Saturday, December 8, 2007

Jam drops

Christmas is a time of year that always has me waxing lyrical about the great time that I had at home growing up. (Perhaps I am getting old and pining for the good ol' days??) Making food that was an ever-present factor in my childhood always brings me feelings of comfort and happiness, as a number of my previous posts attest.

In the ongoing vein of old fashioned favourites, I made jam drops (known in the US as thumbprints) for work this week. Basically, these are just buttery cookies with a dob of jam in the middle to add sweetness and make the biscuits look attractive. You can use whatever jam or other spread (eg nutella, lemon curd) takes your fancy.

When my brother and I were young, Mum often made jam drops for the household biscuit tin. We always believed that she liked doing it, and it was only much later that she revealed that her motivation was that it was cheaper to make your own biscuits than to buy them. Regardless of her reasons, we benefitted from her efforts, because I believe that home-made biscuits and cakes taste miles better than the majority of supermarket offerings, and you can avoid all of the nasty preservatives that are essential to promote the shelf life of store-bought biscuits. I also benefitted because I have now been bitten by the baking bug, and I get a special kick out of making things that bring back memories of my childhood. Don't get me wrong - as with life in general, things were never perfect, but they were pretty good, and I have mostly very fond memories of those early years at home.

There are oodles of recipes for jam drops out there, and I am sure that they are all equally good. I don't have Mum's recipe for jam drops, so I used the one from Donna Hay's Modern Classics Book 2. It is as follows:

180g softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups sifted plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
your favourite jam

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line two cookie sheets with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, then add the egg and beat well. Add the flour and baking powder and combine until you have a workable biscuit dough that you can roll into balls. (If it is too sticky to work with, just add more flour a little at a time.)

Roll generous teaspoonfuls of the dough into balls between the palms of your hands and place on the baking sheets, spaced so that the biscuits have a little room to spread as they bake. (You can see from the photo that mine were sometimes a little close. If yours are too, that's OK - they still taste the same, but you will need to slice them apart while still warm from the oven, and the shapes will not be as regular.) Stick your thumb in each ball to make a small well (not too large, otherwise your jam will run out!). Place a small dob of jam in each well, just enough to fill it. Don't overfill the biscuits, otherwise the jam will run everywhere during baking.

Bake for 10 minutes or until golden (mine took a little longer than 10 minutes). Cool the bsicuits on the trays for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. The biscuits will be very soft when they first come out of the oven, but harden slightly as they cool.

These biscuits are great for children because they can easily help to make them, and they are simple and sweet in flavour. I used to love making the wells in the jam drops and filling them with jam, although my overenthusiasm with the size of the holes and the amount of jam often landed me in trouble.

Enjoy! It really is true - the simple things are often the best.

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