Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Raisin Filled Cookies

Recipes and foods go through trends just as much as clothing, home decor and basically anything else we humans do.  Many decades ago when my parents were young, this was a common cookie to make kids in the little corner of the world where they grew up.  In fact, it was my father's favorite cookie.  My grandmother, his mother-in-law, would make a batch of these to bring to us every time she came to visit.  She would come in our back door looking for hugs and bearing a 5 quart ice cream bucket filled with raisin filled cookies.  My dad always got some, but they were a favorite with all my siblings.   I've always associated these cookies with my grandparents' visits.  Raisin filled cookies mean hugs, love, and cuddles.  I'm not even a fan of raisins and I still love these things. 

This year for my father's birthday I made him a big batch of these cookies.  He was delighted to see me come over bearing a big ice cream bucket of cookies and looking for a hug.  He only shared with my mom.  (He said they freeze well. They wouldn't go bad before he could eat them all so he didn't have to share.)

If you like fruit filling in cookies, this is a good recipe to start with.  Any flavor of jam can be substituted for the raisin filling.  The cookie itself is a soft, tender cookie with a lot of rise.  It's important to chill the dough well and use lots of flour when rolling it out.  

Raisin Filled Cookies

3/4 c sugar
4 t flour
1 c boiling water
1 c chopped raisins

Put the raisins in either a food processor or a good blender to chop them.  They need to be pretty thoroughly diced up, but not completely minced.  A few chunky raisins here or there adds a nice texture to the cookie.  Combine all filling ingredients in a small sauce pan and boil until thick.  Set aside to cool while you make the dough. 

1/2 c butter* 
1 c sugar
1/2 c milk
1 egg
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
1 T baking powder
3 c flour

Cream butter, sugar, and milk.  Stir in vanilla and egg.  Add flour, salt, and baking powder.  Stir just until combined.  Divide the dough up into three portions and shape each portion into a 1" tall disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours.  

When the dough is chilled, roll out very thin (under an 1/8") on a heavily floured surface.  Do make sure you roll it pretty thin.  It still needs to be manageable, so not paper thin, but thin.   There is a lot of leavening in this recipe, so if the dough is too thick you will get an overly thick cookie. This dough is very soft and sticky, so test the dough to be sure it's not sticking to your counter often as you roll it out. Keep your rolling pin well floured as well.  Cut out 3" circles and place on pan 2" apart.   Drop 1 T or so of filling on each cookie.   Try not to get it too close to the edges so it doesn't squeeze out the sides when you press the top and bottom together. 

Cover with another 3" circle of dough and pinch the edges together.    Like this:

You can brush the edges of the bottom cookie with water before you cover it to help the two cookies stick together, but the dough is sticky enough you really don't have to.

Bake at 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  The bottom and edges of the cookie will be lightly browned, but over all it will still be a pale color.  Let cool on the pan for a couple of minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.  These are excellent served warm, however, so don't wait too long to try one.

I gave you the recipe just like my grandmother made it.  If you find the soft dough a little too hard to work with, feel free to reduce the milk by a couple of tablespoons.  That will help it be a little more manageable, but not interfere too much with the basic structure of the dough.   You can also jazz up the raisin filling with citrus zest.  Either orange or lemon would be a good choice.  I would start with 1 1/2 t at first and adjust from there according to taste.   And as I said before, any jam will work as a filling.   One of these days I want to work up a date and orange filling.

Enjoy my little bit of nostalgia.  If you make these for someone, make sure you get a hug as payment.  That's the way it works with cookies.

*the recipe, being an old depression era one, calls for shortening.  I like the flavor of butter, but it does make the cookie harder to handle.  It's your choice here which you use.  Lard might be an interesting and era appropriate choice if you happen to use it in your baking.