Don’t these make you think a little of teeny sufganiyot, with the jelly oozing out and the powdered sugar on top?
No? They don’t?
Well, never mind, because you will want to make these anyway for Chanukah. They are great make-ahead dairy cookies–the amazing browned butter flavor and the melt-in-you-mouth texture only improve after a couple of days.
The recipe originally comes from Gourmet Magazine, and it has won devoted fans (see the many comments on it at Epicurious). There is a very similar recipe posted on Food Network, where it is also listed by its Finnish name of “Lusikkaleivat.” The main difference between the two recipes are that the Food Network recipe calls for the addition of an egg yolk and for baking powder instead of baking soda. The preparation instruction for the Food Network recipe are also a trifle less fussy and there is a better description (with a video!) for shaping the cookies, which is the hardest part.
I didn’t see the Food Network video until after my cookies were in the oven (sigh–too late. . . .). After getting a trifle frustrated, I resorted to shaping the dough into an even number of balls (you must have an even number because these get sandwiched together). I pressed the balls against the cookie sheet to flatten, and then squeezed them a bit to make them into oval shapes (I was able to shape one cookie with the spoon, and I used that shape as the guide). Other people who made these cookies (judging by the comments on Epicurious) found it easier to either stick with flattened balls or to roll out the dough and cut out tiny circles.
If you go with shaping the dough into round balls, you should be able to get 64 balls that are the size of large marbles, which ultimately yields 32 sandwich cookies.
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, December 2005
8 ounces butter (1 cup, 2 sticks)
5.75 ounces sugar (3/4 cup)
2 tsp. vanilla
9 ounces all-purpose flour (2 cups)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt, slightly rounded
For filling the cookies: 1/3 cup jelly (something tart is best–I went with red currant jelly), or jam, sieved to get out the big pieces of fruit, or melted bittersweet chocolate
The first step is browning the butter. Melt the butter over moderate heat until the butter browns. Here is what will happen: the butter melts, foams, and then the bits of foam start to settle down. You have a clear liquid fat with little bits in it that start to brown. When the little bits are all golden brown, turn off the heat. It will smell heavenly at this point. You want it to cool down a bit before adding the sugar. I transferred my melted butter to a metal bowl that I placed over a larger bowl with cold water and stirred now and then until it cooled and started to congeal again (the butter just needs to go from being translucent to opaque).
At this point, you can stir in your vanilla and sugar.
In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir the dry ingredients into your browned butter/vanilla/sugar mixture and mix until a dough forms. You might need to press a bit with a spoon as you stir it to get it to all come together. Persist!
At this point, the Gourmet Magazine recipe instructs you to let the dough rest for an hour or so (or you can chill it for much longer before baking, if that is convenient). What I did was shape the dough into an even number of balls, about the size of a large marble (you should get 64 from a large batch), and then I set it aside while I did a couple of loads of laundry–I have no idea how long that was, but apparently it was long enough because my cookies came out delicious.
After your dough has rested, shape your cookies with the spoon (the video will help here), or roll and cut out circles, or press your little balls of dough (if you are doing things my way) into parchment lined sheets (they don’t really spread much, so spacing isn’t a huge concern). Make flattened circles or ovals, or whatever you want, as long as they all look about the same size (or they won’t match up later when you sandwich them).
Bake the cookies at 325 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until evenly pale golden on top. They won’t look that different coming out of the oven as they did going in (or at any rate, my didn’t). And they are very fragile. So let them cool completely. The recipe says 30 minutes of cooling, but I actually put my cookies in the refrigerator, hoping that would help them be less fragile when I went to sandwich them.
Warm your jelly (and sieve out the fruit bits if you are using jam) or at least stir it to soften it so that you don’t have to press so hard when you spread it on the cookies. Lift the cookies very gently (a offset spatula helps here) and place them in the palm of your hand while you spread a thin layer of jelly on the bottom side. Top with another cookie to make a sandwich. Continue until all the cookies are sandwiched. The cookies are very fragile, so I found that it helped to flip them all over with an offset spatula first. They are a bit easier to pick up with your fingers when they are upside down.
If you have been careful and not broken any and resisted the urge to eat some, you will end up with about 32 cookies (or 2 dozen larger cookies, depending on how you make them).
Supposedly, the cookies taste optimal after resting for a couple of days, and should keep well in an airtight container for 2 weeks.