30 Oct 2012
It’s getting to be that time of the year…fall is in full swing and the holidays are right around the corner. Everyone I know is looking for new cookie ideas for holiday baking! This cookie recipe is actually a hybrid of two classic favorites: shortbread cookies + jam thumbprints.
Middle Eastern Butter Cookies called Graybeh (the cookies in the back of the photo above) were the inspiration for the shortbread part of this recipe; they are pictured here with Barazek (Pistachio Sesame Cookies) and Shai Maramieh (Sage Tea).
These cookies are extra special though…I made them not only for holiday baking inspiration, but also to celebrate my first cookbook called An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair (Tuttle Publishing), which is being released on November 6! The book has over 100 authentic Middle Eastern recipes that are streamlined just a bit for the way we cook today, with unique ingredients demystified and approachable, easy-to-follow cooking techniques thoroughly explained. The book is incredibly special to me because it contains a treasury of my in-laws’ family recipes; after marrying, I spent 6 months in Damascus where I learned the in’s and out’s of Middle Eastern food from my lovely Syrian mother-in-law Sahar. Both the culture and the cuisine are easy to fall in love with.
The shortbread part of these cookies is based on the recipe for Graybeh in the cookbook, which are Middle Eastern butter cookies. They are very similar to other kinds of shortbread, with just a couple main differences: they’re made with ghee (clarified butter) instead of regular butter (which results in a melt-in-your-mouth texture!), and they’re subtly flavored with orange blossom water and/or rosewater. Orange blossom water and/or rosewater can often be found in the ethnic or international aisle of your regular grocery store, or at any Middle Eastern grocery store; however, you can substitute vanilla extract if you prefer. To compliment ghee’s subtle nutty flavor, I added graham cracker crumbs to this recipe, which was a wonderful addition.
For the jam thumbprint part, I filled these cookies with homemade apricot jam (my mother-in-law’s recipe for Murabba Mishmish in the cookbook), but store-bought jam will work too – and feel free to use any flavor you like! The end result was delicious; a melt-in-your-mouth base cookie with a subtle nuttiness that’s perfectly offset by the sweet/tart flavor of jam. And these cookies almost look like little jam tarts, which makes them the perfect partner for a cup of tea.
What new holiday cookies will you be making this year?
Jam Filled Shortbread Cookies
*You will need about 4 graham cracker sheets. To make graham cracker crumbs, use your hands to crumble the graham crackers into a food processor and then process until it forms fine crumbs.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Yield: About 2 dozen cookies
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (145 g) ghee (clarified butter), at room temperature
1/2 cup (60 g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon orange blossom water or rosewater (or a combination of both)
1 cup (130 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (60 g) Erewhon Organic Honey Graham crumbs, divided*
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup apricot jam (or any kind of jam you like)
- Preheat oven to 3000F and line 2 lage baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat liners.
- Beat the ghee, powdered sugar, and orange blossom water or rosewater together with a handheld electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually stir in the flour, 1/4 cup (40 g) graham cracker crumbs, cinnamon, and salt with a wooden spoon.
- To briefly chill the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge or freezer just until the dough stiffens slightly (about 7 minutes in the freezer).
- Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons (20 g) graham cracker crumbs into a shallow bowl. Use a 1 tablespoon-measure to scoop out the dough, then roll them into balls between the palms of your hands and lightly roll the balls in the graham cracker crumbs; arrange the balls of dough about 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
- Gently press the round side of a 1/2-teaspoon measuring spoon into each ball of dough to make an indentation; fill each indentation with 1/2 teaspoon jam. Bake until the cookies are set and golden on the bottom, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Cool completely on the tray before removing.
About Faith Gorsky
Faith Gorsky is the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind the blog www.AnEdibleMosaic.com. Her favorite thing to do is go into the kitchen hungry, open the fridge, and start creating. She lives in Upstate New York and loves to travel, especially to places steeped in rich culture and history. One of her favorite cities is Damascus, Syria…it’s scented of jasmine, spices, and apple tobacco, tastes sweet like toot (berry juice) and salty like bizzer (roasted seeds and nuts), and feels like another world. Faith enjoys reading (cookbooks mostly), vintage shopping (especially in old markets), watching movies (of all genres), and is enamored with ancient cultures (especially Rome and Egypt).
Her first cookbook, An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair (Tuttle Publishing), which is a collection of authentic Middle Eastern recipes handed down to her from her husband’s family, is being released on November 6, 2012. Faith’s favorite foods are apples, grapes, spinach, and Chicken Makhani, and her vice is Swiss dark chocolate.