Sometimes I make a certain dish or recipe simply because I want to. Other times, I make them – once, twice, three times, tweaking with each rendition – because they tell a story. These cookies tell a story…
I’ve recently been meeting a lot of new people for a myriad of reasons, which I will indulge you in at some future point. For now though, the important thing to note is that, as a result, I’ve been talking a lot about who I am to people who have no basis for understanding me. As I’ve talked about me, I’ve noticed a recurring theme: I spend a lot of time also talking about my dad. Maybe it’s our mutual love for food and the hours we’ve spent together in the kitchen. Or maybe it’s our obsession with the St. Louis Cardinals and our even greater one with Illini basketball. Or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m one of those lucky girls who has the type of dad most only dream of. Regardless, my dad has had an impact on my life more profound than I’ve realized.
And this impact includes a deep love of shortbread. I have memories of my dad noshing on a box of trefoils, the Girl Scout shortbread cookies that most write off as “boring”, and of my mom making giant batches of the buttery cookies for him. When I saw a recipe for jam shortbread in Bon Appetit several falls ago, I dog eared it with my dad in mind. Then I left it sitting in the back of my head until recently when, knowing I was Czech, my friend Laura asked me to cook for an Eastern European composer focused concert she was performing with her chamber group. I immediately turned to kolachky. Too time consuming though, I decided to whip up a batch of these shortbread and claim them to be some kind of new wave, trendy kolachky with a twist.
The original version had just plain, old raspberry jam in the center. They were good. But good, as we all know, is not great. Luckily, I had quadrupled the recipe and tossed the extra dough in the freezer. I mulled over what I could do with it. Blueberry galette with lemon zest? Cherry tomato tart? Rhubarb anything? Finally, my mind wandered back to the Evanston farmers market, the one I religiously woke up early for each Saturday morning, and the man with the jam.
Oh, the man with the jam. On my first visit to his stand, he recommended the raspberry jalapeno jam. I was hesitant. It sounded strange. But when he said he liked it spread on toast over cream cheese, my hesitancy disappeared. Done. Done. Done. I bought a jar. The next time I returned, I bought three. Just in case an apocalypse hit or something. You know, better safe than sorry.
That dough in my freezer could be just the perfect canvas for a version of that jam with goat cheese, mostly because I had a giant log in my fridge, in place of cream cheese. So the experimenting began. The rest is, as they say, history. Especially because Jake ate the entire plate in a night. Yes, I helped, because like father like daughter, I love my food.
Whole Wheat Shortbread with Raspberry, Jalapeno, and Goat Cheese Jam
adapted from Bon Appetit and inspired by “the farmers market guy with the jam”
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
10 1/2 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
6 tablespoons raspberry jam
4 tablespoons goat cheese
15-20 grams jalapeno (depending on the amount of heat you want)
Preheat oven to 400°. In the bowl of a food processor combine the raspberry jam, goat cheese and jalapeno. Mix until well combined scraping down the bowl frequently. The mixture should be an even, pink color. Set aside.
Whisk flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add butter; using your fingertips, rub in butter until coarse meal forms. Whisk egg and yolk in a bowl; add to flour mixture; stir just to blend.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Measure dough by 2 tablespoonfuls and roll into balls. Place on prepared sheets, spacing 2″ apart. Make an indentation in center of each ball; fill each with 1/2 teaspoon of the jam mixture.
Bake cookies until golden, 12–14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.