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An easy way to have fresh cookies any time

The Associated Press
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This Nov. 3, 2014, photo shows vanilla refrigerator cookies in Concord, N.H. These easy refrigerator cookies can be prepped ahead, then refrigerated for several days or frozen for months until the moment is right. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Want to get a jump on your holiday cookies? These easy refrigerator cookies can be prepped ahead, then refrigerated for several days or frozen for several months until the moment (or craving) is right. The recipe also is exceptionally versatile, so I’ve included suggestions for easy variations on the basic recipe.

Start to finish: 3 12 hours (30 minutes active)

1 vanilla bean

34 cup sugar

12 tablespoons (1 12 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 large egg

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 12 cups flour

14 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

12 teaspoon salt

Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Using a paring knife, cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Use the tip of the knife to scrape the seeds out of the pod and into a medium bowl. Save the pod for making vanilla sugar. Add the sugar and butter, then use an electric mixer to beat on medium until the mixture is light and fluffy, for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract, then beat for 2 minutes longer.

In a second bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat just until combined. Cover and chill until it is firm enough to be shaped, for about 1 hour.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Place a 12-inch piece of kitchen parchment on the counter. Set one piece of the dough on the parchment; then, use the parchment to shape the dough into a log about 2 inches in diameter and about 10 inches long. Wrap the dough in the parchment, twisting the ends to seal. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough using a second sheet of parchment.

Refrigerate the wrapped dough for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. The dough also can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Remove the dough logs from the refrigerator and slice into 14-inch rounds. Arrange the rounds 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake just until the edges start to become golden, for 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let them cool. Pack them in an airtight container. Serve lightly dusted with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Makes 4 12 to 5 dozen cookies.

Variations:

Lemon: Use 1 12 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 12 teaspoons vanilla extract in place of the vanilla bean, and add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons grated lemon zest to the flour mixture.

Orange: Follow the lemon variation directions, but substitute orange zest and juice for the lemon zest and juice.

Ginger: Add 13 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger and 2 teaspoons ground ginger to the flour mixture. These may not slice neatly once frozen, but just pat them back together on the baking sheet.

Peanut butter: Add 12 cup chunky peanut butter to the butter mixture and increase the flour by 2 tablespoons.

Double chocolate: Substitute 14 cup unsweetened cocoa for the cornstarch, eliminate the vanilla bean and add just 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add 2 cups semisweet chocolate mini-chips to the flour mixture. This will make 6 dozen cookies because of the added chips.

Nutrition information per serving: 40 calories (20 calories from fat), 3 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 10 milligrams cholesterol, 0 protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 0 dietary fiber, 30 milligrams sodium

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