If you’re looking for ginger cookies that go beyond the gingerbread man, welcome these dainty, one-bite cookies that pack a spicy punch.
The combination of lemon rind, candied ginger, molasses, and cloves ensures these easy-to-make cookies are requested for every holiday dessert bar. The sparkly sugar coating balances the spice from ginger in these little gems.
Make the dough weeks in advance and freeze it. Then slice and bake as you need them!
What Is an Icebox Cookie?
Like many butter-based cookies, icebox cookies start by creaming butter and sugar together, adding egg and then flour, along with any spices or flavorings.
Instead of dropping the dough onto cookie sheets, you form it into cylinders and refrigerate or freeze them until firm. Truth be told, many drop cookies can be turned into slice-and-bakes, including chocolate chip cookies!
Keep Your Dough Cold
Icebox cookies need to be cold when you slice them. Cold dough tends to spread very little in the oven, which means your cookies retain their shape once baked.
I prefer to put them directly into the freezer. This not only shortens the time it takes them to become firm enough to slice but also, if you don’t plan to bake them all at once, they are already in the right place to store.
If the dough hardens too much in the freezer, just leave it out at room temperature for about 10 minutes before slicing.
Tips to Maintain the Shape
These cookies are really tiny! Only 1 1/2 inches after baking. You can easily make the rolls larger, up to two or even three inches wide. You will end up with fewer cookies but there will still be plenty to go around.
Since the dough is soft to begin with, the log often flattens on the bottom as it chills. Roll the log back and forth to reform it into a round shape before slicing. Then, as you slice the cookies, roll the log a quarter-turn away from you after you slice each cookie to prevent the bottoms from flattening too much.
On the other hand, you could just make the roll into a square shape. They won’t look like pennies, but no one will be the wiser!
The Best Sugar Coating
For these shiny pennies, I used coarse natural cane sugar. It’s light brown and is sometimes called turbinado or demerara sugar.
Granulated sugar would work fine, too; it’s just not as dramatic looking. Place a shallow bowl of sugar next to the work area, and drop the cookies into it as you slice them. Then transfer them to baking sheets.
You can dip them into the sugar on one or both sides, you decide. More sugar makes the cookies sweeter.
Ways to Adapt This Recipe
Finely chopped candied ginger produces minute, peppery little pops in the cookies, barely noticeable, but enough to add some je-ne-sais-quoi mystery!
You could use candied orange or lemon peel instead if you like, and in place of the lemon zest, use orange or lime zest. I like the perkiness of the lemon and ginger in these, but you should make yours according to what you might have on hand and what you like.
How to Store and Freeze Icebox Cookies
The rolls of dough, double wrapped in plastic, will keep in the freezer for up to three months, after which the cookies will lose some of their zest but will still be fine.
Once the cookies are baked, they will keep well for up to a couple of weeks in an airtight tin. The baked cookies can also be stored in the freezer in heavy-duty freezer zipper bags for several months.
More Cookie Recipes
- Lime Icebox Cookies
- Classic Shortbread Cookies
- Soft and Chewy Lemon Cookies
- Holiday Pinwheel Cookies
- Slice-and-Bake Pistachio Butter Cookies
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Zest of one lemon
- 3 tablespoons candied ginger, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup turbinado sugar, for dipping
Mix the dry ingredients
In a bowl, whisk the flour, ginger, cloves, baking soda, and salt together.
Make the dough
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium-low speed, beat the butter and brown sugar together for 3 minutes or until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed.
With the mixer still on medium to low speed, add the molasses, egg, vanilla, lemon zest, and candied ginger, beating until well combined, about 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed until the dough comes together and is well combined. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.
Form the logs
Spread a 14- to 16-inch piece of plastic wrap on a work surface. Spoon about one-third of the dough in a 12-inch long line on top that is roughly 1 1/4 inch thick, leaving space at each end to wrap the plastic.
Encase the dough in the plastic wrap and roll it back and forth to form it into a roll. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Place the logs on a baking sheet or tray that will fit in your freezer, and chill for 1 to 2 hours, or overnight. The dough will keep in the freezer for 3 months or longer.
Preheat the oven
Once the dough has chilled preheat the oven 350°F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
Slice the cookies and coat them in sugar
Pour the sugar into a shallow bowl. Slice the rolls into 1/4-inch-thick cookies and press one or both sides of each cookie into the sugar. Place them on the baking sheets with the sugared side up.
Bake the cookies
Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the bottoms of the cookie are lightly browned. Cool on the baking sheet. They will keep for at least two weeks in a tightly closed cookie tin.