December 15, 2013
Healthy Holiday Jam Stack Cookies
I've spent about the last seventeen holiday seasons jaded about Christmas in that hunched, adolescent sort of way. I'd grown up, mostly, and could pass on presents and trees and lights. One year in my early twenties, I didn't even make it back to my native Massachusetts during the month of December. I strolled the warm beaches of San Diego, where I lived: the always-blooming land that Christmas forgot, but that advertisers, with their billboards of mittens and snowflakes, did not. See what I mean? Jaded.
This year, things have been different. As suddenly as a two-year-old boy hits a growth spurt, I shrugged off my Christmas apathy. The poppy tambourines of Pandora's Christmas Channel pipe from our speakers. Crafts of red and green construction paper, pom poms, and glitter plaster our refrigerator. And our living room glows with the twinkle lights on our first family Christmas tree--colorful lights, I insisted, because they're more fun.
So you see, there's a thing happening here. He's about three feet tall and he believes in Santa, and that's pretty much the whole story.
In the throes of my enthusiasm, holiday cookies became necessary. I spent weeks mulling over and testing this recipe, because I wanted it to be just right: rich, sweet, colorful, and nourishing, too. For the dough, I put a whole-food spin on the recipe for traditionally sugar-free Polish kolache cookies; then I filled the cookies with dollops of simple but magnificent raspberry-date jam. You probably won't use all the jam in the cookies, which is a good thing: leftovers are great in a PBJ sandwich or stirred into a batch of oat bars.
Thanks for sharing in my (alarmingly meteoric!) holiday spirit, and enjoy.
Healthy Holiday Jam Stack Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
3oz (or 1/4 cup + 2 Tbls.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups frozen raspberries
1/2 cup packed mashed dates
For the jam:
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, simmer raspberries, stirring often, until they're melted and broken down, five or fewer minutes.
Break up mashed dates into small gobs and sprinkle them into the still-simmering raspberries. Stir well and simmer a few minutes more, until the jam is thick and all lumps are incorporated.
Let cool and transfer to glass for storage.
For the cookies:
Cream together butter, cream cheese and vanilla, then add flour and stir well. Use your hands to form the dough into a homogenous ball.
Roll the dough into two logs about two inches in diameter, wrap them in parchment paper, and chill until firm (30 minutes in the freezer, or 2+ hours in the fridge)
Preheat oven to 350 and line a cookie tray with parchment paper. Remove the logs of dough from the fridge/freezer and slice them into very thin rounds.
Arrange half the rounds on the cookie sheet and bake until firm, 12-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, use a small cookie cutter (I used the cap to a vodka bottle!) to punch holes in the middle of the remaining rounds. Save the punched-out dough in a ball to make more cookies.
Transfer the baked "solid" halves onto a plate to cool, and arrange the "O" halves on the cookie sheet. Bake for 7-10 minutes, or until firm.
When both cookie halves are completely cool, spread jam on the "solid" halves and gently press the "O" halves on top. The cookies will be somewhat delicate in their first hour or so out of the oven, but they become sturdier--and achieve their best, flaky texture--after a couple of hours of rest.