Thursday, December 2, 2010

Homemade Jam: great snowday activity and Christmas gift!

Well...December is here!!! For me this is both exciting and frightening as it means I have a great excuse to do TONS of baking and cooking, but I have SOOOO many other things to do! I got a Cook's Country magazine in the mail the other day and it had some great cookie recipes as always, but the first place winner was the one that really caught my eye: Lemon Hazelnut Thumbprints. The flavor combination intrigued I've never made thumbprints, but always wanted to. I scanned the list of ingredients...I still had some hazelnuts just begging to be used....and one fat lemon should be enough to whip up some lemon curd, yep the stars were aligned!
However, before I got to work on those yummies, I decided to find a second thumbprint recipe to make while I was at it (not that I have all this time on my hands, but because I just can't help myself when I get cooking and then I pay for it later when I have done nothing but made cookies all day). So anyways...I went searching for something festive and I kept seeing lovely raspberry jam-filled cookies, but I wanted to kick it up a about replacing the raspberry jam with cranberry? Yes? Yes! But where to buy cranberry jam? Hmm...well I did just stock up on fresh cranberries, but I've never made jam before, it was always so intimidating-looking! Still, I decided to look around for some cranberry jam recipes just to humor myself. Turns out I actually found one that sounded REALLY easy and I had ALL the ingredients, was this fate or what?
I made the lemon curd for my Lemon Hazelnut Thumbprints first, using a recipe that I really like from Bon Appetit magazine. It is a really easy recipe and just the right flavor in my opinion. The only thing I think I will try next time is straining the whole eggs first to get out those stringy white things (called "chalazae" prounounced kaLUHzee, which is like the umbilical cord for a baby I was told by one of my chefs) because when the lemon curd is cooked they get all...nasty >:p so yeah...other then that it was fantastic and I probably would have eaten all of it, but I still needed some to fill my cookies!

Lemon Curd:

- 2 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
- Pinch of salt

1) Whisk eggs and egg yolks in medium bowl and strain to remove lumps and chalazae.
2) Melt butter in medium metal bowl set over large saucepan of simmering water.
3) Whisk in sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, and salt; gradually whisk in egg mixture. Whisk until thick and thermometer inserted into curd registers 178°F to 180°F, about 8 minutes.
4) Transfer to small bowl. Press plastic wrap on top of curd; chill 4 hours.
Deliciousness <3 (especially on toast, rolls, ice cream, or pretty much anything!)

K anyways, so then I worked on the cranberry jam while I threw together the Lemon Hazelnut Thumbprints. The cookies came together really quickly as the dough was nice and soft (and VERY tasty). Unfortunately, this softness meant they spread out a bit more than I would have liked, but it wasn't too bad...

 (I'm def going to have to double the recipe next time...)

Lemon Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies:

- 1 c all-purpose flour
- 3/4 c shelled, toasted hazelnuts
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
- 1/3 c granulated sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Lemon curd (about 1/4 c)
- powdered sugar (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 350 F. Process flour, hazelnuts, and salt in a food processor until finely ground (not too long or it will get mushy when the nuts release their oil)
2) With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Reduce the speed and gradually add the flour mixture. The dough should be very soft.
3) Roll dough into 1 inch ball by the Tbsp (or smaller if desired) and place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone mats, about an inch apart. Gently create indents with your finger or a teaspoon. 
4) Bake the cookies until just set, about 10 min.
5) Remove the cookies form the oven and gently reinforce the indentation with a teaspoon. Fill the cookies with 1/2-1 tsp of lemon curd. Bake again, 8-10 min until lightly browned on the edges.
6) Cool completely on a wire rack, dust with powdered sugar if desired and serve or store.

Anywho...back to what you have been wondering about - the JAM! The recipe said I could use a whole vanilla bean or a tsp of vanilla extract, but I wanted to go all out and make my very first jam REALLY good, so I opted for the vanilla bean, expensive as they may be. Plus I didn't have any oranges so I had to use orange juice from concentrate and thus I was hoping using the high quality vanilla bean would balance out the lack of fresh orange juice. Other than that I followed the recipe exactly and I thought it came out quite well. The vanilla was stronger than the cranberry I think, but yummy all the same. I'm more eager to try more jams now :)

Cranberry Vanilla Jam:

- 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise (or 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract)
- 3 1/2 c. fresh or frozen, unthawed cranberries
- 1 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. fresh orange juice
- 1/2 c. water

1) With tip of a sharp knife, scrape vanilla seeds from pod into a 2-qt. heavy saucepan.
Add pod and remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickening, about 20-30 minutes.
2) Puree jam through a food mill set over a bowl OR (I don't have a food mill) force it through a fine-meshed sieve, pressing on the solids, occasionally scraping the bottom of the sieve with a spatula to get every last drop. Discard the cranberry skins and vanilla pod. Cool, stirring occasionally.

Removing all the teeny tiny (very good smelling) vanilla

Vanilla and orange juice and water

 You can use either fresh or frozen cranberries, I used frozen

 Some sugar...ok a LOT because it's jam...and cranberries are quite sour

 The mixture got really foamy and cool looking, don't be alarmed, but don't let it boil over either!

 The berries got dark and mushy as they cooked

 Being food mill -less I had to go this slow, difficult route to lumpfree, skinfree jam, but it wasn't too bad...I actually felt very old fashioned and resourceful (still, I would NOT do this everyday!! If you are lucky enough to have a food mill I say USE IT!)

Here is the visual ratio of jam to waste products (the bean pod and the cranberry skins)

Finished product :) Wouldn't that make a lovely gift?

 Or even these guys?? Mmmm

Cranberry White Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 to 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- Cranberry Jam (about 1/4 c)
- White chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 350 F. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla on medium-high speed until smooth. Beat in flour, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium high, until a dough forms – it shouldn't be sticky.
2) Roll dough by tablespoons (or smaller if you prefer) into balls, and place 1 inch apart onto prepared sheets. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and press thumb or spoon into tops of cookies to make indentations. Fill with 1/2 -1 tsp of jam.
3) Return to oven, and bake until light brown on the edges, about 10-12 minutes more. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
4) Melt about 1/3 c white chocolate chips (or baking squares) in the microwave (microwave on high for 1 min, stir and repeat process until the chocolate is almost melted, then remove from the microwave and stir until it completely melts) spoon the melted chocolate into a pastry bag or small plastic bag, snip the end just barely and then drizzle the chocolate over the cooled cookies. Allow the white chocolate to harden before serving or storing.


  1. Hm... I have some frozen cranberries, and orange juice, and some white vanilla extract from Mexico; I think I'm making some cranberry jam before Christmas!

  2. Sounds like a plan! I hope it goes well for you! :)

  3. Mmm I think the cranberry white chocolate ones would be my favorite! They look perfectly festive for the holidays :)

  4. Thanks!!! I thought so too, I think they make such a taste combination also!

  5. These look so good! The white chocolate/cranberry combo is one of my favorites!

    - Maggie

  6. Yes, I think the eye appeal and the taste appeal are both very festive and cheery!

  7. It would make a fantastic gift! So, I made some today as a hostess gift!

    Thanks for sharing. It is delicious!

  8. Your welcome, Kel!! glad it worked out for you :)

  9. Silly question, but for the Cranberry White Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies you didn't say what temperature you baked them at. I made them and they were the favorite of all the cookies made by my sisters, mom and me. Thanks so much.

  10. ...aha so i didnt..whoopsie! thanks Barbie! i'll get that fixed right now! you are very welcome, that is wonderful to hear! :D

  11. Tips to a flat stomach
    5 Tips to a flat stomach
    Stop making these 5 Major mistakes and you will finally lose your stubborn belly fat
    There are long lasting ways to get the amazing middle you crave. These genius tips
    Will help you shed inches and pounds, banish the bloat, And feel even more gorgeous.
    we have very best advice for quickly shrinking your tummy. Here are the surprising
    Hello, skinny jeans!