Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 325°F.
Note that this is a very sticky, difficult dough to handle, so you have to generously flour your work surface and your hands. After flouring, transfer half the dough to your surface and gently roll it into a log, reflouring the top of the dough as necessary as you work to keep it manageable. Work the dough into a 12-inch square, 1/2-inch thick.
Cut about 12 cookies from the first batch (the number will depend on what shape cutter you are using), then return the scraps to the bowl, chill again and recut, cutting another 12 or so cookies. Continue to return the scraps to the bowl and repeat with the remaining dough. You will get fewer cookies from each successive batch, and should end with a total of about 40.
Arrange the cookies on the cookie sheets, about 1 inch apart, and bake in batches until lightly golden and firm, 12 to 15 minutes.
Remove the cookie sheet from the oven. As soon as the cookies can be moved, use a spatula to transfer them to a rack and let them cool.
There are a number of options for finishing the cookies:
- To coat with chocolate, melt 2 2/3 cups chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate (1 pound of chocolate is a good amount for the number of cookies here) in a double boiler and partially dip the cookies, then let them dry on a rack.
- To coat with colored crystal sugar, spray the cookies lightly with water before baking and dust with red and/or green sugar.
- You can also, of course, leave the cookies plain and they will still be delicious.
Avoid a Sticky Situation
When using a cookie cutter, dip it in flour periodically to keep dough and batters from sticking to it.
What's in a Name?
These are called icebox cookies because the dough is traditionally refrigerated before being cut and baked.
The recipe calls for equal parts shortening and butter. We originally made it with just shortening, but when I began tinkering with the recipes in the 1990s, I began using butter, which makes the cookies less likely to crumble and contributes their unmistakable flavor.