Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fresh Strawberries Fill a Rolling Pin Cookie

Back when I was in college, my boyfriend's mom would sometimes interrupt our study time with something home baked. She was an excellent cook and baker, so I looked forward to the interruption. Besides, we were usually pouring over thick history books about 'Westward Expansion' or something and it was nice to take a break from that.

One time she had baked a lovely cookie that had a cherry baked in the middle. The cookie was crisp around the edges, soft in the middle and then you bit into the juicy cherry in the center...memorable! I didn't have much time for baking at that point in my life, so I never asked for the recipe. Wish I had.

Sweetie came home a couple of days ago with three pint baskets of gorgeous strawberries...the first of our local ones. They are not as sweet, nor as juicy as the ones that come later, in May especially, but they are still delicious. I decided that I wanted to make a cookie similar to the one I remembered so well, but with thinly sliced strawberries in the middle.

After looking in lots and lots of cookbooks it became clear that her cookies were not the usual kind at all. It didn't help that I wanted to include almonds and  maybe some lemon curd. Long story short, I started with an unusual spice cookie recipe and went on my own merry way. Although this dough isn't difficult to work with, you will give your rolling pin a workout by the time you are done.

One of the unusual things about this recipe is that it takes brown sugar, dark corn syrup and butter and boils them together for 2 minutes. Another unusual thing is that there are no eggs. I enjoyed figuring out how to change the recipe by eliminating the spices and adding vanilla extract. It already had the ground almonds and almond extract I wanted and some rum that mostly cooked off.

You could probably make these by wrapping some of the dough around a whole strawberry, but I wanted a cookie version of hand pies. I used a large cutter for starters, 4-5 slices of strawberry for each cookie and about 1/2 teaspoon of purchased Meyer lemon curd. I sealed between the top and bottom cookie with egg wash, then pressed down all around with a fork to seal it even better, cut a slit in the top, brushed egg wash over the whole cookie and sprinkled the middle with sparkling sugar. These cookies were so large that you really only needed one, but they smelled so great while baking that it was hard not to eat more than that.

In the end, it worked out to be just what I had in mind. The outer edges and bottom of the cookie were crispy, the inner cookie soft, but chewy with a true almond flavor, and the strawberries barely cooked, soft and juicy and fragrant and there was just a hint of citrus.

Next time I might try it with granulated sugar instead of the brown sugar for a more delicate cookie flavor but otherwise I'm very happy with this experiment. Since the strawberry season is just starting I'm sure I'll make 'em again, especially since they are perfect for taking on a picnic.

Fresh Strawberry Filled Rolling Pin CookiesBased on 'Swedish Spice Cookies' in Maida Heatter's Brand-New Book of Great CookiesMakes 10 filled 3" cookies

2/3 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter
6 oz. (scant 1 1/4 cups) blanched almonds
2 cups unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
about 1/4 cup prepared lemon curd
6-8 fresh strawberries, washed, dried, hulled, and thinly sliced
egg wash of 1 egg beaten lightly with 1 tablespoon water
about 1 tablespoon sanding sugar

Place the corn syrup, sugar, and butter in a saucepan. Place over moderate heat and stir occasionally until mixture comes to a boil. Let boil for about 2 minutes. Then set aside to cool to tepid.

Place the almonds in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade. If desired, you can lightly toast the almonds in the middle of a 350 degree F oven for 10 - 12 minutes and then let cool before putting into the food processor. I made my cookies with untoasted almonds.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Place 1/4 cup of the mixture in the food processor with the almonds. Process the nuts and flour mixture for about 30 seconds, until fine. Add to the dry ingredient mixture in the bowl. Stir with a spoon to combine.

When the sugar/butter mixture has cooled to tepid, add the rum, the almond extract and the vanilla and stir to combine. Add this mixture to the flour/nut mixture in the bowl then stir or beat with the mixer until a dough forms.

Spread out three 12-inch lengths of plastic warp or wax paper, and place about one-third of the dough on each piece. Fold the sides of the wrap over the dough, flatten each piece slightly, and refrigerate the packet for an hour or more, and up to a week if you wish. If it has been refrigerated for more than an hour, it will be too firm to roll out; it should stand at room temperature for about a half hour or more, until it can be rolled out.

When you are ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator long enough ahead of time so that it can be rolled out. Flour a pastry cloth and a rolling pin. Adjust two racks to divide your oven into thirds and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with baking parchment, foil with the shiny side up, or silicon baking mats.

To roll out the dough, unwrap on piece of the dough and place it on the floured cloth. Roll out the dough carefully until it is very thin and even all over. Try for about 1/8 inch thick. During rolling, turn the dough and re-flour cloth and pin as necessary.

To make large cookies as I did, cut with 3-inch round cutters. I was able to get about 5 rounds from the first rolling out of one piece of dough, but this dough is easy to reform into a ball and then re-roll for more rounds. Once you have gotten some more rounds from the first piece, add what is left to the second piece, continue rolling out the dough and cutting out rounds and repeat with the scraps and the third piece. I used the final scraps to make a small plain cookie...this dough is too yummy to waste any.

Place half the rounds on the prepared sheets. Place 1/2 teaspoon lemon curd on each in the center and spread out, leaving at least 1/4 inch border plain. Place 4-5 strawberry slices in the center over the curd. Brush the egg wash around the plain border and top with another cookie dough round. Press gently around the border to seal, then seal fully by pressing with the tines of a fork. Use a sharp knife to make a slit in the center. Repeat until you have about 10 filled cookies. Brush egg wash over the tops of each, then sprinkle the centers lightly with sanding sugar.

Bake the prepared cookies for 5 minutes in the preheated oven, then switch the pans, top to bottom and bottom to top, plus have the side of the sheet that was toward the back of the oven face toward the front. (This is probably not necessary if you have a true convection oven.) Bake for another 5 minutes, then check to see if cookies are golden brown. If not, bake another minute or two.

Remove from oven to a cooling rack for 2-3 minutes, then use a spatula to lift the cookies onto the cooling rack itself. Let cookies cool before eating or storing. Centers will get softer if cookies are not eaten the same day. Store, covered, in the refrigerator...if there are any left. I warn you, they smell irresistibly good while baking.


  1. Hi E!

    These look great! Giving me ideas for the strawberries in my fridge!

  2. Anonymous1:02 PM

    These look so delicious. I love that you started with a Maida recipe. She doesn't get enough credit as a baking pioneer!

  3. I love the pie/cookie combination - maybe you could call them 'pookies'! (I might copyright that...)