Holiday Feature

Heirloom Walnut Icebox Cookies

About 60 cookies


The perfect icebox cookie. Thin, light, delicate, and crisp, with a mildly spiced flavor. After you mix and shape the dough into a loaf, it has to be frozen for about 3 hours-or as much longer as you wish. When it is frozen it slices beautifully.


8 ounces (generous 2 cups) walnuts
2-1/4 cups sifted unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 packed cup light brown sugar
1 egg graded "large"
2 tablespoons milk


Break the nuts into large pieces; set aside.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice; set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter until soft. Add both sugars and beat until thoroughly mixed. Beat in the egg and milk. Add the sifted dry ingredients and beat on low speed until incorporated.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, and with a heavy, wooden spatula, stir in the nuts.

Spread out a piece of wax paper (see Note) about 20 inches long. Spoon out the dough to make a thick strip about 12 inches long in the middle of the paper. Lift the two long sides of the wax paper, bring them together on top of the dough (hold them together, touching the top of the dough) and-with your hands-press on the wax paper to shape the dough into an even loaf about 12 inches long, 3 inches wide, and l l/2 inches high with squared ends. Press on the paper to make the loaf as smooth as possible.

Place on a cookie sheet or a tray or anything flat and transfer to the freezer for about 3 hours or as much longer as you wish. (If you plan to leave it in the freezer for more than a few hours, rewrap it in aluminum foil.)

To bake, adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with baking parchment.

Unwrap the loaf, and with a very sharp knife (one with a thin blade, if possible) cut the frozen loaf into slices a scant 1/4 inch thick. Place them about 1-1/2 inches apart on the lined sheets.

Bake about 10 minutes, reversing the sheets top to bottom and front to back once or twice during baking. When the cookies are nicely browned and spring back when gently pressed with a fingertip, transfer them with a wide metal spatula to racks to cool.

If you bake 1 sheet alone, bake it in the middle of the oven.

Store in an airtight container.

Note: Because this is a generous amount of dough—and it is quite soft—it is better to wrap it in wax paper than in plastic wrap because wax paper has a little more body.



Maida Heatter's Brand New
Book of Great Cookies

by Maida Heatter
Random House
Recipe reprinted by permission.


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This page created December 1998; modified November 2006