Friday, November 16, 2018

Not Quite My Jam

When the frustration of untreated roads in a snowstorm that everyone knew was coming leads to a 3 hour commute home, what better activity is there than baking? Clearly I wasn't going to make it to the supermarket for ingredients so I was left foraging in my pantry to bake with whatever I had on hand. After a few false starts due to lack of ingredients, I found a recipe I could make: Raspberry Pecan Thumbprints. I've never actually made thumbprint cookies but they always look very pretty so I've been wanting to try it for a while. This recipe comes from the old classic, the Favorite Brand Name Bake Sale Cookbook. I didn't notice what the brand name ingredient was though. Whoops.  I set to work softening my butter while I gathered the rest of my ingredients...and realized that I didn't have pecans. Oops. Now they're Raspberry Walnut Thumbprints! I'm still amazed that I had raspberry jam but no pecans!

Moving on, I creamed up the butter, added the brown sugar and the vanilla, and then pondered if I should actually mix the dry ingredients as directed. Nah. Nonsense. So I chucked in the allspice, cinnamon, and salt, gave it a quick stir, then tossed in the pecans walnuts, gave it another quick stir and finally added the flour. Dough complete. Very easy.

But the dough is not the challenge of thumbprint cookies! Oh no, it's the shape and the filling. So here we go. I was suppose to roll one inch balls, flatten slightly, then press my thumb in, smoothing any cracks that form. I have no idea how big one inch is and I will never measure so I just guessed. It didn't help that the recipe didn't specify how many cookies this recipe would yield. So I couldn't even figure out if I was on the right track or not. I ended up making roughly two dozen cookies. In hindsight, I think I should have made them smaller but oh well. I rolled them all out and pressed my thumb into them like a pro. Except I didn't really like the look of them. Maybe it's because I have long nails or maybe I don't know how to properly thumbprint but all of the indents were oblong instead of circular. I feel like an actual round tool would have been more appropriate. Next time, Gadget.

Next, I had to fill the thumbprints with "a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of jam." I take issue with this direction because by the time you make 1/4 teaspoon heaping, you've basically got a half a teaspoon. I pretty much ignored this direction and put in enough to fill the holes. And since I think I made my cookies too big, it was at least a half a teaspoon in each. It was also really difficult getting the jam out of a 1/4 teaspoon scoop but I managed a system of using the back end of a spoon to scoop the jam out of the measuring spoon. I do weird things in the kitchen.

Finally, I was supposed to "scatter the remaining pecans walnuts over the filled cookies." Yeah, no. I see a lot of issues with this direction including that I didn't want any walnuts actually in the jam. Plus, I knew just scattering the nuts would mean that they wouldn't stick. So, like a crazy person, I actually pressed bits of walnut around the sides of each cookie. For what it's worth, by doing it that way, it looked exactly like the picture. It took a while, but hey, what else is there to do when you're snowed in? (Lots. There were lots of things I could have been doing in my house but did not.)

Now, before tossing these into the oven, a slight diversion on my oven temperature. I finally bought an oven thermometer and the conclusion is...I have no freakin' clue. I tested it once before when it was set to 350 and it was reading 400. Today when I tested it, it was reading 325. So I turned up the heat to 375 in hopes that it would get to an actual 350. Then it was actually 375. So I turned it back down. Then it was back down to 325. Then it was back up to 365 for no reason that I understood. I have no idea what's going on or how to fix it. My oven sucks. So I just landed on "I guess I'll keep an eye on my cookies" and tossed them in.

I was pretty curious to see how jam behaves in the oven. I didn't perfectly fill the thumbprint holes in case the jam expanded a bit to fill the holes. This was an inaccurate guess. The jam stayed pretty much exactly where I put it and cooking it just made it set. Well now I know. All in all, they didn't turn out to be the prettiest cookies as a result.

The cookies grew a bit in the oven which only emphasized the weird shapes of the jam. Alas. But look at that excellent walnut decoration, right?! As far as taste goes, I liked the base cookie a lot but I think the jam makes them way too sweet. But I don't really like sweet things so they're probably fine. Since I was home alone, I had no one else to taste test so I'll have to wait for some other opinions. All in all, not a bad snow day's work. The whole baking/cleaning process took me only an hour from start to finish so I deem these quick and easy cookies. So go try to make some cookies with whatever is in your pantry! You never know what you might come up with.