December 24, 2011

Lingonberry Caves and Icebox Rolls

Molasses Cookies and Lingonberry Caves

Just after graduating college, I spent a couple of years working two jobs - one in an entry-level engineering position that didn't quite make the rent, and the other as a part-time sales associate for Crate and Barrel.  It's hard to explain the culture of C&B unless you've work there, while while recognizing the melodrama in saying this, it totally changed my life.  And I'm not just talking about the total kitchenware overhaul I pulled off or the entrance of a KitchenAid Artisan mixer into my home or even the birch-bark moose that has become long-standing guest at Christmas.  It was just this super friendly, optimistic, happy, helpful atmosphere that I haven't seen replicated in other stores - let alone national chains.

C&B employees were not only were super cheerful with customers, but with each other.  Going to work was a fun, social experience and everyone believed in the products and was excited about the products.  You assisted customers not because you wanted to sell them something, but because you wanted to find that perfect item for them - even if it meant that item was at another store.  You'd bend over backwards to make sure they walked out with a smile or good feeling about their experience.  That's a serious feat to pull off when it comes to hiring the right people. Now given that I only worked at one particular store, I can't say that this attitude was the attitude across the board - but the C&B in Cambridge, MA was a fun experience all around as someone who worked there and as a customer.

Now what does this have to do with cooking?  Well, we would have storewide meetings from time to time that involved games, raffles, food and, of course, some serious motivational talks to get us psyched for the new season.  At one of these meetings we had a bake-off challenge:  Use one of the items in the "pantry" section of C&B to make something delicious.  Winners and participants would get prizes (and these were intense prizes - one time I got a blender, another a juicer).  Now it was stiff competition among C&B staff members - they hire people who are passionate about cooking, baking, home design, and everything domestic.  So when it came to baking, I frankly never even came close to winning.  But what I did get out of it was an introduction to lingonberry preserves.

Lingonberries seem to be most commonly associated with Sweden (and thus can be found at Ikea).  They are red, tart and similar to a cranberry or current, perhaps a bit more mild.  They're most commonly found in the form of jams and juices. Over the past few years lingonberry products have slowly moved into mainstream grocery stores as well, at least in New England, so they shouldn't be too difficult to get your hands on.

Lingonberry Preserves

So with some lingonberry preserves on hand, I decided it would be the perfect fruit to accent the many Christmas cookies I had to make (as a result of the truffle failure).  I did a quick sweep of the web to see what I could find that was a traditional or unique cookie using the lingonberry, but mainly came across a variety of shortbread or icebox varieties.  That was fine with me, I could handle a basic shortbread cookie.

First, I made Lingonberry Caves with Cinnamon.  I snagged/converted this recipe from blogger Dagmar on A Cat In The Kitchen.   Please check out her site, since she has many tasty ideas and really beautifully photographed portraits of her cats.

Lingonberry Caves
(makes approx. 24 cookies)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
lingonberry jam (or substitute with your favourite one)
30 mini paper cups

1.  Preheat the oven to 375° F.
2.  Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla sugar.
3.  Add the flour, combined with baking soda and cinnamon. Roll dough into 24 balls, placing each into put in a medium sized paper cup.
4.  Using a finger, indent the dough balls with a thumbprint size holes and fill them with spoonfuls of jam.
5.  Bake for approximately 12 minutes.

Lingonberry Cave DoughLingonberry Caves ready to bake
Lingonberry Cave

Next I had a double batch of icebox cookie dough originally to be used for Chocolate Dipped Coconut Sticks (later recipe).  So I rolled out the additional half batch of dough, slathered on some lingonberry jam, rolled it back up and baked up some tasty berry swirls as an additional treat for the cookie box.  Bringing this all back to C&B, the basic icebox dough recipe was given to me by a C&B coworker, Jane, who made literally thousands of cookies every year to share with friends, family and, of course, coworkers.

Basic Icebox Cookie Recipe:

1 stick butter, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour

1. Whisk butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, preferably in an electric mixer.
2. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla.
3. Add flour until combined well.
4. Lastly fold in any additions to the dough at this time, whether nuts, chocolate chips, coconut, etc.
5. Roll out into a long rectangular block and fold up in plastic wrap to chill in the fridge before rolling, shaping and baking.
6. Let chill for at least 30 minutes, and preheat the over to 350F while doing so.
7. Depending on the size/thickness of the cookies, they should bake for approximately 12 minutes or until a light golden on the underside.  Don't over bake.

For Lingonberry Swirls:

Between Steps 4 and 5, roll out the dough until approximately 1/4" thick.  Using a spatula, spread a thin layer of jam across the surface of the dough.  Carefully roll the dough into a long cylinder, making sure to prevent any of the jam from pressing out the ends or side.  Wrap the resulting dough and jam roll in plastic and proceed to chill as instructed above.  Once chilled, slice cookies into 1/3" slices and place on parchment paper-lined baking tray.

Lingonberry Icebox Swirl Cookies Lingonberry Icebox Swirl Cookies Lingonberry Icebox Swirl CookiesLingonberry Icebox Swirl Cookies

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