Monday, December 21, 2009

THE Holiday Cookie aka. NICU cookies

Have you ever taken a bite of something and immediately known that, "this" would be in your life forever? I have to say that after one bite of this cookie, almost 15 years ago, I knew I would love this cookie forever. Our friend, Donna Layton, makes these every holiday and has forever. They are soft, buttery, fruity, and just delicious.

My daughter, Emma, was born premature (29 weeks) and spent 42 days in the NICU of St. Francis here in Tulsa. She was born November 30th, which meant a different kind of Christmas for my family that year. The staff was amazing and touched us in a way that is still fresh in our hearts to this day. I'm not sure we will ever be able to repay the love and appreciation we have for their care of our daughter. One expression of our gratitude was a batch of Raspberry Thumbprints I made and took in a Red toile tin. Dr. Anderson, Emma's Neonatologist, just happen to love these cookies as it reminded him of his home, "up North." And so began my commitment to the staff that the red tin would always be full of cookies for them. Kendra or I one would bring that tin home, empty, and take it back full. We made double batches (7 dozen total) of these cookies every three or four days for 42 days. Everyone knew what that red tin meant when they walked into the break room. We took that same tin back at Emma's one and two year "anniversary" of her dismissal and plan to do the same for this her, third, anniversary (coming up in February).

For the dramatic and beautiful end result, there really isn't an easier cookie to make. Five ingredients in the dough, some jam, and a glaze is all that comes to this cookie party. There are really two stars that shine in this cookie, butter and almond extract. The cookie dough is really a shortbread that is light and buttery. The almond extract is there, not obnoxious or showy, but does indeed make itself known. As far as jam, the world is your oyster. I've used seedless blackberry, red raspberry, raspberry, and apricot, but you could use any kind of jam you love. I think the hardest thing for me is making the perfect indention for the jam to rest in while baking. I have a coffee scoop that is dome shaped, and it works like a charm, so that is what I use. Consistency is the key. Also, trust the timer on this cookie, because the will not brown, at most on the very outer edge if at all, they just burn.


1 Cup butter, room temp
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
Jam (maybe a 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add sugar and butter. Mix on medium speed 3-5 minutes or until light and airy. Add extracts and flour. Mix until just combined. Using a small spring loaded cookie scoop, place balls of dough on cookie sheets (2 inches apart). Make an indention with your thumb and add 1/4 teaspoon of jam to each indention.

Bake for 14-18 minutes. Remove from pan and let rest on cookie sheet for one or two minutes. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely. Drizzle with the following glaze.

1 cup Powdered Sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon Almond extract

In a medium bowl add powdered sugar, milk, and extract, whisk until smooth. Add drops of water or milk to thin to your specific taste.

  • If you want the cookie, end product, to be smooth you can roll the dough in your hands to kind of knock out the scoop marks. It is pretty, but a step I can afford to live without, trust me rolling almost 100 dough balls is not my idea of fun.
  • The indention is tricky. Too shallow and the jam spills over the side, too deep and it ruptures out the bottom. My trick is to push just until the dough spreads, you want the indention to be about the depth of a 1/2 teaspoon and no more.
  • When the cookies come out of the oven, let them rest. You will not be able to transfer them to a cooling rack immediately out of the oven because they will fall apart, trust the voice of frustrated experience.
  • I use two cookie sheets and alternate. It gives each sheet time to cool down before you drop more dough on the sheets. The dough is delicate and will start to melt while you are filling with jam.
  • I use one of my daughters old baby spoons to fill--it's perfect!
  • I've made these cookies bigger and don't really love the end result.
  • The glaze is good on a flip flop. Seriously, it's just a wonderful glaze that is pure white and smooth, it hardens to a shiny bright beautiful result.

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