Jammin with Jam
As a Stanford University economics major, Gillian Reynolds was only too familiar with the law of supply and demand.
Now, she’s living it — supplying delicious jams that aficionados are demanding more and more of with gusto.
Reynolds is the founder of San Francisco’s Jamnation. With her brother Christopher, a trained chef, they make jam with local organic fruit, surprising flavorings and a big dose of wittiness.
Just get a load of some of the jam names: “Plum and Get It” (pluot with honeysuckle essence), “Midnight in Pearis,” (Bosc pear butter with vanilla and nutmeg), and “Cardamom Knows Zest” (Seville orange marmalade with cardamom).
I had a chance to try a couple samples recently: “Rose to the Grindstone” (Arctic Star nectarines with rose essence), and “Sublemonal Message” (Meyer lemon marmalade with ginger).
Rose can sometimes be overpowering but here in the presence of nectarines, it’s just enough to make the stone fruit taste even more nectarine-y by bringing out its floral quality without making you think you’ve got a bouquet of flowers in your mouth.
The “Sublemonal Message” is a very lemony marmalade with plenty of bits of rind in it. The ginger gives it a warmth while still letting the slightly bitter rind taste come to the forefront.
It’s impressive how the extra flavorings don’t detract from the main fruits, but enhance them with balance.
The jams are $7.95 for a 5-ounce jar and $12.95 for a 10-ounce one.
I enjoyed the jams spread on toast for breakfast. But I also wanted to showcase them in something far more interesting. I wanted a cookie that would still allow you to see the jam but offered something a little different than the usual thumbprint treat.
I found what I was looking for in “Dorie’s Cookies” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016) by baker extraordinaire Dorie Greenspan, of which I received a review copy.
“Classic Jammers” are thumbprint-like, but they are thicker, with dough rounds baked in muffin tins that are ringed with streusel to add extra crunch.
I have to admit I was scratching my head a little bit at the directions for the streusel. Normally, I make streusel by mixing the sugar, flour and cold butter with a pastry cutter or my fingers to keep the butter in pea-sized chunks, all coated with the dry ingredients, to create a crumbly mixture.
However, Greenspan says she likes to use a mixer to do it. So I decided to give that technique a try. The directions say to mix everything for 10 minutes. I stopped short of that, though, because even in half that time, my ingredients had come together in one cohesive mass like a dough — not anything like what I normally picture streusel as being. I refrigerated it as instructed. When it came time to using it, I ended up tearing off tiny balls of the streusel “dough” and sprinkled them over the dough rounds in the muffin tin. I couldn’t figure out how else to do it and make it streusel-like.
It worked, but I didn’t have enough streusel for all of the dough rounds in the muffin tins. What I ended up doing was using some of the dough scraps to cut out doughnut-like shapes using two different sized ring cutter. I placed the doughnut-like ring on top of the dough round in the muffin tin, and filled the centers with jam.
Once baked, the cookies are buttery delicious. They are much like a crisper version of a classic thumbprint. The streusel adds more crunchiness. The ones that I topped with the doughnut-like circles were more substantial, baking up thicker, almost like little cookie tarts with thick bottoms.
Both versions showcased the Jamnation jams nicely, framing them for full effect.
So what are you waiting for? Time to get jammin.
(Makes about 30 cookies)
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 1/2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
About 1/2 cup thick jam, such as blueberry or raspberry
Make the dough: Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, both sugars and the salt on medium speed for about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. The mixture should be smooth but not fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and, one by one, beat in the yolks, followed by the vanilla. Turn off the mixer, add the flour all at once and pulse the mixer until the risk of flying flour has passed. With the machine on low, mix just until the flour disappears into the dough. Give the dough a couple of turns with a sturdy flexible spatula.
Turn the dough out onto the counter and divide it in half. Gather each piece into a ball and shape into a disk.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough 1/4 inch thick between pieces of parchment. Slide the parchment-sandwiched dough onto a baking sheet — you can stack the slabs — and freeze for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Make the streusel: You can make the streusel by hand or in a mixer. I prefer to use a stand mixer, but fingers are fine. Whisk the flour, both sugars, the cinnamon and salt together in the mixer bowl or a large bowl. Drop in the cubes of cold butter and toss all the ingredients together with your fingers until the butter is coated.
If you’re working with a mixer, fit it with the paddle attachment and mix on medium-low speed until the ingredients form moist, clumpy crumbs. Squeeze the streusel, and it will hold together. Reaching this stage takes longer than you think it will — you might have to mix for 10 minutes or more. Sprinkle over the vanilla and mix until blended. (Note: See description in the story above about what the resulting texture may end up being like.)
Or if you’re working by hand, squeeze, mash, mush or otherwise rub everything together until you have a bowlful of moist clumps and curds. Squeeze the streusel, and it will hold together. Sprinkle over the vanilla and toss to blend.
Pack the streusel into a covered container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (3 hours would be better) before using.
Bake cookies: Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a regular muffin tin, or two tins, if you’ve got them. Have a 2-inch-diameter cookie cutter at hand.
Working with one sheet of dough at a time, peel away both pieces of parchment paper and put the dough back on one piece of paper. Cut the dough and drop the rounds into the muffin tin(s). Save the scraps from both pieces of dough, then gather them together, re-roll, chill and cut. Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t completely fill the molds — it will once it’s baked.
Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon jam onto the center of each cookie. Spoon or sprinkle streusel around the edges of each cookie — you want to cover the surface of the dough but leave the jam bare.
If you run out of streusel, you can use some of the dough to cut out doughnut-like circles (using two cutters, one larger than the other). Place one doughnut-like circle on top of each dough round in the muffin tin, and spoon jam into the center.
Bake the cookies for 20 to 22 minutes, rotating the tin(s) after 11 minutes, or until the streusel and the edges of the cookies are golden brown, the jam may bubble, and that’s fine. Leave the cookies in the tin(s) for about 15 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.
Repeat with the remaining dough, making certain that the tins are cool before re-using them to bake.
Adapted from “Dorie’s Cookies” by Dorie Greenspan
Another “Dorie’s Cookies” Recipe: Lucky Charm Brownies