Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tea Party Cookies!


In the dim and murky past, I used to go to church. I can only say that without doubt, the coffee hour in the basement fellowship hall was the best part. Around the holidays, there was a charity bazaar, where I acquired a sterling silver necklace, ( it looked fabulous with my oversized turquoise sweater ), a wooden rhinocerous, and probably other things I've forgotten. There was always punch for kids, and sometimes there were cookies. I think the presence of cookies may have been related to events in the ecumenical calendar, but I wasn't paying attention. Cookies! That was the important part.

There were 2 kinds of cookies that I liked best. One was lemon bars, naturally, and the other was any type of thumbprint cookie. Some were fancier than others. They looked like they had been extruded from a pastry bag, with little ridges in the swirls, or they were like layer cookies with a hole cut in them so you could see the jam. (I now know that cookies like that are linzer cookies, but they looked similar to me.) I think most of those thumbprint cookies had to have been store bought, because they usually had that wonderfully tropical tasting palm oil flavor.

Part of my enjoyment of this type of cookie is aesthetics. They look delicious. And they're cute. They're dainty looking. And of course, I could eat about, oh, a zillion of them. I have always loved the combination of shortbready cookie base with a chewy fruit blob in the middle. Raspberry is probably my favorite, if I must choose, because I really like pink flavors of food, but then again, the yellow flavor is good too.

Thumbprint Cookies

1 cup butter
1cup powdered sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cut the butter, sugar, salt & vanilla together until they are pretty well mixed, then cut in the flour until the dough is evenly smooth and holds together easily. It will be very stiff and pasty. Pull or scoop off 1" balls of dough, flatten them slightly, and poke a dimple into the top of each one. Start pre-heating the oven to 350. Freeze the cookies for at least 20 minutes, then arrange them on a baking sheet sheet about 2" apart. Drop about 1/4 teaspoon of jam into each dimple, and bake the cookies for about 15 minutes. They should be just barely turning brown at the edges.

Useful points:

1. Use a pastry cutter. If you use a mixer, you may fluff too much air into your dough. That would be ok, but be aware that the cookies will first poof up, then collapse in the oven, making them rather flat.
2. That's 130 grams of powdered sugar, to be exact.
3. It's important to freeze the cookies before baking them. They will hold their shape much better.
4. I used a melon baller to scoop evenly sized bits of dough, because an ice cream scoop is way too big.
5. You can use your finger to put the dimples in the cookies (duh...) but I found that the back of my 1/4 teaspoon measure creates a nice, symmetrical dent, which I already know will hold exactly 1/4 teaspoon of jam.
6. Don't forget to eat one or two the minute they come out of the oven, because they will be quite crunchy when they cool down. It would be a pity not to know what they are like while they are warm and squishy.

Obviously, these cookies are related to hamantaschen, but they are a lot less fiddly. I do like the cream cheese dough for hamantaschen, but overall, the simplicity of this recipe wins out for me. On the other hand, at the risk of sounding very unlike myself, I think this recipe may have too much butter. More precisely, I think there is proportionately too much butter for the rest of the ingredients. A lot of the fat in these just oozes right out during cooking, which annoys me. It may need just a smidge more flour, which I should have weighed before mixing these up, but oh well. Next time. There will be several next times too, because that peculiar jam I got is just perfect for making these, which makes me feel much better about having bought it.

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