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Author Notes: These cookies are the perfect way to use soft, flavorful medjool dates. The dough has the slight tang of good rugelach, and the sweetness of the date filling is offset by a fair measure of spice and some lemon juice and zest. They're really best just out of the oven, but the date paste keeps them moist well into the week. —Rivka
Makes about 2 dozen
Cream Cheese Cookie Dough
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened but still cool, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (packed) dried Medjool dates
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- zest from half a lemon
- 1 pinch cinnamon
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix together flour, sugar and salt at low speed. With the mixer on low, add butter one piece at a time. Add cream cheese and vanilla and beat until until mixture just forms a dough.
- Knead the dough by hand in the bowl for 2 or 3 turns to form a large, cohesive mass. Turn the dough out onto the counter-top; divide it in half, pat each half into a 4-inch disk, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate until they begin to firm up, about 20-30 minutes.
- Roll out 1 dough disk to a rectangle with an even 1/8-inch thickness between 2 large sheets of parchment or wax paper. Slide the rolled dough, still on parchment, onto a baking sheet and slip into the refrigerator for 10 minutes, until firm. Repeat with the second disk.
- To make the date paste, mash (either by hand or with a fork) dates with the other ingredients until no large chunks remain. I like mine pretty smooth, but it's a matter of preference. Taste and adjust for sweetness, tartness, and spice — every batch of Medjools is different.
- Remove half the dough from refrigerator. With a long edge of the dough rectangle facing you, leaving about 1/2 an inch of space at the far long edge, spread half the date paste over the dough. Coax the close edge of the dough up, using the parchment paper to guide you; slowly and carefully roll the dough along the short edge to make a roll the length of the long edge. The half-inch of space you left will be useful for sealing the roll, so that no date paste leaks out. Repeat with second half of dough.
- Stick the finished roll in the freezer for 45 minutes, or in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, until completely firm.
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position; heat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove dough from fridge/freezer. Using a very sharp knife, slice 1/4-inch slices off the roll. Place on a baking sheet 1 inch apart. Repeat with second half of dough.
- Bake cookies until golden brown at the edges but still soft in the center, 10-12 minutes. Cool completely before storing. Cookies keep, sealed, for 1 week (if you can keep 'em around that long.)
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Holiday Cookie