Saturday, February 27, 2016

Poppy seed "thumbprint" cookies with lemon curd filling

 Why Didn't You Make More Cookies ? [see update at the end here - 9/2/18]
         With any wonderful new recipe there seems to be a story.  This started with two ingredients.  The first were Meyer lemons, plump juicy ones, my oldest (not oldest in age, but oldest in time known) friend Janeen sent me from Chico, California.  The second were poppy seeds I bought on a trip to our local Penzey's (a wonderful spice and herb store).  Magic happened when I combined my favorite thumbprint cookies with the poppy seeds and substituted home made lemon curd for the jam, using the Meyer lemons.  Everywhere I serve these cookies huge raves follow.  The Meyer lemons are long gone but regular lemons work very nicely, though you may need more of them, since they are less juicy.  Perhaps you have an excellent lemon curd that you purchase, and it would probably work well too. I make enough to freeze since these cookies freeze very well.

Thumbprint Cookies
         Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Ungreased cookie sheets.  Yield: 48 cookies
2 cups flour (gently spooned into measuring cup to avoid too tightly packing the flour)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter(2 sticks) - bossy tip: nothing but butter for the great taste. Room 
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup poppy seeds (I keep these in the freezer to ensure freshness along with other 
       seeds and nuts).
  1. Combine flour and salt in small bowl, I use whisk to mix thoroughly.
  2. Cream butter and sugar  until light and fluffy.
  3. Mix in flour, about 1/2 cup at a time. 
  4. Gently mix in poppy seeds
  5. At this point I usually freeze half the dough unless I need a large batch of cookies.
  6. Shape dough into one inch balls, spacing the cookies 2 inches apart on 
       ungreased cookie sheet.
   7. Bake for 5 minutes, remove from oven and make thumbprint in center of each 
       cookie.  Clever tip: cover regular sized wine cork tightly with foil and use cork to 
       make  "thumbprint".  Rinsed off cork can be used again and again.
    8. Return cookies to oven and bake a total of 15 to 20 minutes, turning cookie sheet
         around 1/2 way to ensure even baking. When cookies are golden, remove from 
         oven and cool on wire rack.  
     9. When cookies are completely cooled fill each cookie with lemon curd.  Keep  
          well wrapped in fridge until serving time.  I do this since the lemon curd contains 
         eggs.  If using jam instead, the cookies can be kept at room temperature.(Papa 
         Metafora also loves these cookies filled with apricot jam when there is no lemon

Homemade Lemon Curd
    Basically this is a "Joy of Cooking" recipe, still a bit of a bible for many basic recipes. As mentioned above I was lucky enough to have the wonderfully flavorful and juicy Meyer lemons on hand, a gift from my dear friend, Janeen. Regular lemons will work just fine.

3 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
Lemon zest, grated from one lemon
  1. Whisk the above ingredients together in medium sized stainless steel saucepan until light in color.     Then, Add:
  2. 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, strained.
  3. 3/4 stick unsalted butter (6 tablespoons), cut in small pieces.
  4. Place the saucepan over medium heat until the butter is melted.
  5. Then whisk constantly until mixture thickens and simmer gently a few seconds. Longer simmering could curdle the eggs, don't want that!
  6. Scrape the filling using spatula into medium -mesh sieve placed over a bowl. Let cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to fill cookies.
  7. When cookies are completely cool fill evenly with the chilled lemon curd.  May need a small metal spatula to even top.
  8. Taste one with tea or coffee.  Very yummy! 
UPDATE on September 2, 2018:  Poppy Seed Lemon Squares

I offered to bring cookies to a recent event and my "Why Didn't You Make More Cookies" we're requested (from post on  February 27, 2016)This is the recipe I developed for lemons sent by my dear friend from California - it was a poppy seed thumbprint cookie topped with homemade lemon curd.  I took them to a friend's party and they were gone within minutes. Many guests asked "Why didn't you make more?' Hence the cookie's name.  

However, a recent request was denied for lack of time. But not I have come up with a quicker and very nice alternative - a variation on classic lemon squares. These were also a big hit. and they are much faster to make.

Crust-preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place rack in bottom 1/3 of oven, and use an 8-inch square pan, lined with foil.
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter(one stick) softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar.
1/8 teaspoon salt 
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1. Melt butter which has been cut in chunks in medium saucepan over medium heat.  Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and salt.  Mix flour with poppy seeds and add to the pan. Mix a little, just until the flour is incorporated.
2. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan, and bake for about 20 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned.

1/2 cup  plus 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
1/4 cup lemon juice

1. While crust is baking, stir the sugar and flour together in a medium bowl until well mixed.
Whisk in the eggs, stir in the lemon juice and zest.
2. When crust is ready, turn oven down to 300 degrees F. Pour filling over the crust.
3. Bake about 15 minutes or until topping is puffed at the edges and no longer jiggles in the pan when tapped.
4. Set on rack to cool completely.  Lifting ends of foil, transfer to cutting board.
Use sharp knife to cut into 16 or 25 squares.  I do the 25 - less calories.
5. Sieve powdered sugar on the bars just before serving.

The lemon bars may be stored in the refrigerator, airtight, for about 3 days.  I usually freeze the extras.  

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