Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sunshine Grove Cookies

My thought of the groves brings me back to California when I was much younger.  We lived right across the street from a big fruit grove and behind it was a sloping hill.  One day, my mom told me a story about a woman that went out to get her mail. When she arrived at her mailbox, she heard a noise from the groves.  Surprised, she looked around.  Suddenly, a man came forth from the trees.

No strange thing, right?  Except this man was wearing only a sheet!  Startled, the woman quickly got her mail out of the box and ran back to her house, locking the door behind her.

Later that week, I was horseback riding along the space between the grove and the hill.  Remembering my mothers story, I gazed into the thick bunch of trees.  It was very shady and dark, except for a few feet of sunshine that covered the ground.

As my horse continued to walk, I spied a pair of army boots.  I instantly clicked for my horse to pick up speed and we fled the scene.  To this day, I am not sure if it was just boots someone had left there or a person was actually standing there.

Also, I often wonder if there was a gang of homeless people living in the groves.  After all, they have plenty of shade and fresh fruit to eat.  That story is how I came about giving these cookies their name.

Now for the recipe.  It is a recipe for lemon cookies. The texture is are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  The chewiness is because they have a pocket of lemon curd in the center.  The flavor of the lemon is well balanced, not too tangy or sweet.  Also, I liked the appearance of this cookie. Some of the ones I have made have been very flat, but these have a good size to them. This recipe makes about 20 cookies.

Sunshine Grove Cookies
by flourtrader

Ingredients/ lemon filling
2 eggs
3 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs lemon zest
1/8 tsp lemon extract
2 tbs sugar
pinch of salt
2 tbs sweetened condensed milk

Ingredients/lemon cookies
1 egg
1/4 cup butter flavored shortening (room temp)
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 tsp lemon extract
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

For the filling, line a baking sheet with wax paper and set aside.

Place the eggs in a saucepan and beat for 30 seconds. Add lemon juice, lemon extract, salt, zest and sugar.  Place pan over medium heat and cook mixture for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly.  The filling is done cooking when it reaches the consistency of pudding.

Remove pan from heat and pour mixture into a mesh strainer or sieve placed over a heat proof bowl. Stir and push mixture through the strainer. Scrape off any remaining filling on the bottom side of the mesh into the bowl. Discard the lemon zest, which should be the only thing left in the strainer.

Stir the sweetened condensed milk into the filling until smooth.  Cover and place bowl in fridge for about 1 hour to cool.  After an hour, remove filling from fridge.  Then scoop out 1/2 a teaspoon of filling and place on prepared baking sheet.  Continue this process, until no more filling remains.  You should have at least 20 or 24 lumps on the sheet.  Place the sheet in the freezer.

Then, you can start making the cookie batter. Melt the 1/4 cup of butter in a saucepan or microwave.  Pour it in a small bowl and add the shortening.  Stir the mixture until both ingredients are blended.  It should be the consistency of a paste.  If some tiny lumps remain in the batter, it is ok.

In a separate bowl, whisk together both sugars, lemon extract and salt.  Add the butter mixture and beat until smooth.  Then beat in the egg and set aside.

Sift together the baking powder and flour in another bowl.  Fold 1/3 of the flour mixture into the batter until no flour streaks remain.  Continue with this process until all the flour is blended into the batter.

Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place cookie dough in the fridge to cool for about 1 1/2 hours.

In the last 15 minutes of the chilling time, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a scoop or tablespoon, drop mounds of dough about 1 1/2 inch apart onto baking sheet.  After sheet is filled with mounds, cover remaining dough and place back in fridge.  Then remove the frozen pan of filling from the freezer.

Take a mound of cookie dough and push a piece of frozen filling into the center. Then roll it in your hands to form a ball, covering the filling as best you can.  Place back on baking sheet.  Continue with this process until all mounds are filled.  Put frozen sheet of remaining filling back into freezer.

Bake cookies for about 10-12 minutes.  Cookies are done when the bottoms are a golden brown and the tops of the cookies do not get brown, so check cookies after 10 minutes.  Remove cookies and let cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to rack to finish cooling.

Repeat the process of forming and baking the cookies to use up the rest of the batter and filling.

Due to the filling, these cookies are best stored in the fridge.