Friday, June 28, 2013

thyme + black cherry jam drop cookies {gluten-free}

thyme + black cherry jam drop cookies

My friend called me vintage the other day. Me vintage? I'm only a few years over 30, does that really make me vintage? Okay so let's put this into context... we were standing out the front of my daughters classroom at pick-up time discussing the fact that I'm thinking of upgrading my old phone, getting with the times and finally jumping on the smart phone bandwagon (I know I'm years late). See my phone is not fancy, not even close. It's not so old that it can't take photos, but the quality is so terrible that I've only taken a handful in the 6 or so years since I bought it, and there's no touch screen or anything else to make it even remotely flash. My fellow kiwi friend laughed when I told him there was no point in sending a photo to my phone as the screen is so ridiculously small I can't even make out faces! 'Emm, that's why all us kiwi's move over to Australia! So we can afford things like flash phones'. Hrmm, it seems I didn't get that memo.

So while I may be thinking about trading in my dinosaur phone, this whole 'vintage' theme pretty much sums up my life and our little family. We prefer to buy secondhand over new and tend to make do with what we have instead of spending a fortune on things we don't really need. One of the kid's favourite things to do is go op-shopping and our house is quite obviously a mish-mash of hand-me-downs and bargain finds. I'm cool with that.

thyme thyme thyme

This way of thinking carries through into my kitchen too, where you see me making most things by hand. Call me old fashion, vintage if you will, but I really don't feel one needs to spend thousands of dollars on a piece of kitchen equipment when our own two hands and a few other simple (and cheap) tools of the trade such as pots, pans, knives and wooden spoons can be used to create all sorts of wonderful foods. Don't get me wrong I would love to own a Thermomix and Vitamix (if I ever win lotto!) and I've long dreamt of owning an off-white KitchenAid but it saddens me a little to hear people say that they can't believe I make do without all of these things. 'How are you writing a cookbook when you don't own a Thermomix?!' My answer is simple... how did people get by in past generations without all these modern gadgets?They just did.

Little tricks like softening your butter in a sink full of hot water, instead of using a microwave. Learning to be confident when using your chef's knife to cut vegetables finely and putting your back into it when whisking egg whites by hand are all things that I've grown up learning and this is part of the love of cooking for me. I love getting my hands into it and it's my hands that are used to judge whether or not the water is too hot to be added to the yeast when making pizza dough, then used to knead the dough. More often than not I ditch the wooden spoon when making cookies and mix the dough by hand. A wooden spoon can never tell you how much more you need to mix or whether or not you need to add a little more liquid to the dough. It is only your hands that can do that, so for me, they are my most essential tool of the trade. And I bet you any fellow chef out there would say the same.

prep creaming butter

When I did my training we were taught to do everything by hand. I cursed the logic of this at the time, especially when making mushroom duxelles. I vividly remember begging our tutor to let us use the food processor after more than 10 minutes of chopping those damn mushrooms, only to be put back in my place by him telling us we had to all learn to make everything by hand if we were to learn the proper way of doing things, 'sure when you are in the industry you go right ahead and use that processor, but I want you all to know how it is meant to look and feel by hand first'. It was for our own good, I see that now. I quickly taught myself how to do things like whisking meringue using both arms, alternating when one got tired. And just got on with it.

During the many years I worked as a chef my hands were battered and bruised, or to be more precise battered and burnt. They were a sight for sore eyes and some days I was so embarrassed to show my hands and forearms in public, in case someone thought I was self-harming. The lines of burns started just below my thumbs and if I was having a really bad week and not on talking terms with the oven, they would extend right the way up to near my elbow. Not the nicest sight I know, but it just goes to show how much those hands were used in daily life.

jam drops jam drops

When I was thinking about which recipe to include here that demonstrates using your own two hands to make something magical, it was jam drops, also known as thumb-print cookies which I just knew I had to share. Who doesn't love a good jam drop? Crisp shortbread-esk cookie topped with a puddle of jelly-like jam, they are one of my favourite cookies. I've added in some freshly dried thyme to give a lovely talking point to these cookies and when looking for jam at the shops it was a black cherry jam that called out to me. So thyme and black cherry jam drops it is...

thyme + black cherry jam drop cookies thyme + black cherry jam drop cookies
thyme + black cherry jam drop cookies

thyme + black cherry jam drop cookies
The week before I'd trimmed my overgrown thyme plant back and hung up the leaves to dry. One lazy Sunday afternoon the kids and I stripped all the (now dried) leaves off the stalks, giving us a full jar full of thyme to use through winter on those days when it's too rainy outside to venture out to the garden for fresh. I use St. Dalfour black cherry jam, found at your local supermarket. However strawberry, raspberry or blackberry jam would also work great here, or use marmalade for another twist. I use Billington's golden unrefined cane sugar found at some health-food stores, or you can use regular raw sugar (blended) or caster sugar if preferred. You can find fine brown rice flour at Coles supermarkets.
makes 16-17 cookies

125g butter, softened
1/4 cup (50g) blended unrefined raw sugar*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 teaspoons finely chopped thyme leaves (fresh is best, but my freshly dried thyme worked well too)

3/4 cup (105g) fine brown rice flour
1/2 cup (50g) organic cornflour (starch)
1/2 teaspoon gluten free baking powder
1/3 cup (35g) almond meal (ground almonds)
approx 1/4 cup (60ml) black cherry jam


Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Grease 1 large baking tray and line with baking paper if desired.
Cream butter, sugar, vanilla and thyme in a medium bowl using an electric beater or wooden spoon. Sieve over brown rice flour, cornflour and baking powder, add almond meal and mix well to form a soft dough. I tend to get rid of the wooden spoon and just get my hands in there after the initial mix, it's so much easier!

Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into balls, place onto the tray and flatten just a little. Flour your thumb and press into each dough ball to create a little indent. Fill each with a little jam and bake for 10-12 minutes or until just a little bit golden around the edges and the jam bubbling up and all over the show. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on the tray. Best eaten on the day of baking, however they will store airtight overnight. Just note though that they will soften the following day, they are still edible but not anywhere near as delicious as freshly baked.

* I use golden unrefined raw sugar and blitz it in my blender until fine, making it easier to cream with the butter.

This post was also posted over on Kidspot where I've been posting as part of their Top 5 Food & Wellbeing blog Voices of 2013.



26 comments:

  1. Yummy Emma, I love this post. Great recipe too. Your jam drops look delicious. Op shopping is a favourite past time here too. I need to hold back these days, though. We have a houseful of stuff and are in our 50s, so have to draw the line unless we absolutely LURV something!

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    1. Haha, it's getting a little like that in our house too! :-) xx

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  2. Thank you so much for posting this on a Friday.. because if you posted this on a monday and I had to wait a whole 5 days before I could make this myself, I would have gone crazy. I can't wait to have a go and whipping these up on the weekend!

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    1. Haha, I'll keep that in mind for future posts :-) Enjoy!

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  3. I feel exactly the same way about second hand things, and not having the latest, most flashy gear. I have both a kitchenaid and a food processor, but honestly, I would so rather whip something or chop something by hand than have to wash the damn things up. So I guess I'm more lazy than anything!

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    1. I do own a food processor too, but I'm with you.. more often than not it's just quicker and easier to do it by hand so you don't have to wash up anything extra after!

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  4. My mom always alternates between declaring my hands as those of a baker and those of an old lady, due to their roughness and stove marks. Personally, I've grown attached to their scruffy look and think of it as something to represent my growth and (sometimes literally) burning passion in the kitchen.

    Your photos are stunning as usual, and scrolling through them, I feel as though my hands are working alongside yours. If this is what vintage looks like, then bring on the thrift stores and DIY projects, because I'm all for it.

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    1. Such kind words love! Thank you xx
      p.s My hands are anything but pretty and something I've often hid. But they really are amazing things eh!

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  5. Delicious and stunning. If it makes you feel any better, I rarely use my KitchenAid stand mixer. But I love the crap outta my hand mixer. And the Vitamix? It doesn't get used as often as something with that kinda price tag should.

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    1. Yeah it's funny, even when I worked in a kitchen that had a KitchenAid I still made pizza dough and pastry by hand. I do however use my blender nearly everyday, it's just a cheapy and nothing like a Vitamix but it does the job. xx

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  6. I love your post.It reminds me so much of my Mom and how I watched her making countless Apple strudels. She would stretch the dough with her hands and even incorporate her arms to achieve that extra-special, transparent, flaky dough. I would marvel in her ability and now try to pass on the same tradition to my own kids. I think the energy we create with our hands is far more special than what a machine can produce and it is a sign that something is prepared with love.These cookies look lovely and I especially like the flavour-combo of thyme and black cherries. I'll have to wait for a nice chilly day when I can whip up a batch for my dear ones!

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing this story Aleksandra, what a beautiful image it creates xx

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  7. I remember working as a chef in London during my early 20's. We used to compete, with other chefs, who had more scars in the arms...oh my God! The worst where the oven ones!
    Do you think I could replace the butter for coconut oil? Maybe no?
    Lovely post and very yummy pictures!xx

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    1. Oh yes those oven ones hurt! I haven't tried these with coconut oil as we are fine with butter these days. It may work (in solid form) but you'd have to just experiment xx

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  8. I love love love thyme in sweet recipes - it lifts the flavour and can make them so much more interesting. I also love how homemade these look - in a good way - simple, delicious and made with love.

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    1. Haha, yes I love un-fussy homemade looking food and find myself adding thyme to sweet things more often than savoury! xx

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  9. I love the thyme in these cookies.
    Such a nice surprise.

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    1. It does add something really lovely to these :-)

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  10. Lovely recipe and flavour combo! I have to admit I love feeling and making food by hand, it's so much more satisfying. But with two hand surgeries coming up, I own up to having most of the latest, greatest gadgets :)

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    1. Ah yes, very true love! My RSI was real bad when I worked, so maybe I should have used the gadgets more ;-) Thankfully it's not too bad anymore. Good luck with your surgery xx

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  11. I love getting my hands in food the same way I love getting my fingers in the soil when I garden. I am vintage and the gadgets are great for arthritis and RSI so I'm odd one out for that in this post. :)

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  12. I like to keep things simple in the kitchen as well. The cookies look delicious!

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  13. I totally agree about getting stuck in with your hands and a mixing bowl. I love that feeling of the ingredients between my fingers and really knowing what I'm making. These cookies sounds so delicious too - such a lovely combination of flavours.

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  14. Hi Emma,
    love vintage xx I am a bit the same too, especially with the ancient phone. My friend and I were talking about how to keep kids away from your phone and I said that I just don't make mine look that interesting to play with. She truthfully responded, "it's not"!!! ha ha. I made these today and didn't have cornflour so I used spelt flour and tasted very yummy but were very crumbly but I'm guessing that cornflour is a bit of a binder. And to be honest I'm overseas this year so don't have a blender or scales, so my measurements could have been out too causing the crumble ;) Thanks for another yummy recipe.
    Julie

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  15. Oh these are gorgeous and I can imagine very tempting freshly baked out of the oven. Perfect to warm up your tummy on these cold winter days. Thyme is a lovely addition :)

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  16. This recipe looks really good. I can't wait it give it a try.

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Thanks so much for stopping by, arohanui xx Emm

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