During Spring Break a few weeks ago (don’t ask me why preschoolers need Spring Break, but if it means I don’t have to shuttle my kid to school first thing in the morning, I’ll take it!), I was baking sugar cookies for my kids and I to decorate. I had also just finished a massive batch of strawberry freezer jam. I was also painting my toenails and drinking Diet Coke and playing around on Facebook and generally acting as though I were on Spring Break. As it is with most things in life requiring some creativity, when I was thinking about it the least, I was struck with a moment of cookie inspiration: Sara’s to-die-for sugar cookie dough. Cream cheese. Strawberry jam. And…dare I say it…dark chocolate.
Sara mentions this is her sugar cookie recipe, but I wanted to point it out because it’s such a great tip. After you’ve made your dough, instead of chilling it first, try rolling it out on a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap (which I tried once when I was out of wax paper and actually preferred it because it peeled away like magic), topping the rolled-out dough with another sheet of wax paper/plastic wrap, and chilling it on a baking sheet in the fridge or freezer.
It chills in a fraction of the time–about 20 minutes–and you don’t have to try and roll out rock-hard dough. Plus, the cut-outs retain their shape perfectly because their so cold. It simplifies the suckiest parts of sugar cookie-making (waiting and rolling), which means more sugar cookies at my house. Which is good and so, so bad.
While the dough is chilling, soften the cream cheese in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds (so it’s a little softer than room temperature and easy to spread) and mix in 1/2 tsp. almond extract. Set aside.
After the dough is sufficiently chilly, preheat the oven to 350. Peel off the top layer of plastic wrap or wax paper. You’re going to want two cookie cutter shapes that coordinate or are the same, but one needs to be slightly bigger than the other.
Using the larger cookie cutter, cut through the dough. Re-roll and cut if necessary/desired, but keep in mind that this dough needs to stay as chilled as possible. You’ll need an even number of larger cookies; to make sure you’re on track, you can stack the cut-outs in twos because each cookie is actually comprised of two cut-outs.
Now…Spread a little cream cheese–maybe 1/4-1/2 tsp.–over each bottom cutout.
Then use your smaller cookie cutter to cut the middle out of the other larger cut-out.
Very carefully and gently lift the outer shape (you may need a thin spatula to help the dough retain its shape) and place it on one of the cream cheese-covered bases. Repeat with remaining tops. This is when it helps for the dough to be really cold.
Bake, discard, or roll the centers back into other dough scraps.
Bake for 8-12 minutes or until the cookies are beginning to turn golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack.
When cool, gently spoon a small amount of jam (any flavor, I used strawberry freezer jam here) into the cut-out shape, being careful to maintain the shape of the center. You can let them set up like this…
Or you can be really naughty. Place 1/4 c. dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips into a Ziploc bag and add about 1/4 tsp. shortening. Zip shut and place in the microwave for 1 minute. Knead the bag to melt the chips and incorporate the shortening; microwave for about 15 additional seconds at a time until the chocolate is melted.
Cut a tiny corner off the bag and drizzle over the cookies.
Cookies and chocolate and strawberries and cream cheese? I mean, this is how you win friends and influence people…
Cream Cheese and Jam Cookies
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
After preparing cookie dough, roll it onto a sheet of plastic wrap and cover with another sheet. Place in the freezer or refrigerator until completely chilled, about 20-30 minutes.
While dough is chilling, soften cream cheese in the microwave until it spreads easily. Mix in 1/2 tsp. almond flavoring. Preheat oven to 350.
Using 2 different-sized but matching or coordinating cookie cutters, cut out an even number of the larger cookie cutter shape. Place one cutout on the cookie sheet and spread with cream cheese. Use the smaller cookie cutter to cut the center out of the remaining cutouts. Carefully place them on top of each cream-cheese-covered cutout. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Gently spread any flavor of jam into the center of each cookie. If desired, melt 1/4 c. chocolate chips with 1/4 tsp. shortening in a Ziploc bag and knead the bag to combine. Cut a tiny corner off of the bag and drizzle the chocolate over the cookies. Allow the chocolate to solidify and serve.