Sunday, December 21, 2008

Raspberry Cream Cheese Tarts a.k.a. Heroin Cookies

As I've mentioned before, many of my favorite parts of Christmas are food related. I worked at a cute little bakery called Mrs. Backer's Pastry Shop for a couple of years in college, and it totally gave me the baking and decorating bug from the experiences I had making cookies, writing on cakes, and seeing people's happy faces when they were able to buy the same cookies they had eaten at Christmas when they were kids (Mrs. Backer's has been around for going on 60 years). Backer's was also a tradition for our family; not only did we have their beautifully decorated birthday cakes almost every year, my older sister Angela, my Dad and I all worked there.
My very favorite cookie made by Mrs. Backer's was their Raspberry Cream Cheese Tarts, which are petite fold-over, raspberry jam filled cookies with snowy white icing. I iced many a tray of these while working at Backer's, and ate way too many too (the Backer's encouraged tasting to ensure quality, which probably had something to do with the fact I gained 10 pounds while working there). I always wanted to make them myself, but never got the recipe, so I was out of luck. A few years ago I decided to try putting together my own recipe. Theirs had a pastry crust made with cream cheese, but I made mine more like a sugar cookie crust with cream cheese, and I added almond flavoring, which in my opinion is the perfect compliment to raspberry.
I've taken to calling these Heroin Cookies because of the reaction I get from people when they taste them. I started getting so many requests for them I decided to put them in the Christmas cookie boxes I make each year for our neighbors. Then the whole thing just snowballed. One of my neighbors told me she hides them from her kids because she thinks they don't appreciate them enough. I always take them to Christmas parties and have had tons of people tell me they are their favorites. At Mirjam's Advent party the other night one of her friends told me she actually dreams about these cookies. I guess people like them.
I have had many requests for the recipe, especially from our favorite neighbors Guy & Nikki. I was always a bit coy about giving it out, and when we moved Guy & Nikki said we could only go if we left the cookie recipe with them. I didn't do it, not out of selfishness, but more out of being overwhelmed by movingness. So, in the spirit of the season, I have decided, for the first time anywhere, to share my Raspberry Cream Cheese Tart recipe. I feel like I'm giving away my superpower, so be sure to use it responsibly.

Raspberry Cream Cheese Tarts


2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs

4 oz. cream cheese

1/2 tsp. almond extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp. salt


1 cup raspberry preserves

1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 oz. cream cheese

1/8 tsp. almond extract

1 Tbsp. milk (or more to reach coating consistency)

Crust: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour and salt; set aside. Cream together sugar, butter, and cream cheese until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add eggs, one at a time and beat until incorporated. Add almond extract and mix well. Slowly add dry ingredients and mix just until smooth dough forms. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness and cut int to 3" diamiter circles with a cookie cutter or top of a drinking glass.

Put one teaspoon of raspberry preserves in the middle of each uncooked circle, and then fold over and press down lightly with fingers. Bake 12 - 15 minutes, or until the bottom of each tart begins to turn golden brown. Remove from cooking trays to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Combine softened cream cheese and milk in a bowl and whisk together until combined. Add powdered sugar and almond extract and continue to whisk until a thick but pourable consistency. Add milk a little at a time if nesesssary to reach the right thickness. Spread about one teaspoon on each tart and let stand to dry 1 - 2 hours.

Okay, there it is, my Christmas gift to the world. While I'm at it I thought I'd share my new favorite compliment for these cookies, Home Made Thin Mints, which have also made it into my cookie boxes for the last two years. This recipe is actually from Everyday Food Magazine, so I can't take credit. They call them Chocolate Wafer Cookies (probably for legal reasons), but they really are the much better, homemade version of the Girl Scout Cookie favorite.

Home Made Thin Mints

1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
Sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; mix just until combined.
Form balls of dough (each equal to 1 teaspoon), and place on two baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Dip the bottom of a glass in water, and flatten balls into 1 1/2-inch rounds (about 1/4 inch thick). Bake until slightly firm to the touch, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Immediately transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make chocolate coating: Place chocolate, peppermint extract, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; remove from heat.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Set each cookie across the tines of a fork, dunk in chocolate, then tap underside of fork on side of the bowl to allow excess chocolate to drip off. Place cookies on prepared baking sheet, and decorate with sprinkles, if desired.
Refrigerate until chocolate has hardened, about 30 minutes, and keep chilled until ready to serve.

Happy Baking, and remember, you still need to invite me to your parties even though you know how to make these on your own.


The Fam said...

Yay!!! Thanks for sharing. I think I have all of the ingredients to make the heroin cookies. . . .

Amber said...

Oh what I would give for Mrs. Backers Rasberry Cream Cheese tart recipe! Going to give this a try. Thanks.