Raspberry cheesecake cookies
When I was a kid, I thought the height of sophistication (and deliciousness) was epitomized by a snack that I found on the side of a box of Ritz crackers. Because seriously guys, crackers topped with cream cheese and raspberry jam are amazing.
Since then I’ve switched out Ritz for graham crackers, but I still think that this is one of the best things ever.
But then I realized that I could make them with cookies instead of crackers and cream cheese frosting instead of cream cheese. Whoa. Being a grown-up is AWESOME.
The first version of these cookies were along the lines of a thumbprint, but the cookies were way soft–delicious, but not right for my graham cracker replacement. Enter America’s Test Kitchen to the rescue, as usual.
How to make crispy cookies
With the guidance of America’s Test Kitchen, my trusty McGee, and the collective wisdom of the Internet (that might be an oxymoron), I made a couple of changes for a cookie with the right snap.
1. Use white sugar.
The first time around, I used honey to sweeten the cookies. Mostly because I didn’t have any white sugar and I was too lazy to go to the grocery store. Is that a theme in my life? Maybe. Not the point.
Both honey and molasses (present in brown sugar) are more hygroscopic than white sugar. Basically, they absorb a bunch of water from the air. You know how salt gets all clumpy when it sits out, especially when it’s super humid? It’s the same deal–salt is also pretty hygroscopic, so it drinks in all that moisture and all of the crystals stick together.
In a cookie, using a sweetener like honey or brown sugar means that the finished cookie absorbs moisture from the air. This can be great, keeping cakes moist longer and the like, but in this case it meant a soft cookie. So white sugar it is. (With some honey too for extra flavor.)
2. Add some milk.
Milk thins the cookie dough, making it more flat and crispy versus thick and cakey. Think about crepes and pancakes. Crepe batter is very runny, and it cooks into a thin, delicate sheet. Because pancake batter is so much more viscous, it doesn’t spread as quickly and the proteins and starch solidify while it’s still in a more compact, thicker shape.
Cookies act similarly. When the dough contains more water, it will spread more during baking before it hardens up, giving you a thin, crispy cookie.
Of course, there are lots of other things you could mess with too. The possibilities are endless! So we all know that I really want to start a better-controlled experiment where I change things one at a time and document the results… But that’s going to have to wait for another day because right now we need to make these cookies.
Raspberry cheesecake cookies
I knew I wanted these cookies to involve a graham cracker base, raspberry jam, and cream cheese frosting, but I wasn’t sure how to put it all together. Luckily I found Eat Live Run’s Soft White Filled Cookies, which were the perfect solution–the jam hides between two cookies for a raspberry surprise when you bite into it!
Yield: about 3 dozen cookies
For the cookies:
7 half-sheets graham crackers (~¾ c.)
¾ c. flour
½ c. white sugar
1 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
½ c. butter, melted and cooled
¼ c. honey
1 egg (plus another for an egg wash, optional)
2 T. milk
For the frosting:
4 oz. cream cheese (½ block), room temperature
¼ c. butter, room temperature
3 c. powdered sugar
Break the graham crackers into fine crumbs using a food processor or a sealed bag and a rolling pin if you need to relieve some stress. Mix the crumbs in a large bowl with the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat together the butter, honey, egg, and milk in a separate bowl. Gently mix wet ingredients into dry. The dough will be very wet–this is good. Stick it in the fridge for about an hour (or the freezer for half an hour if you’re impatient) so that it firms up enough to work with.
Roll the dough into small balls about the size of a hazelnut or a large marble. Working on a well-oiled baking sheet or Silpat (I love living with my roommate’s well-equipped kitchen), press the balls into flat disks with your fingers. Place about 1/4 t. raspberry jam in the center of half of the disks, and carefully place another disk on top of it. Seal the cookies by pressing around the edge.
If you want a beautifully shiny finish, beat an egg in a small bowl and brush a small amount of egg on top of each cookie. Bake at 350 degrees F for 18-20 minutes, until the tops are browned and slightly firm to the touch.
**Tips for filling the cookies:
- Keep a bowl of vegetable oil nearby and dip your fingers in it if the dough starts to stick
- Press from the center outward, working in a circle
- Before pressing the tops, add a little extra oil to the Silpat or baking sheet so that you can pick them up easily
- Some of them will be too thin and will break when you try to pick them up–just re-roll and try again!
While the cookies bake, make the frosting. Beat the butter and cream cheese together well (I used a fork and my formidable arm muscles). Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing until smooth. If you want a thicker frosting, add up to another cup of powdered sugar. If you want a thinner frosting, add 1-2 teaspoons of milk.
Once the cookies are cool, add a dollop of frosting to the top of each. I used a spoon for the cookie in these pictures and a ziploc-with-a-corner-cut piping bag for the ones I took to a party.