Tartlets bring cookie count to baker’s dozen

It’s that time of year, again. Time to break out the baking sheets, round up the cookie-cutters and don the aprons.

The newspaper’s food section started pushing holiday sweets last week with a story on edible gifts. But the season wouldn’t be complete without our annual Christmas cookie spread.

As in previous years, we tapped into a dozen delicious recipes developed by The Associated Press. Although the Rogue Valley has plenty of baking experts, who host classes and perennially dole out tips for our stories, we can’t beat the AP’s gorgeous photos and online interactive features. That’s why they’ve anchored our Holiday 101 page since its inception four years ago.

Holiday 101 started as a way to use all the holiday-related food stories at our disposal that we wouldn’t otherwise have room for in the paper. But it’s been met with such enthusiasm (“cookie” is the most popular search term on our website in December) that we’ve put more energy into it as the years passed. We posted at least a dozen online-exclusive stories to the page in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

We’re by no means done. After a brief breather the week following Thanksgiving, we plan to update the page weekly through the new year. And just to keep fueling your appetite, here’s another cookie recipe, making it a baker’s dozen.

Chicago Tribune’s annual Holiday Cookie Contest, which tested and judged 11 recipes from its readers. Maureen Yamashiro, of Glenview, Ill., took a similar approach as the AP, turning a classic dessert into a cookie.

In this case, Yamashiro started with cheesecake, miniaturized it and jazzed it up with “the poor berry long relegated to a Thanksgiving side dish slightly more sentimental than the ubiquitous green-bean casserole.” Her cranberry topping produced a “little jewel” that earned an honorable mention in the contest and approval of at least one Tribune judge who “would be proud to bring (it) to a party.”

I’ve blogged before about my fondness for cranberries and habit of buying extra at Thanksgiving to stock the freezer. This recipe is right up my alley, too, with its use of a mini muffin tin, my go-to equipment for producing cute, sweet and savory appetizers. If you don’t have two 24-cup pan, make the tartlets in batches, waiting for the pan to cool completely between each.

MCT photo

Cranberry-Cheesecake-Chocolate Tartlets

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature and divided

1⁄4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature

1⁄4 pound stick margarine, at room temperature

1⁄4 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 cups flour

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries

1 cup fresh orange juice from 3 large oranges

Grated zest of 2 oranges

1⁄4 cup agave syrup

1⁄2 cup, plus 3 tablespoons, sugar, divided

1 cinnamon stick

Pinch kosher salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

48 dark-chocolate Hershey’s Kisses

3 ounces white chocolate

For pastry, cream the butter and margarine with 3 ounces of the cream cheese with an electric mixer in a bowl; mix in the confectioners’ sugar and flour. Once fully incorporated, roll into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

For relish, combine the cranberries, orange juice, zest, agave syrup, 1⁄2 cup sugar, the cinnamon stick and salt in a saucepan. Heat to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a steady simmer. Simmer until reduced to consistency of a good preserve, 30 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick.

For filling, cream together remaining 5 ounces cream cheese and 3 tablespoons sugar with an electric mixer in a bowl; add the egg and vanilla. Mix until blended. Set aside.

Heat oven to 350 F. Roll pastry out to 1⁄8 inch thick. Cut out circles with a round 21⁄4- to 3-inch cookie cutter. Place dough circles into cups of nonstick mini muffin pan. Gently push down dough. Place 1 teaspoon cheesecake filling in each. Place a Hershey’s Kiss in center of each. Top with 1 teaspoon cranberry relish.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes. When cheesecake filling starts to rise and pastry slightly colors, they are done. Let cool completely, about 1 hour. Melt the white chocolate in a saucepan over low heat and decoratively drizzle over top.

Makes 48 tartlets.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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