The Extraordinary Impostor:
My feet are swollen. My eye lids are drooping. My dinner was a champagne glass of mac 'n cheese, a wedge of roast beef with mustard, a glass of a red wine and a vanilla "cake-pop".
Things have been busier than normal this week. I feel like I just said that... Well, I meant it then, and I certainly mean it now. Working at a chocolate shop during February is like being crushed in a vice. It starts off slow, slower than you expect, and you tell yourself, "this isn't that bad. I can handle this". Then, all of a sudden, you feel the pinch, and you start scrambling for your life to get out. Of course, the perks often outweigh the pitfalls. Take tonight, for instance. Although I was up extra early to stop by job number two for a few hours before the shop, I got to work/attend a great fundraising event here in the city. There were a number of other chocolate vendors there, and at least five different chocolate fountains bubbling up creme de mint, champagne and Reese cup infused chocolate; sadly, I forgot my camera. Otherwise, I would have awkwardly photographed everything from the macaroni and cheese bar to the "Biscotti Goddess" booth being spearheaded by a balding middle-aged man - even a biscotti goddess can't afford to be a discriminatory employer.
There were probably fifty or sixty different vendors there sampling everything from pastry to coffee to wine and beer. I tried everything I could convince myself to put my grubby little hands on, but the most shocking delicacy was, by far, a marshmallow dipped in melted peanut butter being pumped through a chocolate fountain. My lips were glued shut for a truly blissful thirty seconds. I'm pretty sure my eyes glazed over, and I forgot to chew for at least the first fifteen seconds. The moral of the story is... well, there really isn't a moral. I just wanted to talk about that.
Talking about delicacies, how about these cookies?! They are so easy on the eyes. They also happen to be one of the most scrumptious cookies I've eaten in months. Although they are extraordinarily simple to whip up, they are a trifle difficult to assemble. I say trifle, but I really mean they are very finicky. My Mom worked with the chilled dough first, and robustly complained about the grainy, crumbly texture. I figured things would turn out that way since the dough wasn't any old butter cookie, but a crisp, flaky shortbread. I embraced the fact, and woke up earlier than usual to bake a pan or two to take photos of. As soon as I set the disk of dough down, it crumbled to bits before my eyes. I was still in denial, so I just tried to crunch it back together with my hands. Soon though, I was just bashing it with the rolling pin and spooning the especially crumbly pieces on top. In the end, I had worked the dough together enough to cut out four hearts. Initially, I told myself they weren't worth the man-handling and the clean up, and that I would need to find another recipe to post. Then, I sandwiched two cookies together with a little warmed strawberry jam and took a bite. Believe me when I say the crumbly, hideous dough is totally worth the effort - it transforms in the oven and produces the most sumptuous crisp, buttery cookie that all but melts in your mouth.
The smashing-with-a-rolling-pin technique worked pretty well. Once the dough begins to stick together you can roll it out with only a little difficulty. I like my cookies a little more substantial so I kept the dough a little thicker than suggested in the recipe. This helped keep the cookies from splitting too much when I was cutting them. But, if your heart breaks (literally or figuratively) when you're cutting the inner designs, don't worry. Just pinch the dough back together and press firmly. Since they are covered in powdered sugar, no one will even notice any imperfections. Warming the dough slightly, for maybe eight to ten seconds, in the microwave helps soften it up before rolling. Still, be aware of what you're getting yourself into with these cookies:
Notes: These cookies would make the perfect treat for a Valentine - if you have one. If not, you could just take photos of them, post them to your Facebook page and then bask in the crisp, fruity glory that is a shortbread sandwiched with jam, and tell you're self: I'm awesome. These gems are quintessential shortbread perfection. But, that doesn't mean you have to make them only for Valentines. Using any style of graduated cookie cutters will produce an equally adorable cookie. You can also change up the flavor of jam you use, as well. In fact, the original recipe calls for a seedless raspberry jam in homage to the linzer torte which these cookies mimic in appearance, texture and flavor. Linzer cookies, the unmistakable circular cookies with jam cutouts and a dusting of confectioner's sugar, are really a torte dough cut into shapes to form "cookies". Although they look similar, I imagine Linzer cookies have their own distinctive flavor. Once you try these cookies, though, you'll be happy to "settle" for such a delightful Linzer impostor.
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 - 1/2 cup strawberry jam
powdered sugar, to dust
1. Whisk the flour and salt together in a small bowl.
2. In a large bowl beat the butter until smooth, about 1 minute, using a hand mixer. Add the sugar and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the vanilla extra, and beat to combine. Gently stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Smooth the dough into a disk shape and flatten. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour before using.
4. Preheat the oven to 350. Great a baking sheet.
5. Lightly flour a clean counter top, or a large sheet of waxed paper. Roll the dough out until it is about a 1/4 inch thick. Cut out your cookie shapes, allotting two cookies per sandwich. Place both sides of the sandwich on the baking sheet. Then, make your cutouts using a small (3/4 - 1 inch) cookie cutter. Put the cookies in the freezer for 5-7 minutes before baking.
6. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are very lightly browned. Cool totally before dusting.
1. Warm up your jam in the microwave for 5-6 seconds. Then, spread the jam on the bottom (without the cutout) cookie. Leave a tiny border between the cookie and the jam so that it doesn't all ooze out when you place the top cookie.
2. Dust the top cookie (with the cutout) with powdered sugar on a separate plate.
3. Sandwich the top cookie (with the cutout) over the jam. Press gently, but firmly to seal. Serve same day, if possible*
*These cookies can be baked a few days ahead of time, and stored in an airtight container. Do not assemble them until ready to serve to retain the cookies crispiness.