A first flip through a cookbook always ends with those several pages that get marked because of great-looking things that I intend to make right away. Then, reality happens, and I might not get back to those marked pages for weeks or maybe months. These cookies were on one of those marked pages in Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich. I’ve baked a few other things from the book, but I only recently made my way back to this page. I was looking for a birthday cookie for my sister, and I remembered these fruit-filled squares. This is the first cookie of the Chewy category, but they’re a little bit crispy too. It’s an interesting cookie technique and one I hadn’t tried before. Basically, they’re made from two layers of pastry with dried fruit in the middle and a coarse sugar topping. As they bake, the top layer of pastry settles around the bits of fruit and makes a pebbly-looking surface. Once cool, they’re crisp and firm enough to pack and ship without fear of them crumbling. Another great thing about these cookies is the possibility of infinite flavor variations. I went with lemon zest in the dough and a filling of dried cranberries, but other suggestions include cinnamon or anise in the dough and dried fruit like golden or dark raisins, apricots, dates, cherries, candied ginger, or any combination of those.
Starting the dough is the standard cookie procedure of creaming butter and sugar and adding an egg and vanilla. Next, you add the flavor component of choice which was lemon zest for me, but it’s noted in the recipe that anise smells lovely in the dough as it bakes. Then, the dry ingredients of flour, baking powder, and salt were added and mixed to combine. The dough was divided in half, each half was pressed into a round, and the rounds were wrapped in plastic and chilled for a few hours. Once chilled, one piece of dough at a time was rolled in between sheets of parchment paper into a big rectangle. The dough does become a little sticky as it comes up in temperature, so the parchment makes it much easier to roll without excess flour. To fill, the top piece of parchment was removed, dried cranberries were strewn about on the bottom half of the rectangle of dough, and the top half of dough was folded over the bottom. The top was then sprinkled with turbinado sugar, the edges were trimmed, and squares were cut. The process was repeated with the second piece of dough, and the squares baked for about 15 minutes.
For a brief moment, it seemed like rolling the dough and folding and cutting was going to be complicated, but it was actually pretty simple. The squares were cut and ready to bake in no time. I’m already thinking about flavors to try next time. It might be cinnamon in the dough and dried apricots and candied ginger for the filling. With crunchy pastry layers and a chewy fruit filling, these are worth trying in every flavor combination you can imagine.