Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Another treasured childhood memory crushed under the boot-heels of reality.
But never mind, they're still good cookies and all the good Polish delis and had them.
Don't let all the extra text worry you. The directions are actually pretty simple. I just write a lot.
Makes 3-4 dozen
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 t salt
1 cup vegetable shortening (i.e. Crisco)
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temp.
1/2 cup powdered sugar
About 1/4 cup fruit preserves, thick jam, etc.
More powdered sugar for dusting
Combine flour and salt.
In a separate, large bowl, beat the veg. shortening, cream cheese, and powered sugar until smooth.
Add flour mixture in thirds, and blend well.
Cover (or wrap) dough. You might want to divide it in half or thirds, depending on how fast you can work with the dough, and how big your cookie sheets are. You need the dough to stay chilled until it goes into the oven. Refrigerate dough for 8 hours or overnight.
When the dough has chilled: preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Now it's decision-making time. If you're making these in small batches, have some patience, and have the time to do it right, you can make the cookies in what I consider the "traditional" form: Flour your board (or counter) and roll the dough to about the thickness of a piecrust. Cut the dough into strips 2 1/2 to 3 inches wide, then cut the strips into squares. Put a bit of your preserves in the center of the squares and then fold up the points to barely meet in the center. You don't want it tightly closed; you want people to see the jam peeking out. Some people will only fold two opposing corners, leaving the other two open.
The "traditional" method can be tricky, because the dough needs to stay cold, and if you're not good at rolling and cutting, you end up with the dough stuck to the board…and you don't want to add any more flour than you need to in order to keep it from sticking. And sometimes the cookies will move while they're cooking, so one or more corners might flop down. Transfer the cookies to an ungreased cookie sheet and bake...
The easier method is to take a spoonful of dough (tablespoon-ish -- it depends on how big you want the cookies to be. You can make them smaller, but you don't want them too large), form it into a ball, and set it on an ungreased cookie sheet (or just plop it on the cookie sheet, a round, free-form thing) and indent the center of the cookie with your finger to form a well for the fruit. Then just fill the wells, and you're ready to bake.
If the dough starts to get warm while you're rolling the balls, you can put the cookie sheet in the refrigerator while for a while. If you're fast enough that you're forming cookies faster than the batches bake, put the finished cookie sheets and the dough in the refrigerator to keep it chilled while you're not working with it. It really makes a difference.
Bake for 8-12 minutes. They just barely begin to brown on the bottom, and with the "traditional" shape you may see some browning on the edges; don't expect them to get very brown. It's a fine line between done and the filling boiling over. It doesn't ruin the cookies if the filling boils, but someone's got to clean the cookie sheet.
Let them cool a bit on the cookie sheets; they're very fragile before they're cool. Dust with powered sugar, then move to racks to complete the cooling. If you're going to re-use the same cookie sheets, make sure they're completely cooled before you put your new dough on them.
About the preserves: You can use any thick jam or preserves you like. It can't be too thin or it will run out and burn on the pan.
Cherry, raspberry and plum were pretty typical when I was growing up, but whatever you have on hand, or that you like, will be fine. For something non-traditional, I like lemon curd.
Cookie shapes/sizes: I find that these are best in a size that you can eat in one or two bites. If you want larger cookies, the "traditional" shape works better as a larger cookie, if you can manage the dough at that size.