Ice box cookies, also known as refrigerator cookies, became popular in the 1930s as electric refrigerators appeared in more and more homes. The dough is formed into a roll, then chilled in the refrigerator. When it’s time to bake, the cookies can simply be sliced off the roll and popped into the oven.
Although refrigerator cookies are pretty standard fare now, in the 1920s and 1930s they were revolutionary. The ability to chill dough beforehand and then bake it when needed gave cooks more flexibility; as The Kelvinator Book of Kitchen Tested Recipes enthuses, “when visitors call unexpectedly it is a simple matter to serve them hot rolls, hot biscuits or fresh cookies…this sort of kitchen magic never fails to impress company.” Refrigerator cookies were also popular because with the addition of some extra colors, flavors, and creative shaping, the same recipe can be used to create a variety of different cookies. This particular refrigerator cookie recipe includes a Halloween variation on a checkerboard shape.
Halloween cookies (half of original recipe; make full recipe if you really want 7 dozen cookies):
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 tbsp milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/8 tsp salt
- 1 oz chocolate, melted
- orange food coloring
- Cream the shortening and sugar together. Add the yolks and beat well.
- Add half the dry ingredients sifted together, then the milk and vanilla.
- Add the remainder of the dry ingredients and mix.
- Divide the dough in half.
- Mix the melted chocolate into one half of the dough and orange food coloring into the other half.
- Shape into checkerboard logs. You can do this a few different ways; I did this by shaping my orange dough and my chocolate dough into square logs, cutting each log into four identical strips, then pressing the strips back together in a checkboard pattern. You could also roll out the dough flat before cutting it into strips, or make individual round rolls as described in the recipe.
- Bake at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes.
These taste like pretty standard sugar cookies. Although they are designed to be baked when needed, if you make too many for one sitting they will still stay nice and soft for a few days. The chocolate flavor doesn’t really come through, unfortunately – I think the chocolate is mainly there for the color. The chocolate part and the orange part also had different textures, which is either due to the texture of the melted chocolate or to the difference in mixing times – I had to work the orange dough much more than the chocolate to get the food coloring evenly distributed. The difference in texture wasn’t really that noticeable in the baked cookie, however, just when slicing the dough.
Although they taste decent, the main appeal of these cookies is the color scheme. They definitely would be the perfect “kitchen magic” for those times when you suddenly need 7 dozen fresh cookies for a Halloween party.
Kelvinator. (1935). The Kelvinator book of kitchen tested recipes. Detroit, Michigan: Kelvinator. https://whatamericaate.org/full.record.php?kid=164-590-2188&page=1
Mercuri, B. (2004). Cookies. In A. F. Smith, (Ed.), The Oxford encyclopedia of food and drink in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press.