the sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add the slightly softened butter to the sugar, and use a wooden spoon to combine the butter with the sugar. Beat the eggs one at a time into the sugar until you have a smooth, creamy mixture.
Sift the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar into a medium mixing bowl, then add the sifted flour to the sugar and egg mixture about a cup at a time. Stir each addition well into the moist ingredients.
Before adding the final cup of flour, fold in the pecans. Then stir in the remaining flour about a quarter cup at a time. Make sure that all the dry ingredients have been completely combined with the sugar and egg mixture. Mixing in the last cup of flour requires plenty of muscle, but the dough should be very stiff. Use a spatula to shape the dough in the mixing bowl into a dome-shaped mound.
Tear and set aside eight pieces of wax paper about ten inches long.
Use a long kitchen knife to divide the dough like a pie into eight equal pieces. Lightly flour a working surface and shape each piece of dough into a roll about an inch and a half in diameter and seven to eight inches long. Finish each roll by rolling it into a sheet of wax paper and twisting the ends to keep the dough from drying out.
Chill the rolls in the refrigerator overnight or for at least twelve hours.
When the dough is thoroughly chilled, preheat the oven to 350º.
Use a serrated knife to cut thin slices of dough, place them an inch apart on lightly greased baking sheets and bake until the edges of the cookies begin to brown, about ten minutes. Do not bake them too long.
NOTES: If you use unsalted butter, add a quarter teaspoon of salt along with the soda and cream of tartar when you sift the flour.
You can add a teaspoon or two of water to the dough if you can’t get the last bit of flour mixed into the dough.
I have experimented a little with slices of different thicknesses. One-eighth-inch slices make very crisp cookies that remind me of crackers. Three-sixteenth-inch slices are, I think, a better choice. My preference is to make quarter-inch or even slightly thicker cookies that stay slightly chewy if you bag them before they have dried out.
You can keep chilled rolls of dough in the refrigerator for three or four days or freeze them for a couple of months. Just let a roll thaw out on the kitchen counter for an hour or two until you can slice it. That way you can offer guests fresh baked cookies anytime with just a few hours notice. Maybe that is another reason why my mother liked icebox cookies.