Split Seconds. That was the name of the winning cookie entry in 1954’s Pillsbury Bake-Off cookie category, and it lured me in immediately. They are like jam thumbprints but, as the name implies, they are quick to make. Instead of molding dozens of tiny dough balls, making a depression in each, and filling the hollows with jam, I divided the buttery dough into only four portions, rolled each into a long rope, and placed them on a cookie sheet. I then made a channel down the length of each and filled the channels with jam before baking the logs. When the logs were cool, I cut them into attractive diamond shapes for serving.
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Because the recipe calls for only the most commonplace ingredients—flour, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking powder, and raspberry jam—I was able to make the cookies without running to the store. The simple dough came together easily with an electric mixer, and the shaping and filling steps were as quick as promised.
The cookie part was tender, sweet, and a bit soft, like a sugar cookie, and the ruby ribbon of jam provided visual and textural interest. They were an excellent return on my small investment of ingredients and labor and almost festive enough for the holidays. I hoped a few tweaks could get them there.
Make a Good Impression
To make the jam channel in the dough, simply press your index finger along length of each log and then use your other hand to mold sides.
First, I turned that cookie into something closer to shortbread by removing the egg and baking powder (their leavening properties were unnecessary here); increasing the butter; and decreasing the sugar (the jam would add ample sweetness). The result was a bit richer, crisper, and drier—and, thus, able to be stored for longer because the small amount of moisture that the crumb lost as it sat didn’t compromise its texture.
This rich, low-moisture dough was less cohesive and sometimes crumbled as I tried rolling it into logs, but that was OK since I would be molding the ropes into canoe shapes once they were on the rimless baking sheet (which makes it easier to slide the parchment with the logs onto the cooling rack without breaking them), and any imperfections could be smoothed out there. But baking these logs long enough to achieve proper shortbread crunch dried out and concentrated the jam so much that it became sticky, chewy, and overly sweet. Diluting the jam with a small amount of lemon juice before piping it into the channels kept it soft and boosted the fruity tang—a nice complement to the crunchy, buttery cookie.
For a festive flourish, I whisked together a simple icing of confectioners’ sugar and hot water and drizzled it over the slightly warm logs. By the time they were cool, the icing had set up enough to slice cleanly.
The process was so easy and the cookies so tasty that I whipped up versions with blackberry and apricot jams, scenting them with cinnamon and cardamom, respectively. I’m ready for my next holiday cookie swap—no extra trip to the store required.