I grew up watching and helping my mother make homemade cookies. They were always in our school lunch boxes. Here, I share some family faves.
These ice box cookies are a recipe that came from my maternal grandmother and may have gone back even further. Of that, I am not certain. But what I know for a fact is that my grandmother regularly made them and passed on the recipe to my mother and aunt. I am not sure if my uncle has the recipe—just being a boy and perhaps not as interested in cooking as the girls in the family—but I'll make sure that he gets to read this article.
It may bring back memories for my uncle and also for my cousins, who may remember eating them at one time when we were young and celebrating holidays and other occasions together. This was often the case when we lived in Wisconsin prior to my parents and grandparents moving to Texas.
These ice box cookies are delicious just plain, but they were often "dressed up" when used as one of the Christmas cookies selections by having colored sugars sprinkled over them prior to being baked. That is how they appear in this post, as I have started baking cookies to give away in cookie tins as Christmas gifts this year.
My grandparents owned a summer cottage on a lake in Okauchee, Wisconsin and my mother used to fondly recall and tell me tales of all of the fun they had each year in the summertime.
Things were a bit more primitive at the cottage than at their home in Milwaukee but that did not matter. Roughing it was half the fun. Most of the time my mother said that she pretty much lived in her bathing suit while out there.
My grandparents still had an ice box at the lake and blocks of ice were regularly delivered to keep perishable food fresh and longer-lasting. These ice boxes were the precursors to modern-day refrigerators, but unlike refrigerators, they had no power source.
Blocks of lake ice would be chopped out when the lake was frozen in the winter and kept in an ice house. Then young men would come around in the spring, summer and fall and make deliveries of the ice.
The blocks would be placed at the top part inside of the insulated ice box and since cold falls, everything else placed below that ice would be kept cool. Of course, the ice eventually melted and necessitated being replaced on a regular schedule...every few days or so.
My mother said that the kids would excitedly gather round the ice truck delivery and get little pieces of ice upon which they could suck. This also predated snow-cones which is shaved ice with flavorings poured over it.
My dad sometimes helped out a buddy of his and made some ice deliveries. He spotted my mother at that time and thought that she looked pretty sweet! He told this to my mother later on when they got married.
In reminiscing about those days in later years, my mother told me that she was not looking at the ice delivery "boys" in any kind of a romantic way back then. Ha!
To get back to this vintage cookie recipe...ingredients like butter and eggs were undoubtedly kept in the ice boxes back then along with other perishables like meats and dairy products.
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Ice Box Cookie Ingredients
Okay, let's get started with this old timey recipe by listing the ingredients, which are the following:
- 1 cup butter
- 1/2 cup lard
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 4 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 cups chopped walnuts or almonds (I used slivered almonds in this recipe)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon hot water
- 1 teaspoon salt
1. Begin by creaming together the butter and lard.
I know many of you might be horrified that lard is being used, but the actual amount that makes it into any one cookie is small and it makes these cookies very crisp. This is the only recipe that I have that calls for lard and I go ahead and use it. Believe it or not, lard keeps on a pantry shelf and does not need refrigeration!
If you do not wish to use it for anything else, you can always make the birds happy by impregnating it with birdseed and hanging it up in a tree. If you live in the north where birds cannot easily find seeds and rely upon the largess of humans to help them survive the long winter months, you will feel good about using the lard in this manner.
2. Add the sugars and cream together thoroughly.
3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after the addition of each one.
4. Sift the flour and cinnamon together.
5. Use a small amount of the sifted flour mixture to coat the nuts in a separate bowl.
6. Mix the baking soda and hot water together in a separate container.
7. To the main bowl with the creamed batter, add the flour, alternating with the baking soda and nuts, and mix thoroughly.
8. Then shape into long rolls using as little flour as possible to keep it from sticking. Flour the board and your hands as you do this.
I generally make these rolls into about a one to one-and-a-half inch diameter which ultimately makes about 160 small cookies, but obviously you can make the rolls as large as you wish, ultimately making the cookies larger and fewer of them once they are sliced and baked.
9. Place these ice box cookie rolls into a container and cover and chill in refrigerator overnight.
Obviously, if you have an old ice box, you can use that as well!
10. After a restful night your chilled ice box cookies are ready to be baked. Cut them into thin slices with a sharp knife and place them onto greased cookie sheets. I use the spray product called Pam on the baking sheets.
Below is a close-up photo of what these unbaked ice box cookies look like with the sliced almonds after they are sliced and put onto the baking sheet.
11. Now here is where you can either leave the cookies plain or decorate with colored sugars if desired. I did the latter as they look pretty mixed into cookie tins as part of a Christmas cookie assortment when given as gifts.
12. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 10 minutes or until evenly browned.
13. Take off of the baking pans and cool on racks prior to putting into storage containers.
These ice box cookies freeze beautifully and maintain their crispness. They are delicious cookies!
Note: If using a convection oven set at the same temperature, these cookies bake in about 7 minutes. I was able to bake three tins at a time using the convection oven.
I hope you enjoyed these step by step photos of this ice box cookie recipe from my grandmother which was passed on to my mother and now resides in my hands.
Enjoy them and let me know if you are planning to add them to your cookie baking repertoire.
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Questions & Answers
Question: Can the dough be frozen then thawed, sliced then baked?
Answer: I have never personally done that, but I see no reason why it would not work. Please let me know if you try it, and it works out well for you.
© 2011 Peggy Woods