High Country Baking: Scandinavian thimble cookies
Simple goodness — one of the many enviable traits of Scandinavian baked goods. These thimble cookies, sweet jam cradled in tender dough and accented by chopped walnuts, are a lovely example. They’re unpretentious, delicious, and easy to make. Very little can go wrong, just be sure to measure the flour by the spoon and level method (too much flour dries and toughens the cookie) and handle the dough gently. You can substitute a gluten free measure-for-measure flour for the all-purpose flour with no other changes needed in the recipe.
Scandinavian thimble cookies
Yields 17 two-inch cookies, make on two cookie sheets
1 large egg
1 cup bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 pinches salt
8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon superfine granulated sugar
2-3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
Prep: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, with racks in the upper and lower third positions. Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper (greasing the pan could make the cookies spread) and set aside. Separate the egg, putting the yolk in a one-cup measure or small bowl and the white in a small, shallow bowl.
Make the dough: To make in a food processor: Add the flour, brown sugar, and salt to the bowl and pulse to combine well. Cut the butter into small pieces, add them to the bowl and pulse until mixture looks like coarse sand. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and pulse only until a rough dough forms. To make with a mixer: Cut the butter into small pieces, place them in a mixing bowl and leave them to soften to room temperature. Add the brown sugar and beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the egg yolk and the vanilla extract and beat until fully blended. Add the flour and salt, a quarter cup at a time, mixing at the lowest speed, until a dough forms.
Form cookies: Dump the dough out of the food processor or mixing bowl, form it into a disc, wrap in plastic or waxed paper, and refrigerate until firm enough to easily work with. Meanwhile, whisk or beat the egg white until very light and frothy and place the chopped walnuts and granulated sugar in a small, shallow bowl and stir to combine. When the dough is ready, break off pieces and gently form them into 1-inch balls. Dip each ball in the egg white so it’s fully covered, and then roll it in the walnut/sugar mixture to coat. Place them about an inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets and chill them, on the cookie sheets, until the balls are quite firm (I do this in the freezer).
Fill center: Use your little finger or the round handle of a wooden spoon (or a thimble if you can find one), dipped in flour, to make an indentation in the center of each cookie. If necessary, reform any that have lost their ball shape. Spoon the jam into a small resealable plastic bag, close the bag, and squish the jam so it becomes soft and smooth. Cut a small hole in one of the bag’s corners, squeeze the bag so the jam flows out of the hole, and fill the indentations half full with jam (you’ll add more after the cookies are baked).
Bake cookies: Bake until the cookies are set, start to color slightly and the jam is runny and bubbling. Start checking at about 15 minutes; the time will depend on the temperature of the cookies when they’re placed in the oven.
Cool and store: Remove the pans to a cooling rack. While they’re still warm and soft, gently reform any cookies that have lost their shape. After a few minutes, use a spatula to transfer the cookies from the pans to the rack. After about 5 minutes, add more jam, filling each indentation completely (the indentations will be wider and shallower after baking). Let cookies cool completely. Store, in an airtight container, for five days at cool room temperature.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at email@example.com.
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