When I was 20, I took a break from college and ended up moving around a bit. A bit, meaning I went from Boulder, Colorado, where I was in school, to Illinois to visit family, to Bucharest, Romania, where I lived with my dad and stepmom for nine months (which was originally supposed to be a visit of 6 weeks or so), and then on to Blackfoot, Idaho, where I lived with my mom for about a year, before finally landing in Portland, Oregon, where I live now. A strange and interesting time in my life, and one that brings up all kinds of feelings of anxiety. Which also may explain why, out of all those places and all the memories I could tell from that time in my life, I’m choosing this one to tell . . .
Blackfoot, Idaho. Population, I don’t know, maybe 8000 people? Near Pocatello? I know, probably if you live anywhere west of Boise, or east of . . . anywhere . . . you’ve never heard of it. Not much to say about it. No tourist attractions or destinations to speak of, it’s just a way point on the highway that you pass in the blink of an eye. My mom moved there from Boise around the time I graduated from high school, and lived in an apartment above a bar/restaurant in a historic house in town. I landed on her after leaving Romania, knowing I wouldn’t be going back to school in Boulder, but not knowing where to go next. While I was there, I got a job with a small catering company in town. It was all very strange, to be there in a tiny town in the corner of a not-so-cosmopolitan state, working with ladies twice my age who never went to college or traveled, particularly. I’m sure at age 20 my attitude was aggravating to them, but they seemed to take me in stride. Maybe that was because of my total inexperience in the kitchen–I still remember one of the ladies looking at me with complete disdain when I had prepared a veggie tray, and not one of my carrot sticks was the same length or size. Poor, ragged looking veggie tray.
At any rate, an odd high point of that time was when the caterer had a booth at the Eastern Idaho County Fair (yay, the fair!), and one of the items we sold at the booth was a Filled Sugar Cookie the likes of which I’d never tried before, and which I immediately fell in love with. And here’s the thing–the filling is made with raisins, and I was an avowed Raisin Hater at the time. This is why I did not title this post “Raisin Filled Sugar Cookies”. The filling is so much more transcendent than just raisins! (there I go again, getting all high falutin’ and acting better than I am). I still can’t see a county fair without thinking about these cookies, and remembering how I would always stash one or two aside for after my shift, knowing we would sell out of them and not being willing to miss out on my share.
Years later, after moving to Portland, I tried to recreate the recipe. It’s pretty close, although the photo of the cookie above doesn’t quite do it justice. The cookies should be BIG, the size of a coaster, and round (mine above are square-ish) and have LOTS of filling. I’ll have to make them again and post a better picture–that is, if I can (1) not eat almost all the dough before I make the cookies, (2) remember to use the filling before it sets up into a single, large, mass in the pan, and (3) find my large round cookie cutters.
That reminds me, I think I need to start a series of posts called “Don’t Do What I Did”. Maybe I already mentioned that. Maybe I’ll just change the name of my blog to that instead.
Filled Sugar Cookies (adapted from Betty Crocker)
- 2 cups raisins, coarsely chopped
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cut toasted walnuts, chopped fine
- 3/4 cup water
- 1.5 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1 egg
- 2.5 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/2 tsp salt
For the cookie dough, mix powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, almond extract, and egg. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, cream of tarter, and salt. Mix into butter mixture until combined. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours, or until firm.
For the filling: combine raisins, nuts, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens. Cool slightly–but don’t allow to cool completely before using.
Once the cookie dough is chilled, roll it out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut large (4 or 5 inch) circles with a cutter, two circles per finished cookie. Spread a mound of filling on half of the circles, leaving a small border at the edge. Top each with another circle and use a floured fork to lightly press the edges together, sealing the cookies. Sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes, or until light brown. Shovel into mouth, being careful not to burn your tongue on the filling.