Thursday, January 1, 2009

Get Your Fill

This is a traditional cookie recipe at our household every Christmas. It came from my maternal grandmother's family, one of dozens of straight-from-England Christmas food traditions that were always front and center as I was growing up. I have vivid pictures in my mind of my grandma and her sisters (my dear great aunts) lined up in various familial kitchens over the years, always hunched over a stove or oven or mixing bowl, apron strings fastened firmly about their plump waists, friendly arguments ensuing over this-or-that. But the copious amounts of English goodies that would result from these diminutive ladies efforts were staggering: mini one-bite tarts filled with fresh lemon cheese, cookies and more cookies, even the vilified English plum pudding with hot rum or vanilla sauce (a favorite of mine to this day - a dish that horrifies me on one hand, but is so delicious I don't care on the other!).

This cookie in particular is my brother's favorite - my mom will triple the batch to ensure there is enough to quell his appetite for a year. Although our tradition calls for filling these cookies with a raisin filling, the not-to-sweet cookie dough lends itself beautifully to being filled with any manner of fruit (jams, compotes, finely-diced pie fillings, etc.). So experiment! And let me know how you make it your own.

Fruit-filled Cookies

Contributed by Judy Angell
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Mix all ingredients and chill one hour. Roll half of the dough and cut with a round cookie-cutter; this half of the dough becomes the bottom pieces of the cookies. Place 1 tablespoon of filling on the bottom pieces. Roll out and cut the second half of the dough, and place rounds on top of the filling, seaming together with water. Flute edges with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

Raisin Filling
  • 2 cups water
  • 2-3 cups raisins
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoons cornstarch

Boil the water, raisins and sugar in a saucepan for 5 minutes. In a separate dish, combine cornstarch with enough water to thin it out (1/4-1/2 cup); add to the raisin mixture and boil for approximately 3-5 minutes to thicken. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place in a shallow dish to cool completely before using to fill cookies.

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