Thursday, December 4, 2008

It Doesn't Get Better Than Baking With Mom

filled cookies

The only thing better than baking Christmas cookies is baking them with my mom. She never fails to teach me something new, and she never fails to make me laugh as we chop and roll and glaze and sprinkle.

So when she visited over the Thanksgiving weekend, we went on a baking frenzy that included Italian almond biscotti, lemon egg biscuits, peanut butter fudge, and this oldie but goodie -- Mom's Filled Cookies.

Mom's Filled Cookies are a sticky, sweet mixture of prunes, cherries, and nuts that are baked inside of a soft, sweet dough. They remind me of mincemeat pies (which I have never liked since the name invariably evokes images of beef to me; not exactly what I want on my Christmas cookie tray.)

My mom has been baking these cookies for over 30 years and is excited to share them with you as her entry for my Eat Christmas Cookies, Season 2 event, which is running through December 21st.

Here are some pics and tips that will help you if you decide to make them this year, which I highly recommend you do.

making filled cookies

Mom says, "This is a sticky sweet dough, so it's easier to work with when it's chilled. Also, be sure to roll it on a well-floured surface. And when you add the filling, just place it down the center of the dough because you don't want to overfill it." Then you will moisten the edges of the dough and fold them up to form a loaf.

filled cookie loaf

Once you form the loaf, it will be turned upside-down, so that the seam in on the bottom, as shown above. Then you will brush it with an egg wash.

baked filled cookie loaves

The egg wash gives the loaves that appealingly shiny texture. Note that the dough will form little cracks, as shown above. That's fine. Just allow them to cool completely before slicing.

It's best to use a serrated knife and gently saw back-and-forth to cut the slices. If you're planning on adding these to a Christmas cookie tray, then place them inside paper or foil baking cups so the filling doesn't stick to the other cookies!

Mom's Filled Cookies
Makes 84 slices
Print recipe only here.

3 pounds of prunes, chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups maraschino cherries, halved with 1 cup of the juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup lightly toasted walnuts, chopped

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add prunes and cherry juice. Cook until prunes are softened, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the cherries, vanilla, and walnuts. Stir until well combined. Cool completely and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. The longer it chills, the thicker the filling will become.

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Position oven racks in the top and lower thirds of the oven. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl hand mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In a small bowl mix milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk well and add to the flour mixture.

Start mixing the dough with a large rubber spatula. Once dough begins to form, use lightly floured hands to gently knead dough until smooth. Form the dough into a ball and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour, since chilled dough is easier to work with.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Using a rolling pin, gently roll into a rectangle that is approximately 9 inches long by 5 inches wide. Place prune filling in a straight line down the middle of the dough. Using a pastry brush, dampen the edges of the dough with water. Turn the ends of the dough up over the fruit, then fold the sides over and press with your hands to adhere. This dough is delicate, so if it tears or some filling pops through, simply patch it with a an extra piece of dough. Flip the loaf over so that the seam is on the bottom. Using the palms of your hands, pat gently pat the loaf on both sides and on both ends, which helps make the loaf higher; finished loaves will be approximately 6-6 1/2 inches long. Place loaf on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush thoroughly with egg wash.

Bake for about 40 minutes, rotating pans mid-way through. Loaves should be shiny and golden. Allow to cool completely before slicing. Each loaf yields 7 slices.

You might also like these other sweet treats from Mom:

Mom's Chocolate Pudding with Bananas and Graham Crackers


Italian Pignoli (Pine Nut) Cookies

Hello Dolly Cookie Bars

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