Lauren Chattman

Lauren Chattman is a cookbook author, freelance writer and former professional pastry chef. Her recipes have appeared in Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, Cook’s Illustrated and The New York Times. She is the author of 14 books, most recently "Cake Keeper Cakes" (Taunton 2009) and "Cookie Swap!" (Workman, 2010). She has also co-authored several books with former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier, including Dessert University (Simon & Schuster, 2004). With artisan baking expert Daniel Leader, she is the co-author of the IACP award-winning "Local Breads" (Norton, 2007). With Susan Matheson, she is co-author of "The Gingerbread Architect" (Clarkson Potter, Fall 2008) Lauren lives in Sag Harbor with her husband and two daughters. She blogs about local food and small-town life at sagharbordays.blogspot.com. Show More

For the secret to producing a jaw-dropping variety of holiday cookies, look away from your oven and focus on your freezer. In the coming days, try to steal a few moments when you can make some icebox cookie dough. Roll it into logs, wrap and freeze. When you need cookies for an office party, teacher gift, neighborhood cookie swap, or Santa, you'll be prepared. Or save your dough for one massive baking session to produce a splendid holiday cookie buffet. Slice-and-bake cookie dough can be as plain as the vanilla variety sold in the refrigerator section of the supermarket. But it can also be flavored with any ingredients you can imagine: chocolate, coffee, spices, dried fruit, herbs. Swapping cornmeal or ground nuts for some of the flour can change the texture of your cookies dramatically, giving your assortment further range.

And slice-and-bake cookies don't all have to be round. It is possible to shape dough into squared off, rectangular, and even triangular logs to give your selection graphic punch.

For best results, keep the following in mind before you slice and bake:

1. To shape even, smooth logs, pinch and press the dough into a rough log of the specified length. Then turn it onto a piece of wax paper or parchment paper and roll it inside the paper to smooth it and round it.

2. Tightly wrap your shaped dough logs in two layers of plastic wrap and then place wrapped logs in a zipper-lock freezer bag. Your well-wrapped dough will stay fresh in the freezer for up to two months.

3. Defrost your dough in the refrigerator overnight before slicing and baking. Rock-hard dough may crumble when cut with a knife. If you'd like to bake just a few cookies at a time, remove a log of dough from the freezer, carefully cut off a portion with a sharp chef's knife, and let it stand on the countertop for 20 to 30 minutes until it is soft enough to slice.

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4. As you slice your chilled dough, rotate it often so one side doesn't become flattened by the repeated pressure of the knife.

5. Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.


TRIPLE GINGER SNAPS

If you like your holiday cookies full of spice, these are the slice-and-bakes for you. When buying crystallized ginger, look for plump, tender pieces. Shriveled, desiccated ginger will become very tough and dry in the oven.2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

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2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

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1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup dark (not blackstrap) molasses

1 1/2 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger

1 large egg

1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

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1/3 cup white sanding sugar or turbinado sugar (See note)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl.

2. Combine butter, brown sugar, molasses, and fresh ginger in a large mixing bowl and cream together with an electric mixer on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in crystallized ginger.

3. Divide dough into 2 portions. Turn 1 portion onto a piece of wax paper and shape it, rolling it inside paper, into a log about 7 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 24 hours. Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Place sanding sugar in small bowl. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice the dough into 1/3-inch-thick rounds. Press 1 side of cookies into sanding sugar and place cookies, sugared sides up, on prepared baking sheets, at least 2 inches apart. Bake them until cookies are set around the edges but still soft on top, 10 to 12 minutes. Slide them, still on the paper, onto wire racks to cool completely. Makes 42 cookies.

NOTE: Sanding sugar is a large-crystal sugar used as edible decoration. It does not dissolve when subjected to heat. It's available in baking supply and some specialty stores. Turbinado sugar ("sugar-in-the-raw") will achieve a similar effect.


HAZELNUT ESPRESSO TRIANGLES

To skin the hazelnuts for these cookies, you can follow the traditional method of toasting them in a 350-degree oven for 10 or 15 minutes, wrapping them in a kitchen towel to steam, and then rubbing them inside the towel until the skins flake off. Or you can try this easier, neater, and far more effective technique: Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the nuts and 2 tablespoons of baking soda, and boil for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, rubbing the skins away with your fingers.

2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup finely chopped skinned hazelnuts (see above)

4 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

2. Combine butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl and cream together with an electric mixer on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in nuts.

3. Divide dough into 2 portions. Turn 1 portion onto a piece of wax paper and shape it, rolling it inside the paper, into a log about 8 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Press log flat against the counter, flattening it on three sides to create a triangle shape. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours or for up to 24 hours. Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Slice dough into 1/3-inch-thick triangles, rotating dough log often so it doesn't become flattened as you cut. Place cookies on ungreased baking sheets at least 2 inches apart. Bake them until they are pale golden around edges but still soft on top, 10 to 12 minutes. Let them stand on baking sheet for 5 minutes and then remove them with a metal spatula to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. Place milk chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until just melted, 30 seconds to 1 minute depending on the power of your microwave. Stir until smooth. Dip one tip of each triangle cookie into the chocolate, scraping underside of triangle against rim of bowl to remove excess, and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let stand until chocolate is set 30 minutes to 1 hour. Makes 48 cookies.


CINNAMON-PECAN COOKIES

Make sure you chop the nuts very fine, or your dough will crumble under the pressure of the knife. A food processor is best, but don't overprocess or your nuts will be oily.

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup confectioners' sugar

1 large egg

1/3 cup golden sanding sugar

48 pecan halves for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, chopped pecans, cinnamon and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

2. Combine butter and confectioners' sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream together with an electric mixer on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg and beat until smooth. Stir in flour mixture until just incorporated.

3. Divide dough into 2 portions. Turn 1 portion onto a piece of wax paper and shape it, patting it inside the paper, into a log about 8 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours or for up to 24 hours. Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the sanding sugar in a small bowl. Slice dough into 1/3-inch-thick rounds. Press each round into th e sugar and then place the rounds, sugared sides up, on the prepared baking sheets. Press a pecan half into center of each cookie. Bake cookies until they are pale golden around edges but still soft on top, 13 to 15 minutes. Slide them, still on the paper, onto wire racks to cool completely. Makes 48 cookies.


CHOCOLATE-CHIP AND CANDIED-ORANGE COOKIES

After years of shunning candied fruit that was prominently displayed in my supermarket baking aisle during the holiday (I still don't like the look of those sticky green and red candied cherries), I picked up a container of candied orange peel out of curiosity and added it to chocolate-chip cookie dough. The peel added some powerful citrus flavor to my cookies. I cut its sweetness with some bracing crystallized ginger.

2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, divided

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup candied orange peel, finely chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

2. Combine butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl and cream together with an electric mixer on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in 1 cup chocolate chips, orange peel, and crystallized ginger.

3. Divide dough into 2 portions. Turn 1 portion onto a piece of wax paper and shape it, patting it inside the paper, into a log about 9 inches long, 1 inch high, and 3 inches wide. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 24 hours. Repeat with the remaining dough.

4. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice the dough into 1/3-inch-thick rectangles. Place cookies on the baking sheets at least 2 inches apart. Bake until they are pale golden around edges but still soft on top, 10 to 12 minutes. Slide them, still on paper, onto wire racks to cool completely.

5. Place remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until just melted, 30 seconds to 1 minute depending on the power of your microwave. Dip a fork in chocolate and drizzle with a wave back and forth over cookies for a decorative effect. Let stand until chocolate hardens, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Makes 48 cookies.

 
DRIED CHERRY AND PISTACHIO COOKIES

Dried cherries and pistachios have an affinity for one another. As a bonus, their colors are perfect for the holiday. To get the chopped nuts to adhere to the edges of the cookies, brush the dough logs liberally with egg white, which acts as glue.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

11/2 cups finely chopped shelled unsalted pistachio nuts, divided

1/2 cup finely chopped dried cherries

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom in a medium mixing bowl.

2. Combine butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream together with an electric mixer on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in flour mixture until just incorporated. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped pistachios and cherries.

3. Divide dough into 2 portions. Turn 1 portion onto a piece of wax paper and shape it, rolling it inside the paper, into a log about 14 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours or for up to 24 hours. Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Spread remaining 1 cup chopped nuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush 1 of dough logs with the egg white, and then roll in nuts to coat. Repeat with remaining dough log.

5. Slice dough into 1/2-inch-thick rounds, rotating the dough often so it doesn't become flattened as you cut. Place cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets at least 2 inches apart. Bake them until they are pale golden around the edges but still soft on top, 12 to 14 minutes. Let stand on baking sheet for 5 minutes and then remove them with a metal spatula to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 56 cookies.


EGGNOG ICEBOX COOKIES

Rum extract and egg yolks, instead of whole eggs, give these cookies an eggnog-like flavor and richness. Cream of tartar gives them a subtly tangy flavor.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 large egg yolks

11/2 teaspoons rum extract

1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

2. Combine granulated sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl and cream together with an electric mixer on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg yolks and rum extract and beat until smooth. Stir in flour mixture until just incorporated.

3. Divide dough into 2 portions. Turn 1 portion onto a piece of wax paper and shape it, rolling it inside paper into a log 10 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Repeat with the remaining dough.

4. Slice the dough into 1/3-inch-thick rounds. Place the cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets at least 2 inches apart. Bake them until they are pale golden around the edges but still soft on top, 10 to 12 minutes. Slide the cookies, still on the parchment, onto wire racks to cool completely.

5. Whisk together the confectioners' sugar and nutmeg. Use a fine strainer to heavily dust the cookies with the spiced sugar before serving. Makes 60 cookies.


LEMON-SAGE CORNMEAL COOKIES

This dough is quite soft, so it's easier to flatten one side of your unsliced log than to attempt to roll it into a perfect cylinder. Slicing this semicircular log will result in cookies with an appropriately lemon-slice shape. If the rounded side becomes flattened as you slice, quickly reshape the log on the countertop before proceeding. To play up the savory-sweet character of these cookies, you could sprinkle each one with a couple of flakes of Maldon sea salt just before baking.

1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, corn meal and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

2. Combine butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl and cream together with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Beat in sage and lemon zest. Stir in flour mixture until just incorporated.

3. Divide dough into 2 portions. Turn 1 portion onto a piece of wax paper and shape it, rolling it inside paper and pressing it flat on 1 side, into a half-cylinder shaped log about 8 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap dough in plastic and freeze for at least 2 hours. Repeat with remaining dough. Slice the dough into 1/3-inch-thick half moons. Place cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets at least 2 inches apart. Bake them until they are pale golden around edges but still soft on top, 10 to 12 minutes. Let them stand on baking sheet for 5 minutes and then remove with a metal spatula to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 48 cookies.


APRICOT-CREAM CHEESE SPIRALS

Here is my simplified version of rugalach. I use the same tender cream cheese dough, jam, nuts and cinnamon sugar, but the shaping process is so much quicker and easier.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

10 tablespoons (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 ounces (1 package) chilled cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 16 pieces

2/3 cup apricot jam

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, 4 tablespoons sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add cream cheese and butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape dough into two 6-inch squares. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours and for up to 2 days.

3. Place jam in a blender or the work bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth.

4. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out dough into a 10-inch square on a lightly floured work surface. Spread 1/3 cup jam evenly over the dough. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of nuts over jam. Roll dough into a tight cylinder. Wrap cylinder in plastic wrap and place in freezer for 1 hour to firm up. Repeat with the remaining dough, jam and nuts.

5. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Slice the dough into 1/3-inch-thick rounds, rotating the dough often so it doesn't become flattened as you cut. Arrange cookies on baking sheets about an inch apart and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and let cookies cool completely on sheets. Makes about 30 cookies.


SLICE-AND-BAKE ANISE COOKIES

The licorice flavor of these cookies makes them a nice after-dinner treat with a cup of strong coffee or espresso. To really square off the cookie dough logs, I pressed lightly on each side with my long metal spatula.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons anise seeds, finely ground in a spice grinder

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar

2 tablespoons milk (more if necessary)

1/4 teaspoon pure anise extract (optional)

2 tablespoons nonpareils

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and ground anise in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

2. Combine butter and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream together with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Stir in flour mixture until just incorporated.

3. Divide dough into 2 portions. Turn 1 portion onto a piece of wax paper and shape it, rolling it inside the paper, into a 9-inch-long log. Square off log by flattening against the counter on four sides. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 24 hours. Repeat with remaining dough.

4. Slice the dough into 1/3-inch-thick squares. Place the cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets at least 2 inches apart. Bake them until they are pale golden around the edges but still soft on top, 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then remove them with a metal spatula to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. Whisk together confectioners' sugar, milk and anise extract. Use a small metal spatula to ice each cookie, then sprinkle with nonpareils. Let stand until the icing is set, about 30 minutes. Makes 36 cookies.