This dough also makes a great slice-and-bake cookie; it's good to make a double batch and freeze as logs. Lime or grapefruit juice may be substituted for the lemon juice. Store-bought cranberry jam can be used instead of the filling recipe to follow.
Make Ahead: The filling can be cooled, covered and refrigerated a week or two in advance. The dough can be refrigerated a day in advance or rolled into logs and frozen for up to 1 month. Unassembled baked cookies can be frozen for up to 2 weeks. Store assembled cookie sandwiches in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Servings: 12 - 18 mini rounds
- For the filling
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- 1/4 cup water or orange juice
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- For the cookies
- 15 tablespoons (1 stick plus 7 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Scant 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
- Freshly grated zest from 4 or 5 lemons (about 5 tablespoons)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling
- 2 3/4 cups flour, plus more for rolling as needed
- Generous 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the filling: Combine the cranberries, water or juice and the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Once the liquid has come to a boil and the berries have popped, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 4 or 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and transfer to a blender or bowl of a food processor; let cool for 10 minutes, then puree until almost smooth. Strain out or remove any whole bits, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the cookies: Combine the butter and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on low speed to blend, then on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low, then add the lemon zest, vanilla extract and the tablespoon of poppy seeds, beating to incorporate.
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl or on a sheet of wax paper. Add to the butter-sugar mixture and beat on low speed just until a dough forms into large clumps (on the way to becoming a ball).
Divide in half; wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
Lightly flour a work surface, or place the dough between sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Divide each portion in half (again, to form quarters of dough). Working with one quarter at a time, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/16 inch (or as thin as possible). Use a 3- to 3 1/2-inch cookie cutter to cut out 6 cookies, or a 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter to cut out 9 cookies, transferring them to the baking sheets with an offset spatula. It's best to re-roll the dough only once.
Sprinkle the cut-out cookies lightly with poppy seeds. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, or until just set but not browned. Let cool on the baking sheet while you roll and cut out the remaining portion of dough, using the same-size cookie cutter to make 12 large or 18 medium cookies. If desired, use a smaller cookie cutter to create a center "window" in each of these cookies so the filling will show through. (Bake the mini rounds as well.) Sprinkle the cookies lightly with poppy seeds. Repeat the baking and cooling steps.
At this point, the cookies can be frozen until they are assembled into sandwiches.
Spread the first batch of cookies with a thin layer of homemade or store-bought cranberry jam, leaving a narrow margin at the edges. Top with the cooled cookies from the second batch, pressing together gently to form cookie sandwiches. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Adapted from Tiffany MacIsaac, pastry chef at Birch & Barley in Northwest Washington.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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