I don’t really remember ever baking Christmas cookies at home. In fact, the first memory I have of Christmas cookies was a Santa-shaped cookie I received at my preschool, which I brought home for dessert only to find it after dinner with a bite already taken out of it. I’m still not sure who the culprit is, but…I guess I’ve gotten over it by now. For the most part.
Anyway, since I got married, I’ve gotten into a tradition of baking Christmas cookies every year to give to friends. There’s something wonderfully cozy about baking up huge batches of festive cookies and packaging them up in charming little tins, even if it takes until 4 in the morning to complete. In the end, the effort is always worth it, in no small part because of these Banbury Tarts.
This recipe was originally published in the LA Times two years ago as one of the 10 cookies to win its first holiday cookie bake off. Since then, I’ve made them every year as part of my annual Christmas cookie basket. Personally, I consider them one of the best things in there. They’re rich and buttery, with a little hint of fruit to brighten up my usual cookie assortment.
The original recipe doesn’t call for any salt, but I like to add a small pinch to the dough to balance out the sugar and butter. Otherwise, this recipe is completely perfect as is. I think pretty much any jam or jelly would work in these, but my preference is for something with a little tiny bit of tartness–raspberry is delicious, apricot is lovely, blackberry is decadent. No matter the filling, these little jewel cookies are a tradition I see myself keeping for a long time.
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 4 cups flour
- Jelly or jam in one or two flavors (I like apricot and raspberry)
- 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy, and then beat in the egg yolks, vanilla, and salt. Add flour 1 cup at a time, beating in after each addition, until all flour has been incorporated and dough is smooth and stiff.
- 2. Form dough into approximately 60 small balls, rolling each ball between your hands to make it a smooth sphere. Press down in the center of each ball with your finger and fill with a small spoonful of jelly. Try not to overfill, or the jelly will leak around the sides of the cookie.
- 3. Place cookies on a baking sheet, spaced about 2 inches apart, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack until filling is completely cool.