The official Soviet repertoire of confectionaries was rather limited. If you wanted to treat yourself to some sweet goods from a bakery, a canteen or a food shop you were faced with the line up of the usual suspects: a puff pastry cone with cream, a tartlet with jam and egg white cream spiked with crazy food colorants, a chocolate ‘potato’ cake (a simplified version of the Italian chocolate salami) and bright pink glazed cookie sandwich with plum jam. The cookie sandwich was my number one choice no matter what! It must have been its shiny pink coating that never failed to attract me. Truth be told, the cookie did not taste that good, but I hardly new any better at that age. Luckily today I have the chance to turn the mundane Soviet creation into something more flavourful and appealing. I love cooking with plums and have recently discovered that a combination of tarragon and rose water goes incredibly well with the tart sweetness of the plums. So voila, finally my Soviet childhood delight acquires a more sophisticated flavour profile!
Makes 20-24 cookie sandwiches
For the plum jam
1kg of ripe but tart plums
300ml cold water
Large bunch of tarragon
1kg of jam sugar
For the cookies
115g of butter, softened
115g of caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
240g of plain flour
6 tbsp cornflour
½ tsp salt
For the icing
100g of plum jam
225g of icing sugar
2-3 tbsp of boiling water
1 tsp of rose water
To make the jam:
Stone and cut the plums into quarters. Place in a large pot with 300ml of water and a large bunch of tarragon, bring to boil and then simmer on medium heat for 20-30 minutes or until the plums are soft and supple, and the liquid has reduced.
Add the sugar and mix thoroughly until all the crystals have dissolved and the mix is no longer grainy. Boil on high heat for 5-8 minutes.
You can test the jam for its setting point by placing a drop on a chilled saucer. Let the jam cool a little and them push with your finger. If the jam wrinkles then its ready to be put into a jar. If it does not, then bring back to boil and cook for 2-3 minutes longer. Test again.
Discard the tarragon before placing the jam into a sterilised 1l jar. This recipe yield more jam than you will need for the cookies, but that’s always good news, right?
To make the cookies
Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375F and line two baking sheets with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar together using an electric hand held mix or stand mixer until pale and fluffy.
Next, mix in the egg and vanilla extract until well incorporated.
Add the flour, cornflour and salt and mix on a low-medium speed. The mixture will look very dry but keep on whisking until bigger clumps are formed and you can easily bring the dough together with your hands.
Roll the dough between two sheets of baking paper until 4mm thick and chill on a baking tray in the fridge for 20 mins to firm up.
Once chilled and firm, remove the dough from the fridge and, using a 48mm cookie cutter, cut the rounds and place onto the lined baking sheets.
Bake for 8 mins until the dough is cooked but not coloured. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely on the baking tray.
To make the icing
Pass the jam through a sieve, discarding any of the pulp that won’t go through into the bowl. Mix in the icing sugar until you have a pink ball of dough (it may seem like it won’t come together properly but it will!) then gradually stir in the water and rose water until the mixture is the consistency of thick cream.
To assemble your cookies:
Cover one cookie disk a heaped tsp of icing and let it set for a few minutes. Place a heaped tsp of jam onto the other cookie disk and cover with the iced cookie.
Enjoy as part of a Russian tea party spread or just eat them standing in the kitchen with a glass of milk.