Tuesday, December 28, 2010

crescent jam and cheese cookies

crescent cheese cookies

Because if I don’t mention this today I believe my husband will pop out of lurkdom and tsk-tsk me publicly for it, let me own up to one thing: I snore. Just kidding! I emphatically do not snore, not even when I have had wine with dinner and a lingering head cold and it would have been completely understandable. Not even then.

farmer cheese

Wow, that was totally not what this post was supposed to be about. Let me try again, from the place where I own up to something: I often get really cranky with recipes when I cook. Why wasn’t this tested better? Would it have killed them to add this highly relevant detail? How many editorial hands did this recipe pass through and not a single one of them could have corrected this bogus weight? It’s not pretty and, tellingly, the tendency has only become exacerbated since I began writing my own cookbook. It leads to a lot of grumpiness in the kitchen. A recipe I feel would benefit from an overhaul is a needling reminder that even with a team of very able people involved, perfection is unattainable and one day someone will be standing in a kitchen wondering how nobody saw that inevitable typo in my book and lordy, is it too early for a drink?

rolled, cut and dolloped with jam

So last Thursday, I decided to make some delightful looking cookies from The Gourmet Cookie Book as a hostess gift for our Christmas Eve dinner. Plus, I love a recipe that calls for something I’m trying to use up, in this case, a brick of farmer cheese. But the recipe put me in a bad mood. [This is the part I am supposed to own up to, says my husband, as he had to listen to me complain about the recipe for an hour.] First, it told me I’d have more than enough cheese when I barely had enough which sent me into a fit of “Should you pack the measuring cup? Should it fall loosely in there? This recipe is from 1973, at no time over the last 37 years could they have inserted that important detail?” and other distractions. Then, I was mixing the dough and I checked and rechecked and what? Where was the sugar? What kind of cookie doesn’t have sugar in it? It would be terrible. Or, perhaps, there isn’t supposed to be any sugar but don’t you think they should mention that in the headnote so people don’t become alarmed? I spent 15 minutes debating whether I should follow the recipe or add sugar, getting increasingly grumpy with each (uh, single-step) pace of the kitchen floor before deciding to the take the recipe at its obviously incorrect word. When it was time to roll out the cookies, I was positive that they’d open up and jelly would burn up all over the pan and really felt more detail was warranted on how to avoid this. I really sound like fun, don’t I? Hey, who wants me to review their cookbook?!

ready to bake
first batch, dusted

I hope you know where this is going: These are some of the best things I have ever made. Oh, if I could go back in time and just tell myself to shut it, awesomeness is nigh I would. Instead, I will tell you this so you can make your way through this recipe with serenity. What came out of the oven was a veritable dream, a cross between a croissant and rugelach with the kind of pillowy flaky layers pastry chefs work tirelessly to achieve through focused applications of regimented amounts of butter to floury doughs. But you can pull it off with 10 minutes and a big mixing bowl. The absent sugar that I fretted over is its greatest feat: just a light dusting of powdered sugar and the sweetness of the jam (and I find most jams very sweet) within carries the whole cookie to the perfect coda, that I’d normally classify as “grown-up sweet” but it turns out 15 month-olds don’t mind them much either.


One year ago: Pear Bread and Parmesan Cream Crackers
Two years ago: Braised Beef Short Ribs with Potato Puree, Swiss Chard and Horseradish Cream and Gramercy Tavern’s Gingerbread
Three years ago: Blue Cheese Iceberg Wedge and Linxe’s Chocolate Truffles
Four years ago: Pecan Squares, Boozy Baked French Toast and Onion Soup

Crescent Jam and Cheese Cookies
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookie Book

We are so infatuated with these cookies that I’m breaking my Never Post About Cookies Right After Christmas, When The World Is Cookie-d Out, Rule to tell you about them today. We want to fill them with Nutella, with chocolate chips. We want to try out different jams and maybe even some of that exalted chestnut paste. Plus, having no sugar in them, they seem destined for savory applications to, be it herbed goat cheese or a slip of caramelized onions.

Makes about 30 cookies

2 sticks (1 cup, 8 ounces or 227 grams) unsalted butter, softened
7.5 ounces farmer cheese (a lowfat cottage/ricotta-style cheese; I buy mine from Friendship)*
2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 30 grams) sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups (8 3/4 ounces or 250 grams) all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling cookies out
1/4 teaspoon salt
Jam or preserves (I used raspberry)
Milk, for brushing cookies
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Cream butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Force cheese through a sieve right onto creamed butter and stir it in. Add the sour cream and vanilla and combine the mixture well. Whisk or sift together flour and salt in a separate bowl and gradually blend it into the cheese mixture. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill it for at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll one-fourth of the dough out very thinly on a lightly floured surface and chill the remaining dough until it is to be used. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares** and put about 1/2 teaspoon jam or preserves in the center of each. Fold the dough in half on the diagonal, pressing firmly down to seal the two sides around the jam. Roll the triangle into crescents, starting at the wide end. Arrange crescents on a baking sheet (they won’t expand terribly much, so just an inch or so between them is fine), brush them lightly with milk and bake them for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are golden. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and dust them with powdered sugar. Continue making cookies in the same manner until all the dough is used.

* Or enough pot cheese to fill a 1 cup measure once forced through a sieve. (Pot cheese is the primary recommendation of the recipe, but I didn’t test it with this so cannot provide a definite weight.)
** For the first batch, I used a ruler and a knife and honestly, it is always a pain to try to cut dough into a perfect grid. The second batch, I remembered I’d just bought some square cookie cutters and hoo boy, it sure sped things up!


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