The weather has been strange these days. When I moved to the Caribbean, the South had only just become chilly. My body seemed to accept the lack of seasons; the prolonged, never-ending summer.
There's the saying "April showers bring May flowers," but that doesn't exist here. Instead it marches more to the beat of "Well, May rolls around and then there is rain and only rain forever and ever, the end." More specifically, rainy season (otherwise scarily known as Hurricane Season *shutters*), lasts from May to November, and with it comes sporadic showers and storms that come and go whenever they please.
(Also, giant land crabs?! Land crabs that knock on your door in the middle of the night!? I digress: another story for another day.)
The sky has become a temperamental patchwork of clouds, but more often than not, it's overcast. These overcast skies are the "strange." I see the overcast skies, I feel the familiar tropical heat, the usual humidity thick enough to cut with a butter knife, but deep inside, outside of my control, my mind is perceiving these skies as the seasonal change it's used to. A seasonal change I never realized how much I required.
Overcast, dreary skies have always brought with them bright pea-coats and knit scarves and brown boots. Detailed Jack-o-Lanterns and too much candy. Smokey fire pits and an ice cold beer. And Momma's pie and cookies. And family and Christmas trees. But it's none of these things. This year's overcast skies are hot, and it's just me and my little apartment and unwanted land crab visitors. The weather has been strange, and I've been strange - in this weird funk that I just can't shake. Missing him, missing them, and craving cold-weather cookies and things.
So, in a fairly successful attempt to "shake it," I made said cookies, and I shared them with some of my Cayman family.
I decided that I was craving Jam Cookies. And then, as always, I could not decide on just one way to do it, resulting in 4 variations of jam cookies. Behold:
Note :: That top-left Strawberry Preserves variation was supposed to be salted caramel, but the caramel had other diabolical plans.
Old-Fashioned Jam Shortbread Cookies from The Cafe Sucre Farine
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 c. pure cane sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract (or 2 tsp. vanilla bean paste, or beans scraped from one vanilla bean - I used extract.)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. all-purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Beat butter and sugar until soft and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add salt and vanilla extract and mix for a few seconds to combine.
- Add flour and mix for 1-2 minutes, (stopping a few times to scrape the sides of the bowl) until large crumbs form. Pour mixture out onto a work surface and knead several times until a smooth ball forms.
- Scoop small balls of dough, about 2 tablespoons each. Roll the ball in your palms to form smooth, round balls. (If you find that you are having trouble rolling the dough, refrigerate for 10 minutes, then proceed.) Place dough balls on prepared cookie sheets, spacing 2 inches apart and pressing on each one just a bit with the palm of your hand to be about 1/2" thick.
- The next step is really completely up to you and what you plan to do with your cookies. I had over 40 small cookies. I flattened them each with my palm, considered flattening more with the base of a cup, but decided that I liked more of a dome. My plan was to have a dozen jam sandwiches (using 24 cookies), a dozen indented salted caramel cookies, and have the leftovers as regular iced shortbread cookies. I indented the necessary amount, and used a fork to make cute ruffled textures along all of the edges.
- Note: when you make an indentation, you can use your thumb or the back of a spoon. If your cookie cracks along the edges, which it will, just push the dough back together. Your indentation should, in theory, be 1/2" in diameter.
- Place sheet pans with prepared cookies in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. This will keep them from spreading out too much while baking.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until beginning to turn golden at bottom edges. If you've indented your cookies, when cookies come out of the oven, you can reinforce the indentations a bit, if needed.
- Remove to a wire rack to cool slightly.
As I said, I had planned to use salted caramel, but that didn't work out. I've concluded that I need a candy thermometer, and pronto. My caramel cooked just seconds too long, and hardened and turned into Werther's Originals; equally as yummy, but nonfunctional for what I required. This just meant I was going to have a lot more jam sandwiches.
I chose two flavors, and to differentiate between the two, I cut holes in the tops of half of them. This was no easy task, and I broke numerous cookies. I suggest that you bake larger cookies if you're aiming to cut shapes in them, because small ones just barely cooperate. (To cut the holes, I used a tiiiny tiny-bladed knife to carve a square, and then I spun my knife in that square to drill it into a circle. And then I ate the leftover shortbread crumble because of course I did.
The carved sandwiches housed Dickinson's Pure Pacific Mountain Strawberry Preserves, and the solid sandwiches were filled with Bonne Maman Red Currant Jelly. I topped the cookies with a simple powdered sugar icing.
And here, I leave you with this: the failed caramels of deliciousness.
Next up might be some FrootShoots!
Thanks for reading,