Sunday, February 19, 2012

Jam Filled Sugar Cookies and an Italian-style Jam Tart

Next month I am teaching a class called Home-Style Desserts. I always try to include five different recipes in my classes, but for this one I had only settled on four when it was time to go to print. So between the print deadline and the class, I needed to come up with a fifth recipe. I had it in my mind that I wanted to do an old fashioned jam-filled sugar cookie...not one where the sugar cookies are baked and then sandwiched together with jam, but one where the sandwiching is done before the cookies are baked. When I was a kid these kinds of cookies were filled with mincemeat at Christmas time. I didn't have such a cookie recipe in my repertoire, so I didn't want to promise to teach it.

While searching on-line, I ran across an Easy Jam Tart posted by David Lebovitz. Because jam tarts are a beloved European home-style dessert....a perfect fit for my upcoming class...I stopped to look more closely at his recipe. Typically, a jam tart is made with a pâte sablé crust (a cookie-like dough of butter, sugar, egg yolks and flour). As I looked at this Easy Jam Tart ("easy" because it had a "press in"-style crust) I noticed that the dough was a bit different from what I was used to. It used a whole egg instead of just the yolks and it included baking powder. Because I can't help myself I began to wonder why this would be, how it would affect the final outcome, etc. As I pondered all of this, it dawned on me that the dough was very similar to my favorite American-style rolled sugar cookie dough....and that this particular jam tart dough might be the perfect dough for making the jam-filled sugar cookies of my imaginings.

So, today's post is a two-for-one of sorts. I'm posting the one (very adaptable) dough...and with it, the two forms it has taken in my kitchen so far. First as the crust of a tender jam tart and second as the sugar cookie portion of my jam-filled sugar cookies.  I have been unable to decide which incarnation I like best.

I adapted the dough slightly from the one I found at David Lebovitz's site. To make it closer to the sugar cookie I was already familiar with I reduced the baking powder and increased the sugar (just slightly). The site from which Lebovitz adapted the recipe used all flour in the dough. He altered the dough to incorporate cornmeal. I think this is an excellent idea—I love fruit with cornmeal based doughs and batters (see my Rhubarb Cake with Cornmeal). But for some reason I didn't want cornmeal in these particular cookies. Instead, I decided to substitute almond meal for a quarter of the flour. Almond is great paired with fruit and I thought that, like the cornmeal, the almond meal would make the cookies a bit more tender (since neither of these will contribute gluten). I loved the cookies with the almond...and I think I would really like the tart with the cornmeal. But you should feel free to use all flour if cornmeal or almond doesn't appeal to you. Whatever you use, all flour, part cornmeal or part almond meal, just make sure the total weight of the "flours" is 250 grams. Because the cookies need gluten to hold together, and because they don't really seem like sugar cookies to me if they aren't made with mostly wheat flour, when substituting I wouldn't use more than 25 to 30% of one of these alternate "flours".

When you make the jam tart for the first time, the amount of jam you need to use will have to be taken on faith. You really don't need much more than a cup. When you put the jam in the tart shell you will be certain it isn't enough. I know this because that's what I thought. And since David Lebovitz had used 1 3/4 cup jam, I thought I would follow suit. The results were a bit gooey. The bottom crust was not fully cooked and the jam overwhelmed the cookie portion of the tart. To quote one of my taste testers: eating it was a bit like eating jam out of the jar with a spoon.  This was not the effect I was going for....

The dough itself is extremely easy to work with. You can of course press it into the tart pan (break it into pieces first...or grate it), but I found it faster, neater and easier to just roll out a generous half of the dough into a 3/16-inch thick round and transfer it to the pan. If it tears, it is easily patched. The remaining dough can then be rolled out 1/8-inch thick and cut into decorative shapes (for Valentine's day I used a heart cutter) to be laid over the tart in slightly overlapping concentric circles. It can also be cut into strips and used to make a lattice top.

For the jam-filled cookies, start with a third of the dough and roll it out 1/8-inch thick. Cut with a fluted 2 1/2-inch cutter and use a half-inch round cutter (I didn't have one this size, so I used a half-inch round piping tip) to cut a hole in the center of half of the cookies. Gather the scraps and combine them with a third of the remaining unused dough. Roll this piece of dough out as before—cutting rounds and holes and gathering the scraps. Combine these scraps with half of the remaining fresh dough and repeat. Repeat one more time with the last chunk of fresh dough. Combining the scraps of rolled dough with the fresh dough will make it so you get the maximum number of cookies out of the dough without having to make any of the cookies from all scrap dough (which can make for tough cookies). Using this method, and using a 2 1/2-inch cutter, I was able to cut 48 rounds to make 2 dozen filled cookies.

There is something nostalgic about the combination of jam and sugar cookies. I think this is probably what Kellogg had in mind when they came up with the Pop-Tart. (They of course fell woefully short of the ideal—sweet, fruity jam encased in tender, buttery dough.) I suppose a wedge of the tart...or a cookie or two...could be eaten for breakfast, but I think a much better idea is to tuck a cookie into your child's lunchbox...or maybe into your briefcase or bag to pull out and enjoy with your coffee break. David Lebovitz points out that the tart would be perfect for packing in a picnic basket. I agree. Even though the crust is tender, the slices are sturdy enough to be picked up and eaten out of hand. And of course, either the tart or the cookies would make a fine, light, home-style dessert. I think I have my fifth recipe.

Jam Tart

185 g. (1 1/2 c. plus 2 T.) all-purpose flour
65 g. (1/2 c. plus 2 T.) almond meal (see note)
1/4 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
125 g. (9 T.) unsalted butter, room temperature
125 g. (1/2 c. plus 2 T.) sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 t. almond extract (or 1 t. vanilla)
310 to 350 g. (1c. to 1 c. plus 2 T.) favorite fruit jam or preserves
1 egg white, beaten until foamy
Turbinado Sugar for sprinkling

Place the first four ingredients in a bowl and whisk until uniformly combined. Set aside.

Briefly cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and then the yolk, followed by the almond (or vanilla) extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix until the dough forms clumps. Transfer to a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a thick rectangle or round. Chill until firm (overnight if you have time).

Butter a 9-inch removable bottom tart pan. On a lightly floured surface, roll out a generous half of the dough (about 300 grams) into a round that is about 3/16-inch thick. Ease the dough into the pan being careful not to stretch it and pressing it against the sides of the tart pan. Use your palms to gently cut the dough flush with the upper rim of the tart pan. Chill until firm (about 30 minutes).

Roll the remaining dough out to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Cut into strips (for a lattice) or rounds (or another decorative shape)—a cutter in the 1 1/2- to 2-inch range works well. Chill briefly.

To bake the tart, spread the jam in the chilled shell. The jam will only form a layer that is about a quarter of an inch deep. This is as it should not add more jam. Brush the lattice strips or the cookie cut-outs with the egg whites and arrange over the tart—either in a lattice pattern or barely overlapping concentric circles for the shapes. (The strips or shapes do need to be pressed onto the rim of the tart. As long as they are touching the sides, the tart will bake just fine.) Generously scatter some Turbinado sugar over the surface of the tart.

Place the tart on the lowest rack of a 350° oven. Bake until golden brown—about 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Wait at least 30 minutes before serving. The tart can be served warm or room temperature and keeps (well-wrapped) for several days.

Note: If you prefer, replace the almond meal with all-purpose flour. You will then have a total weight of 250 grams of flour (about 2 1/4 cups). You could also replace the almond meal with an equal weight of cornmeal.

Printable Version

Jam-Filled Sugar Cookies

1 recipe of dough for Jam Tart, chilled
3/4 cup favorite fruit jam or preserves (about 235 g.)
1 egg white, beaten until foamy
Turbinado Sugar for sprinkling

On a lightly floured surface roll out a third of the dough (keeping the remaining two-thirds chilled) to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Using a 2 1/2-inch round fluted cutter, cut out as many rounds as you can. Using a 1/2-inch smooth round cutter, cut holes out of the center of half of the fluted rounds. Transfer to a cookie sheet and chill while you roll out the remaining dough.

Gather the scraps of dough. Take a third of the remaining chilled dough and combine it with the scraps. Roll out as before, cutting fluted rounds (half with holes). Transfer the cutouts to the sheet with the other rounds and chill. Gather the scraps again and combine with half of the remaining fresh dough, rolling out and cutting as before. Repeat one more time with the scraps and last chunk of fresh dough. You should have 48 fluted rounds—half with a hole cut out of the center.

Spread 12 of the solid rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with egg white—concentrating on the edges (the egg white is to help seal the cookies together). Place a level half tablespoonful of jam in the center of each round. Top each cookie with one of the rounds with a hole in the center—aligning the fluted edges as closely as possible and pressing lightly on the edges to seal. It is not necessary to press hard—this dough adheres remarkably well.

  Brush the cookies with more egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in the center of a preheated 400° oven until golden and cooked on the bottom—about 10 to 12 minutes. Rotate the tray half way through the cooking time. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 2 dozen jam-filled cookies.

Update March 12, 2012....Notes from a warm day:  If your kitchen is warm, be especially careful to keep all dough that you aren't working with well chilled.  The dough softens very quickly.  I would even recommend chilling the formed cookies (prior to brushing with egg white and sprinkling with sugar) briefly to refirm the butter.  If the enviroment in your kitchen is cool, this isn't so necessary...but if it is warm, chilling the formed cookies will help them to spread less as they bake (and thus the finished cookie will be neater looking).


Judith Fertig said...

How lovely and delicious! You do a fabulous job, Paige.

Paige said...

Thanks Judith!

Unknown said...

They both look amazing Paige. And I actually like the new name more, though it must have been quite a drain to have to change it!

Paige said...

Hi Avanika, Thank you for letting me know you like the new name (and the cookies and tart!)'re right, it was a bit of a drain...but I think I'm going to like it.

White Toast with Butter said...

Absolutely beautiful - I am going to make this very soon!

Paige said...

Thank you!

Unknown said...

Hello, they look tasty and beautiful! Where in the world did you get your fluted cutters? It is not easy to get nicely defined fluted cutters, unless you buy imports from Europe, which are pricey...

Paige said...

Thank you!..I particularly like these cookies. You are correct about the cutters...the really nice ones come from Europe. I purchased these when I was working in France many years ago. I think J.B. Prince carries sets like the one I have. I'm not sure about the price.