Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Love Prunes, Part 2: Whole Wheat Butter Cookies with Prune-Poppy Seed Filling

So this post is first and foremost intended to give you an easy, tasty way to use up the rest of the prune-poppy seed filling that you guys all made yesterday. (Right? That's how inspiring I am?)

prune poppyseed filling

But this post serves a separate function as well. For you see...

(drum roll)

... herein lies perhaps the best butter cookie dough recipe you'll ever come across (at least of the make-in-five-minutes variety).

Bold of me to say this? Yes.

Inaccurate? Try it and see.

prune-poppyseed sandwich cookie collage

I used it to make sandwich cutaway cookies (pretty, eh?). They were delicious - the earthy, complex sweetness of the poppy seed filling paired perfectly with the nutty whole grain flour I used. (Any not-too-fussy whole grain flour would work, e.g. kamut, spelt, barley, rye; I'd use this recipe (one of my all-time faves) if you're trying to use up a bag of buckwheat flour, however.) But what with the generous doses of butter and vanilla, this cookie dough recipe lends itself to much more than these cutaways (pretty though they may be). You could sandwich them with just about any jam or jelly you have on hand; you could throw some fruit compote on the dough to make some free-form, rustic tarts; you could form little balls (hee-hee), roll them in cinnamon-sugar and call them the best, butteriest snickerdoodles you've ever tasted; you could form big balls (ha-ha) and make thumbprint cookies with some caramel or maple syrup and a sprinkling of sea salt; or you could just make the dough into simple little shortbread rounds (which I did with the leftovers).

trio of cookies

I'm just the scribe. You run with it. I believe in you.

Whole Wheat Butter Cookies with Prune-Poppy Seed Filling
Adapted from Edible Twin Cities, Winter 2010-2011
Yield: about 2 dozen cookies, depending on what size cookie cutters you use

(Please see notes at bottom of recipe.)

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened (that's 6 ounces or 3/4 cup, rookies)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour, plus more for rolling out dough
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 cup prune-poppy seed filling (recipe below) or other jam or jelly
1/4 cup powdered sugar, for dusting

Special equipment: two cookie cutters, one standard sized (2-3 inches) and a smaller one to make window (about 1 inch)

In large mixing bowl, cream butter with electric mixer. Add sugar; beat on high until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into mixing bowl, cover top with a towel to avoid a big flour cloud, beat at low speed until just mixed. Divide dough in half and form each half into a ball and then a 6" disk. Wrap with waxed paper and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

When you're ready to roll and bake the cookies, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove one disk from the refrigerator at a time. On a generously floured surface, roll the first disk to 1/8" thickness. Working quickly but carefully, cut as much of the dough as possible with a large cookie cutter, place half of the cut cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet at least 2" apart, cut windows in the remaining half of the cookies using your small cookie cutter, and place the windowed cookies on the baking sheet (or use two baking sheets, depending on how many cookies you are able to get from this first rolling, but be sure to bake both sheets simultaneously (see notes)). Bake for about 10 minutes, until the edges are beginning to color slightly, rotating pans (switch top and bottom, if using two sheets, and spin 180 degrees whether you're using one or two) after 5 minutes. Cool on pans for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool.

As soon as the cookies are in the oven, roll the scraps together into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap and refrigerate for about 15 minutes so you can roll out another batch. (See notes.) Repeat this whole process with remaining dough, always having the same number of cookies without windows and cookies with windows.

Spread about 1-2 teaspoons of prune-poppy seed filling, jam, or jelly on each whole cookie, using a lighter coating around the edge and having a slight mound in the center. Using a mesh strainer, generously dust the windowed cookies with powdered sugar before placing each windowed cookie on one of the whole cookies.

Notes! Or rather, Learn From My Mistakes!
1. Don't allow the dough to soften at room temp to make rolling it easier - to get tidily shaped cut-out cookies you will need the dough to be as firm as possible. Put your back into it!

2. Don't put the cookies closer together on the baking sheets than two inches apart. They expand and rise more than you'd expect.

3. Don't use one ball of dough to make the whole cookies and another ball to make the windowed cookies. You need to make both sandwich components from the same ball because even the minutest variations in kneading and softening of the dough (or oven temp) will affect how much the dough rises in the oven. If you make them from different parts of the dough, you will end up with differently-sized tops and bottoms (see bottom right picture in collage, compared to final picture of trio of cookies, taken once I'd learned my lesson).

4. So long as you mind note #3, you can salvage scraps, form a ball, refrigerate, and re-roll several times. The original recipe said to do this only once, but I did it three times and it worked just fine, with no detectable differences in texture or crumb.

5. These cookies are best fresh because they will be crunchy and crunchy is nice in a sandwich cookie. If you store them in an airtight container, they will still taste good for a couple of days but the filling will cause them to soften significantly. If you want them to stay crunchy, store in an airtight container without making sandwiches; assemble just before serving.

Prune-Poppy Seed Filling
From yours truly
Yield: about 3 cups (way more than you need - you'd better make these too)

1/2 pound prunes
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup poppy seeds
1 tablespoon orange peel
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 tablespoon Grand Marnier (or Cointreau) (optional)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon lemon or orange extract (optional)

Place the prunes in a 2-quart saucepan and cover with water. Add brown sugar, milk, poppy seeds, and orange peel. Bring mixture to boil, then lower heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, allow the mixture to cool, then blend the mixture (ideally using an immersion blender) or mash well with a potato masher, breaking up the prunes so that they form a paste. Stir in vanilla and Grand Marnier and lemon or orange extract (if using).

1 comment:

  1. So pretty! I bet they are yummy too...

    Someday, I'd love to make them!

    We are on a sweet treats boycott at the moment after Christian's birthday (we had brownies, cupcakes, ice cream cake, and Lucky Charms in the house all at the same time) and we don't have "will power". Bad combo. I have some ice cream cake in the freezer if you want it...