Monday, November 23, 2009

‘Lil Bites of Heaven

It’s turkey week! Is everyone going bonkers?

Me? Not so much. My apartment’s teeny-tiny, so my mom handles the brunt of the work each and every year, and quite capably I might add. There’s always a gourmet turkey (my favorite was the year she made a Wolfgang Puck turkey and said all the brining ingredients cost more than the turkey); the steadfast standbys; and then a couple exciting new neighbors. Sometimes I bring side dishes to this shindig (Daniel Humm’s Fingerling Potatoes with Dried Figs and Thyme was a huge hit last year); other times I bake cookies.

Tomorrow, I’m planning on making mashed turnips, along with Food and Wine’s creamed spinach with parsnips, and, if I’m feeling lucky, a portabello gravy.

But I get ahead of myself. (Be on the lookout for a post-Thanksgiving wrap-up, as well as a report on Eleven Madison Park, where I was lucky enough to dine this past Saturday.) In my last entry, I promised you cookies. Festive, holiday cookies that for many, many years, got the job done until Tavis’s Ricotta Cookies usurped them. And some days? Well some days, I get a confused feeling deep in my tummy and think maybe I jumped the gun when I pronounced Tavis’s Ricotta Cookies to be better than this gem.

Because there is only one ‘Lil Bite of Heaven.

In truth, the cookie of which I speak is the “Sandbakelse,” a Scandinavian tart-shaped cookie, and it’s been knocking socks off for years, pilgrim. But let’s face it: who can pronounce “Sandbakelse”? And number two, who wants to? A ‘Lil Bite of Heaven’ is wayyyy more accurate.

I found this particular Sandbakelse recipe in one of Martha Stewart’s old Holiday Special magazines (the one where she made an igloo cake out of marzipan). I follow the recipe pretty accurately, except I prefer to fill the tart with warmed apricot-almond jam, instead of the room-temperature, red currant jelly she calls for (I also like a pecan filling, a recipe for another day): I melt apricot jam over the stove to get it nice and soft, and then add a few drops of almond extract to give it the most wonderful, tantalizing taste. But experiment! Choose your own favorite! Add a sweet potato puree! Go crazy! The real reason these little tarts are so delicious is the hint of cardamom: an intense, and exotic, (and expensive—the last bottle I picked up was around $11) spice. No one can quite place it, but everyone tastes something. And then hounds me year after year to make these treashahs again.

‘Lil Bites of Heaven
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Sandbakelse recipe
Makes about 5 dozen

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter as many mini-muffin tins as you’ve got (you’ll need them all)! In a large bowl, beat ½ pound cold, unsalted butter and 1 cup granulated sugar for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Beat in 1 large egg until smooth. Add 3 cups all-purpose flour (gradually), ¾ teaspoon cardamom, and a pinch of salt: beat until combined.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls; press them into the buttered mini-muffin tins (go halfway up the tin; if the cookie is too deep, the proportions will be off and you’ll just get a mouthful of jam in your ‘lil bite); make a small well with your finger. Do not add the jam yet.

Bake until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes, rotating trays halfway through. Place cookies on a wire rack to cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Fill each well with the jam/filling of your choice. (See above for my notes on apricot almond jam, my preference.)
I hope these are as successful for your Holidays as they have been for mine.

Now what are you waiting for? Back to the turkey and stuffing!


  1. Those cookies have perfect fall colors!

  2. these are beautiful and delicious looking! can't wait to make them :)

  3. OMG These look SO GOOD! Happy Thanksgiving!! =)

  4. These look heavenly! Like something EMP would be presenting :-)