Friday, December 16, 2011

Spitzbuben (German Jam Cookies)

This is my favorite childhood cookie.  Spiztbuben translates to "little rascals".  My mom always had to make a triple batch of these cookies so that my brother and I wouldn't be fighting over them.  Yeah, they're THAT good.

My mom would start baking the day after Thanksgiving, and would make 12- 15 different kinds of cookies every year, and usually a double or triple batch of each.  This resulted in us having quite literally thousands of cookies in the house.  We had spitzbuben, and buttery hazelnut crescents dipped in chocolate, coffee-flavored hazel nut meringues perched atop thin buttery sables, lebkuchen, almond paste crescents and peanut butter kisses. The variety was seemingly endless.  Not that we ate them all ourselves, my mom would give them out as gifts every year, and they were always very welcomed.  My mother was an exceptional baker and I miss her dearly, especially at Christmas.

In fact this recipe is my mother's recipe. She would give me "the thrashing of my life" if she knew I was posting it on the internet, since her recipes were family secrets she never shared.  But times have changed, and so here we are.  I think life is always made richer by sharing.

My mom is the one who taught me that vegetable shortening is evil, especially in cookies.  There were always at least 3 pounds of butter in the refrigerator at my mom's house around the holidays.  I try to keep that practice alive, and I've got the waistline to prove it!  Na Zdravi!

We always used homemade raspberry jam in these cookies at home because we had a raspberry farm for several years, and hence we always had a freezer full of homemade raspberry jam.  I am posting a simple recipe for making your own raspberry jam using frozen berries and port wine.  I also like to make these with apricot amaretto jam.

Traditionally these cookies are cut with a fluted flower shaped cookie cutter and dusted with powdered sugar.  I sometimes  like to only dust half the cookie with powdered sugar.  I think it makes a more elegant presentation.  But follow your own aesthetic sensibilities...make these your own.  Who knows, maybe some day your son or daughter will wax nostalgically on the internet fondly remembering your cookies!

One last note, these cookies are best if left to "ripen" in a sealed container at room temperature for at least one week.  They become soft and cakey and the flavors begin to blend... if you can keep away from them for that long!

Spitzbuben (German Jam Cookies)
makes 4 dozen sandwich cookies

1 cup slivered almonds
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp grated fresh lemon peel

raspberry preserves (recipe follows)
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place almonds in a shallow pie pan and toast for 20 minutes until light brown.  Turn off oven and cool almonds completely, then grind until very fine.

Im a large bowl combine flour and baking powder and salt, whisk to combine.  In the bowl of a mixer combine butter and cream cheese and sugar.  Cream until very light and fluffy, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Add egg and cream until well incorporated.  Add ground almonds, lemon peel and dry ingredients.  Mix on low speed until just combined.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

cut dough into 4 pieces.  Roll each piece out on a lightly floured surface until 1/8 inch thick.  Cut cookies with cookie cutter, punching a large hole in the center of half of them (I find a large decorating tip works well for this).  Transfer cookies to a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes until cookies are just slightly browned.  Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Spread a solid bottom cookie with raspberry preserves, then place a perforated cookie on top.  Dust with powdered sugar.

Raspberry Port Preserves
1 1/2 lbs frozen raspberries.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup port wine (or water)

In a heavy medium saucepan combine sugar and port (or water) and bring to a boil.  Add raspberries in three batches and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat.  Pour berries into a fine metal sieve placed atop a large bowl.  With a large spoon press the berries through the sieve, collecting the pulp and juice in the underlying bowl.  Continue until only seeds and a little pulp remains.  Discard seeds.

Transfer berry juice and pulp back to saucepan and heat to a boil over medium high heat.  Continue to cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly until reduced to about 1 1/2 ups and mixture is very thick and jam-like.  Transfer to a plastic storage tub, seal and cool to room temperature.

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