Oh it’s that time of year when people are frantically searching for their favorite cookie traditions to share with friends or buying new magazines with assortments of cookies on the cover to try something new.
In Omaha, my friend Jen would host the most incredible cookie exchange parties where wine was as abundant as the cookies. A few years ago, on a Sunday night, it was an unusually cold and snowing early on in the year. When I say “unusual,” it wasn’t that we weren’t expecting the -20 weather with the wind chill, it’s just that those temps typically come later in January in Omaha. Gaggles of women were hauling ass from their cars to Jen’s beautiful home in order to drop their trays of cookies and pick up a giant goblet of wine.
At any given point, there were about 30 of us moving from room to room as there were cookies in the kitchen, foyer, dining and living rooms. We were all shivering, shoving our faces with appetizers Jen had thoughtfully prepared for us. It just proved to me that no matter the weather conditions, the freezing temperatures or the fact that it was a Sunday night with an impending cold, bitter workday ahead, Jen’s cookie exchanges were not to be missed. They were a time for us to create, share and spend quality time together before the chaos of the holidays truly set it.
If I were to bring a cookie this year, it would be these jam-filled cream cheese cookies. With only 5 simple ingredients, they are a family favorite made for every occasion in my grandmother’s kitchen, but especially at Christmas. The dough s so light and flaky, they look like puff pastry when immediately pulled from the oven. Grandma Rose enjoyed making them with her favorite jams. You can be as creative as you want (I made some with Nutella last night), using preserves from exotic fruits such as loganberries or marionberries. A variety of colors work best, from golden apricot to red raspberries, as the jeweltones of the holiday season make it more festive.
jam-filled cream cheese cookies (page 19, Small Parties)
2 cups flour
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup each raspberry, apricot and pineapple preserves (or use your favorite jams or preserves from the summer)
Powdered sugar (for dusting)
Mix the flour, butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer and then beat on medium speed for 30 seconds until combined. Roll into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours up to 24 hours.
To make the cookies, divide dough into fourths and roll out each section on a floured surface into a thickness of 1/4 inch and about 10×8 inches. Cut 2-inch squares per section of dough (about 20 squares per section). Place a teaspoon of preserve or jam in center of each square and then pinch the two opposite ends of dough over the preserves. (Pinch very tightly and secure as during the baking process, the ends might open if not pinched hard enough. You can see that in my images, the Nutella one wasn’t pinched hard enough and opened up. Not a big deal, but it looks cuter when they are wrapped over.)
Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake on the middle rack of a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes. Cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving. Makes about 80 small cookies.
NOTE: Serve as many cookies as needed for your party or event and freeze the remainder. They are good up to 3 months in the freezer.