Having once obsessed over buildings, I gradually found my creative interests drifting toward food. There were trips abroad that helped to open my eyes and appreciate food as a means for bringing people together, for preserving traditions, for respecting the earth and for triggering nostalgia. Once I started to cook and bake for myself, I came to see a recipe as a form of communication between generations, a way to honor those who came before us and inspired us. This was the premise for the story “Nana’s Cookies,” in the Winter Issue of TABLE Magazine.
Closer to a pastry or strudel, I was honored to bake these cookies and style the image that would bring the author’s story to life.
Want to make these cookies yourself? Try the recipe!
Ingredients and Preparation
1. For the filling: if you’re making the raisin/walnut filling, using a small bowl, soak 2¼ cups of raisins in apple or cranberry juice (enough to submerge the raisins). If you’re making the nut-free filling, soak 4¼ cups of raisins in apple or cranberry juice. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.
2. For the dough: soften 1 stick butter in microwave or until room temperature. Place softened butter in large mixing bowl (if you’re using a stand mixer use the bowl that fits the mixer). Cut butter into chunks. Add ¼ cup white sugar. Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in ½ cup frozen orange juice concentrate (about 1/3 of a 12 oz. can) and 2 eggs. Dots of butter will remain.
3. In separate small bowl sift or use fork to mix 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder and a pinch of salt.
4. Using the dough hook on a mixer, or a wooden spoon if by hand, add flour mixture to wet mixture in two parts. Scrape down sides of bowl as you work. If too sticky add a little more flour. When dough forms, sprinkle flour on hands and shape into a ball. Cover in plastic wrap and flatten slightly to make a disk. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight is fine).
5. When the raisins have soaked for at least 2 hours and the dough has been refrigerated for at least 2 hours, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (with butter) 1 large or 2 medium cookie sheets. You can also use parchment paper. Set aside.
Remove the raisins from the refrigerator and drain any excess liquid. If you’re making the raisin/nut filling, add 2 cups chopped walnuts to 2¼ cups drained raisins. To both versions add: ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ¾ cup apricot jam, and 2 tablespoons white sugar. Mix gently with a spoon.
6. Remove dough from refrigerator and slice into 4 equal pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 piece at a time to form a rectangle of around 9 x 12 (lightly cover the remaining pieces with plastic wrap or a slightly damp, clean towel). You can also do this by hand by pressing with your palm. Gently turn dough over once during this process, to keep flour on both sides.
7. Fill center of dough with mixture (spread with back of spoon across width). Leave 1 inch border on left and right, and around 2½ to 3 inches on top and bottom. Fold the top side over the filling (about halfway), then the bottom side over the dough (as if letter-sized paper that needs to fit into a letter-sized envelope). Fold left end over just to close, and do the same for right. Use water on your fingertips to seal them. Finished dough will measure around 3 x 10 inches. Continue same for the other three loaves. Add more flour to work surface as needed.
8. Place filled dough with the seam-side down on greased baking sheet(s). Using a dull knife, make small slits across the top for filling to bubble out when baking. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water). Use a pastry brush or your fingers.
9. Bake for around 35 – 40 minutes or until golden. If using 2 trays, alternate trays on the baking racks halfway through bake time.
10. Let cool. Wrap whole in foil and freeze any cookies you are not using right away. Slice when ready to serve – around 10 slices per log (around 1 inch each). Makes 40 cookies.