Sunday, November 10, 2013

Samantha's Jam Tart Cookies

Deceptively frustrating cookies to make, but they sure are tasty!

I was almost too embarrassed to document this recipe with a blog post, which probably goes to show just how badly things looked like they were going to turn out considering I have shared quite a few flubs in the history of this blog thus far. I still have no idea what went wrong, and honestly, I'm not sure I'm interested enough to try and work it out. There are lots of tasty cookie recipes out there that cause a lot less frustration!

That said, if you're more devoted to the idea of a jam tart cookie than I am, I definitely would be interested to hear how things worked out for you! Read on to hear about the worst disaster - thus far - to ever happen to A Peek Into the Pantry.

As I was wondering which character I should feature next on the blog, I realized I'd done almost a complete cycle through all the dolls in the house except for Samantha, which meant I went on an ultimately unsuccessful search around the internet looking for inspiration for a turn of the century dish to make. It's been surprisingly difficult to find good resources for meal ideas and recipes from this time period, so eventually I turned to a book I've been hoping to bring back out again for quite a while.


The American Girls Party Book! Originally published in 1998, it features party ideas for all six of the then available American Girls: Felicity, Josefina, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha and Molly. Each chapter has three themed party ideas, several other recipes, crafts and games to help girls and their parents plan a party around their favorite character and her time period.

This book is particularly special to me because I used it to plan my ninth birthday party! I picked a food, treat and craft from each character to feature, but we had to downsize quite a bit and ultimately probably featured nine or so total things from the book. Each of my friends brought their doll, and since it was scheduled for the day we got to go on a field trip to two of the historic houses in town dressed in period costume, some of us were dressed up as colonial kids. (I, however, wore my Dress Like Your Doll Kirsten birthday dress to the field trip and then to the party, because historical accuracy was not a huge deal on the field trip.)

That was obviously a long time ago though, and I haven't really had opportunity to make anything else featured in the book until now. Some of the full recipes can also be found in the AG cookbooks and cooking studios - the recipe we're doing today for example can be found in both Sam's cookbook and her cooking studio - but some of them are (to the best of my knowledge) unique to this book. Somewhat frustratingly, a lot of the recipes are also more like vague ideas, or expect you to just make things using a mix. Still, I figured because this was a book aimed at a nine year old's palete, it was probably easier to make versions of authentic dishes that drew on flavors that were familiar and easier to put together instead of doing everything from scratch.

I picked the jam tart cookies because there was already a cake in the work for dessert tonight, and because it seemed like they were a combination of two of my favorite cookies - shortbread and hamantaschen!

The recipe seemed incredibly simple, which again, I wasn't really surprised by. It seemed like a decent amount of ingredients and steps for a nine year old to manage either by herself (or himself) or with the help of an adult, and so I thought maybe unlike the recipes from Kit's Cooking Studio I featured earlier, these cookies would turn out to be something that was definitely age appropriate for kids interested in learning to cook from American Girl.

That turned out to be an incredibly silly assumption to make.

It definitely started out easy enough! One good thing about recipes like this is that you can really adapt them to whatever flavors you and whoever you're serving to likes, because the cookie would definitely pair up well with just about any jam. I picked strawberry peach and cinnamon pear because we had the jars open in the fridge, and my mom made a few with maple pumpkin butter.

After smoothing out the jam a little - ours were never going to be totally smooth because we used a store bought home made jam - I got working on making the dough. Unusually, this dough didn't need eggs or any kind of baking powder or soda, and while it tasted good? It was extremely, extremely grainy, and really difficult to combine together into a more traditional dough, even when you used your hands to mix the ingredients.

The only cookies I make that generally require combining the dough with your hands is the hamantaschen recipe I use, but this had an entirely different consistency, and was really different even from my shortbread dough I'd made for my first Emily post. It was easier to pick up small handfuls and roll them into balls instead of trying to make one giant dough ball.

But just because it was a little simpler didn't mean it was very simple.

The dough was extremely flaky, and crumbled with basically zero provocation. Even when the butter heated up in your hands a little bit and became a little more of a binding agent, it still didn't hold up well.

After a bit of work, I finally got twelve balls of dough ready to go.

And they still fell apart really easily. I tried to be as gentle as possible while making the wells in the center to put the jam in, and finally, the cookies were ready to go in the oven.

And here's where things got really bad.

The cookies were supposed to bake for ten minutes, and I checked on them about six minutes in.

Let's just say I wasn't exactly thrilled by what I found in there.

Oh no.

Things didn't exactly improve when they were taken out of the oven four minutes later.


I have no idea what happened! Only two of the cookies came out looking like they were supposed to, and obviously this was all made from the same dough and kept at approximately the same temperature. I checked the recipe over and over to see if there was something I missed, but I definitely didn't. There was no warning in the recipe that something like this might happen if you did something wrong, or what that something wrong might be, so I honestly have no idea what went on here. They were obviously still edible and were actually super tasty, but they were extremely fragile and fell apart really easily.

And before anyone suggests it, this was actually the colder dough that had been handled less!

The American Girls Party Book has forsaken me!

We were a little rougher on the remaining dough to try and make balls that would actually stand up to the heat, and this is what we pulled out of the oven:

So, long story short? We made out with about twelve tiny cookies that didn't look terrible, and ten fragile cookies that looked like sunny side up eggs. We are all very baffled about what went on here, but honestly? The fact that we had this problem while following the recipe exactly makes me think it is not a great recipe for a party, especially if you're going to be baking them during or right before the party. I know I would have completely flipped out if this happened while I was expecting to use them in a more formal setting than Sunday dinner with my family!

That said, they were really tasty and lived up to my expectations of tasting like a shortbread hamantaschen. They were especially good right out of the oven, and the ones that didn't flatten out were a lot sturdier and didn't crumble in your hands. So if you're looking for a fun experiment or just feel really passionately about Victorian (or Edwardian) tea cookies, give it a shot! But be prepared for potential disaster.


  1. I'm loving your blog! Food and dolls = win!!

    1. Thanks! It's always nice to hear that people are enjoying (and reading) what I'm posting! :D