These soft and sweet cookies make me think of the holidays because of the fragrant spices, but they are delicious any time of year. My mom gave me her recipe (and she got it from my grandma), although I'm not sure where the recipe actually originated from. My favorite memory of these cookies is of opening a "care package" from my mom my first year away from home at college, and finding these cookies, carefully wrapped to preserve their freshness.
This recipe does require planning ahead, since the dough must be chilled overnight before slicing the cookies to bake, but it's worth the wait. Of course, I could not resist adding my own variation to it tonight with salted almonds, nutmeg and cloves in the filling, and almond paste in the batter, but their swirly pinwheel pattern from rolling the filling inside the dough doesn't need any additional decoration.
- 2 cups chopped dates
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup chopped salted almonds
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (not melted)
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 can (6 ounces) almond paste
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1. In a saucepan, combine all the filling ingredients. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick, about 15-20 minutes. Pour into a bowl and chill in the refrigerator while preparing the dough.
2. To prepare the dough, cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. When butter and sugars are creamy and fluffy, add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add the almond paste, beating well until smooth. Add vanilla extract.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Divide into 2 balls, wrap each in plastic wrap, and chill for at least one hour.
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the balls of dough to a 12-in x 9-in rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Spread with half of the filling. Roll up, starting with the long end. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Wrap the rolls of dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill overnight. (Note, dough is very soft, so handle carefully.)
5. Preheat the oven to 375. Slice the dough into 1/2 inch thick slices; place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake for 8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool for one minute on the baking sheets, then carefully transfer to waxed paper to cool completely.