Sometimes things get to your head. Sometimes you mean for something to turn out one way, but thanks to some tiny, sudden instinct, or some recent experience with another different but wonderful foodstuff, elements which you never meant to blend together end up doing just that. Sometimes, that’s ok. Like this cookie.
I never was a fan of fluffy, cakey cookies. I am a hard advocate of pin-thin, dense, chewy cookies, all nicely ridged round the edges and squidgy, half-baked in the middle. You could press the middle and your finger mark will stay. That chewy and squidgy (I love the word squidgy). I felt like doing something over the Easter weekend, but the entire of Saturday and Sunday was a blur, a hectic mess. A jumble of egg hunts, a scramble to feed my sisters and her friends breakfast (pancakes, if you’re wondering), a desperate longing for time cooped up reading in my room. Monday morning called for something dedicated to this holy occasion, but nothing too orthodox. Without much time on my hands, I resorted to cookies, a category I haven’t played with in what feels like forever. I had a gorgeous slice of sponge cake from (goodness knows) somewhere over the Easter weekend, and I guess that theme of airy lightness fed into this experiment. But I’m grateful for the mistake– I think the fluffy nature of this cookie (hence the ‘cake’ before the ‘cookie’ in the title) allows the more stuff to be, well, stuffed into each little cookie. Ah, the stuff. Good stuff. I’ll talk about the stuff.
Specifically, soft nougat+dried fruit+chocolate. I personally prefer hard nougat, the sort which you’re afraid might make your teeth crack, but it’s the soft ones which work best in this buttery, cinnamony batter, for after the oven action, what you get are gorgeous, chewy, caramelised nougat residue, gooey and melted, with little bits of crushed almond and peanut strewn throughout (depends on the sort of nougat you’re using of course, I think pistachio would be lovely here). The lemon icing on top of the cooled cookies are quite literally the icing on the cake (cookie). The ‘hot cross’ theme limits just how much icing you can smother on these guys, but go ahead and dip one side of the cookie into the icing if you wish, for better indulgence.
Stuffed Hot Cross Cake Cookies (makes 15-18, adapted from here)
For the cookies:
240g all-purpose flour
100g light brown sugar (or white, if you don’t have any brown on hand)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon each of baking powder and cinnamon
quarter teaspoon nutmeg
100g dried fruit/sultanas/raisins
50g each of soft nougat (chopped into small pieces), and dark chocolate chunks or chips
large pinch salt (half a teaspoon)
For the icing:
120g icing sugar and the juice from half a lemon
Preheat your oven to 180C and grease a couple of baking pans. In a large bowl and with an electrical or normal whisk and bicep action, beat together the softened butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and whisk to incorporate. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
Chop your nougat into small pieces and coat them with a teaspoon of the flour mix, so the edges stop sticking to each other. Add the rest of the flour mix to the butter and sugar mix, then stir with a wooden spoon to form a soft dough. Add the chocolate, dried fruit/sultanas/raisins, then the nougat. Mix everything to combine.
Dollop batter onto the pans using two tablespoons or with your hands. Each cookie should be the size of a ping pong ball. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven. You may have to do this in batches. While the cookies are baking, make the icing by mixing together (I use a mini whisk or a little fork) the powdered sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice. You might not need all the juice from half a lemon. Put the icing into a small ziploc bag and set aside. Once the cookies are done, leave to rest in the pan on cooling racks for at least 15 minutes. Snip off the end of the ziploc bag and ice the cookies, drawing a cross on each one. Reinforce the ‘stripes’ by piping over the crosses again.