This is the time of year when strawberries are reappearing at the market and they look so beautiful; red, ripe and juicy. They never fail to get my creative juices flowing. The native berries that grow here where I live have not ripened yet (usually not till the end of May), so until those are available I will use the California-grown berries available at the market.
However, I have found from past experience that baking with strawberries does not produce a true, vivid strawberry flavor. They are so much more enjoyable in their natural state, luscious and juicy with just a little sugar on them. So for baking I have been exploring ways to get a true strawberry flavor. I think I have found the answer, and it happened quite by accident. One morning I was eating Special K cereal with Red Berries and was struck by how strong the berry flavor was. These freeze-dried strawberries had the color and flavor I have been looking for. So I searched the dried fruits section of the supermarket and there I found bags of freeze-dried strawberries.
Bingo! I was on to something. Reasoning that if I could crush or pulverize those freeze dried berries and mix the powder into the dough, I could get the strong flavor I wanted. I love to experiment, so I was excited to give this a try. The results, I’m happy to tell you, were quite good. Using a recipe I had for a basic sugar cookie that also uses some cream cheese, and adding the strawberry powder to the dough, I got a tender cookie with a pretty pink color and real strawberry flavor. They are just great on their own, but you know what? You can also mix this strawberry powder into cream cheese frosting and make sandwich cookies for a double-whammy of strawberry goodness. (Notice that I’m not mentioning calories here!) Ok, Ok, let’s be reasonable. Let’s enjoy these cookies with a dish of strawberry ice cream instead!!!
VERY BERRY STRAWBERRY COOKIES
Yield: Makes about 4 1/2 dozen 2″ cookies, or 27 sandwich cookies
For the Cookies:
- 1 cup ( 2 sticks) butter
- 1/2 cup ( 4 ounces) cream cheese at room temperature. Reduced fat version is OK.
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 cup strawberry powder
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 large egg
- 3 cups flour, I used half white whole wheat flour;
For the Filling:
- 1/2 cup cream cheese (4-ounces)
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 Tablespoons strawberry powder
- 1 Tablespoon strawberry jam
- milk or cream as needed for spreading consistency
To make the cookies:
1. Preheat oven to 375*F. Lightly grease two baking sheets or line with parchment paper.
2. Begin by crushing the dry strawberries. I used a mortar and pestle and was able to get a fine powder with little or no lumps. If you have difficulty getting it smooth, you can always sift the powder to remove any lumps. Measure 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons if making the filling.
3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese, salt and baking powder, strawberry powder and sugars.
4. Once the mixture is nice and light and fluffy, beat in the egg and then mix in the flour.
5. Scoop by the tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each cookie into a 2″ circle with the bottom of a glass dipped into sugar.
Bake for 14 – 16 minutes, until barely golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Makes about 54 cookies.
To make the filling:
1. Beat the cream cheese until soft and fluffy. Add the strawberry jam, and blend into the cream cheese. Add the sugar and strawberry powder gradually along with small amounts of milk or cream to achieve a spreading consistency.
2. Generously frost the bottom side of one cookie and top with another to make a tasty sandwich. Makes about 27 sandwich cookies.
SOURCE; a Carolyn Original based on a modified recipe for sugar cookies from Taste of Home