This weekend, it got quite snowy at our house. A big storm was heading in. So we did what came naturally: we put up a fire and made Christmas cookies. To quote Emily Dickinson, we "see New Englandly."
We made these irresistible jam roll cookies and later posted this picture on all the usual social-media suspects. Wow, such a response! Inboxes! Private messages! Emails! (Mom, nice to hear from you once in a while.)
The recipe is actually in our big, 900-recipe tome, THE ULTIMATE COOK BOOK. (You can click that link in the last sentence to get your own copy.) Given the spirit of the holidays, it seems right to offer the recipe here, too.
These are very old-fashioned cookies, a throw-back to the '50s. Consider them a cross between rugelach and Pop Tarts: a cinnamon-laced, somewhat caky dough surrounding sticky, melted jam. They're relatively easy to make and keep well. Not that you'll need to worry about storing them. Between breakfast, coffee breaks, and dessert, they'll disappear seemingly on their own. Seemingly.
- 3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated white sugar
- 2/3 cup (120 grams) packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (95 grams) solid vegetable shortening
- 3 large egg whites, lightly whisked in a small bowl and at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) jam (strawberry, cherry, your choice--just no jelly or preserves)
- 1 cup (80 grams) finely chopped pecans
1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Beat both sugars and the shortening in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed, until fluffy and beige, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg whites and vanilla until smooth, about 1 minute.
3. Turn off the beaters, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour mixture. Beat at a very low speed just until a soft but crumbly dough forms. Remove the beaters, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, position the rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350F (175C). Line a large, lipped baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.
5. Gather the dough into a ball, then divide it into halves and form each half into a ball. Sprinkle a few drops of water on your work surface; lay a large piece of wax paper on top. Lightly dust the wax paper with flour; place one half of the dough in the middle of the paper. Gently flatten the ball, then lay another piece of wax paper on top. Roll to a 12 x 8 inch (31 x 20 cm) rectangle.
6. Peel off the top piece of wax paper and spread the dough evenly with half the jam and half the nuts. Roll the rectangle up into a fairly right log, starting with one of the long sides. Slice this log into twelve cookies, each 1 inch thick. Lay these on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them at least 1 inch apart.
7. Bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes. (Start checking after 25 minutes.) Meanwhile, roll out the second piece of dough as directed, top with the jam and nuts, roll it up, and slice it into cookies for a second batch.
8. Cool the baking cookies on the baking sheet for a minute or so, then use a metal spatula to transfer them to a wire cooling rack. Cool the baking sheet for 5 minutes before adding the second batch of cookies for baking. Cool all the cookies to room temperature, about 1 hour, then store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
- We prefer to use a non-hydrogenated, expeller-pressed shortening, such as Earth Balance. While we have used the butter-flavored version for these cookies, we wouldn't use unsalted butter. The shortening helps them stay a little crunchier on the surface, a better contrast to the soft middles.
- The jam may singe a bit as the cookies back. It's not necessarily bad but it can lead to less than perfect aesthetics. If this sort of thing bothers you, scrape off any bits of jam that hang out of each cookie before baking.
- If you don't get the rectangle perfect when rolling it out, the dough is fairly forgiving. You can tear off bits, patch it up in other places, and roll to the necessary size.
Elizabeth Handler wrote on Facebook that she remodeled this recipe into a vegan cookie--and her work is definitely worth passing on, if you're interested. She substituted 3 mounded tablespoons of extra-firm silken tofu, such as Mori-Nu, for the egg whites and also added 2 tablespoons vegan Holiday Nog (for moisture). The cookies needed to be gently palm-flattened a bit on the baking sheet before baking. She reports that the results were "yummy."