Simple goodness – one of the many enviable traits of Scandinavian baked goods. These thimble cookies, sweet jam cradled in a soft dough and accented with chopped nuts, are a good example. They are unpretentious, delicious and easy to make. Very little can go wrong, just be sure to measure the flour with a spoon and level method (too much flour dries out and toughens the cookie) and handle the dough gently. You can replace the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free custom flour without further modification to the recipe.
Scandinavian thimble cookies
Makes 17 two-inch cookies, prepared on two cookie sheets
1 large egg
1 cup bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 pinches of salt
8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon superfine granulated sugar
2-3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
Preparation: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, with racks in the top and bottom third positions. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper (greasing the pan may cause the cookies to spread) and set aside. Separate the egg by putting the yolk in a cup measure or small bowl and the white in a small shallow bowl.
Make the dough: To do in a food processor: Add the flour, brown sugar and salt to the bowl and pulse to mix well. Cut the butter into small pieces, add them to the bowl and blend until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and beat until you get a rough paste. To do in the blender: Cut the butter into small pieces, place them in a mixing bowl and let them soften at room temperature. Add brown sugar and beat with mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add egg yolk and vanilla extract and beat until well blended. Add the flour and salt, a quarter cup at a time, mixing on the lowest speed, until a dough forms.
Form cookies: Empty the dough from the food processor or mixing bowl, shape it into a disc, wrap it in plastic or waxed paper and refrigerate until it is firm enough to work easily. Meanwhile, whisk or beat egg white until very light and fluffy and place chopped walnuts and granulated sugar in a small, shallow bowl and stir to combine. When the dough is ready, break off pieces and gently form them into 1-inch balls. Dip each ball in the egg white so that it is completely covered, then roll it in the nut/sugar mixture to coat it. Place them about an inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets and chill, on the cookie sheets, until the balls are quite firm (I do this in the freezer).
Filling center: Use your little finger or the round handle of a wooden spoon (or a thimble if you can find one), dipped in flour, to make an indentation in the center of each cookie. If necessary, reform those that have lost their ball shape. Pour the jam into a small resealable plastic bag, close the bag and crush the jam so that it becomes soft and smooth. Cut a small hole in one of the corners of the bag, squeeze the bag so the jam flows out of the hole, and fill the indentations half full with jam (you’ll add more after the cookies are baked).
Bake cookies: Bake until cookies are set, starting to color slightly and jam is runny and bubbly. Start checking at around 15 minutes; the time will depend on the temperature of the cookies when they are placed in the oven.
Cool and store: Remove the molds to a cooling rack. While still warm and soft, gently reshape any cookies that have lost their shape. After a few minutes, use a spatula to transfer the cookies from the pans to the wire rack. After about 5 minutes, add more jam, filling each indentation completely (indentations will be wider and shallower after cooking). Let the cookies cool completely. Store, in an airtight container, for five days at cool room temperature.
Vera Dawson’s “High Country Baking” column appears bi-weekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high altitude pastry instructor and author of three high altitude cookbooks. Her recipes were tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she has lived since 1991, and tweaked until they worked high. Contact her at [email protected]