Swedish Icebox Cookies


I realize this baking journey is more than practice. I get interested in the whys of a recipe, which leads to learning something about culture or technique or origins. I think the value of this is a more personal connection to what I’m baking. It also helps to answer the wonder of why Maida included these as a great dessert for her first cookbook.

For these cookies the name and the spice blend both gave me pause.

Certainly when writing this cookbook refrigerators had replaced iceboxes, but Maida still hung onto the old term. Perhaps it was something from her childhood because I think by the 1950s there were no more ice deliveries happening. When I lived in FL we lost electricity for two weeks after Hurricane Wilma. My kids were 7, 5, and 4 and I was using a big cooler to keep some things like milk cold. It taught me a lot about living without modern comforts and how hard that can be. One of my projects every day was to get a new bag of ice because the last one had melted making a watery mess in the cooler. I can’t imagine anything endearing about an icebox so why use the term for cookies instead of refrigerator? I am not sure I will ever know.

Second, I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know much about Scandinavian culture and I can’t help but wonder why these are called Swedish. I found a traditional holiday cookie called Pepparkakor that closely resembles this recipe except it appears they are often made without nuts. They seem to be a staple Swedish holiday party tradition that serves seven cookie varieties, called sju sorters kakor (translates: seven kinds of cookies).

Spices and nuts complement each other. Spices are warming and exotic and festive. Nuts add richness and texture. Out of the 8 recipes I have made so far, this is the fourth to have used a really intense and large quantity spice mixture. It is also the fourth to use a large quantity of nuts, usually in the same recipe as the intense spices. While I am still only at the beginning, I have looked forward and see this as a continuing trend for many of the classic and traditional cakes and cookies. My own herbal baking goals always hang in the background of my mind. The fact that spices and nuts are so prominent in what Maida considers the greatest desserts sparks a little light of hope for my baking future.

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