Per a reader’s request, here is the recipe for the jelly cookies we made on Christmas Eve. It comes from Mike’s Polish grandmother, who, before her passing, made them every year for the holidays. For my husband, eating them is a Proustian experience. For the rest of us, well, it is simply very pleasant. I have never been a fan of this kind of confection, but I must admit these are delicate, not too sweet, and rather delicious.
The aunt who forwarded this recipe to Mike is a genius. Literally. She therefore places a great premium on inference, being well capable of it herself. I have taken the liberty of adding a few comments — most of them meant to flesh out the process for those of us (lesser mortals) who may need more help. A couple of them help no one, but are of interest — at least to me. They are all in italics.
GRANDMA W’s JELLY COOKIES
½ lb. butter (softened)
8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
2 c. flour
Cream together butter, cream cheese and salt.
Add flour gradually, mixing until smooth.
Form dough into ball, and wrap in waxed paper. (Why waxed paper and not plastic wrap? Who knows? My mom has an old cookie recipe that, at one point, instructs you to stir the batter “with a wooden spoon.” My sisters and I have spent our lives in fear of not having the correct appurtenance for this activity when needed. Superstitious? Perhaps. But they are damn fine cookies. So, stay away, all metal!)
Chill overnight or at least 3 hours.
1 c. dried apricots
¾ c. water
¼ c. sugar
1 c. dried plums
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
Cook dried fruit/water/sugar mix for ten minutes (*in a pot you’re not deeply attached to) and then puree.
*According to feedback I have gotten since this post was published, I would have had far less trouble had I made sure I was using very low heat, and kept the pot covered.
Use ½ dough at a time, leaving remainder in refrigerator.
Roll very thin with confectioner’s sugar. (This is the only sweetening the dough gets, so don’t be shy. Also, roll even thinner than you’re inclined to. The dough puffs up quite a bit in the cooking).
Cut into 2 inch squares. (If you have a cooking partner like my husband, have a tape measure handy).
Place small amount of jam in center. (What is “a small amount?” Excellent question. It turns out that people have differing ideas on this point. Suggestion: when co-baking these cookies, discuss said amount with partner before commencing process, as the occurrence of said discussion in the middle of the baking process can lead to serious delays and even mild disagreements).
Fold two opposing corners towards each other, so that one overlaps the other slightly. This part was left out of the recipe entirely, as Mike’s Aunt seemed to feel it was common sense. And in most cases it would be. My sense, however, is anything but common. I probably would have rolled them up like little carpets and called them “dead people cookies.” Fortunately Mike was able to fill in this bit.
Seal edges with milk. (Do this more assiduously than this offhanded instruction implies. Otherwise your cookies will all come open in the oven, resulting in open-face sandwiches instead of rolls — most undesirable.)
Place on ungreased cookie sheet. (Or parchment paper. Saves having to wash the sheet. But make sure you do not accidentally use waxed paper. I have done this, utterly ruining a batch of roasted chickpeas and causing my husband to ask, worriedly, “why does it smell like burning candles in here?”)
Bake at 375° F for 15 minutes. (Ten is plenty. At least in our rather over-zealous oven).
When cool, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. (A lot. Otherwise they aren’t sweet enough).
Makes 5 dozen cookies. (*No it doesn’t. Makes about 2 dozen. Then the jelly part runs out, and you decide to try using storebought jam for the rest of the dough, and then you find out that doesn’t work at all. Then you say, “next time I’m going to double the jelly recipe.” Then you throw away the entire second batch, because even your two-year-old won’t eat it, and it’s too rich for the dog.)
* Turns out you’ll be fine if you make both the apricot and the plum filling. We thought you were supposed to choose one or the other, so ended up with half the quantity we were supposed to have.