In a drafty castle, far, far away, during the Days of Yore, it was rumored that Princess Rotilda would devour jars of nutmeg-spiced jellied eels, and eat enormous amounts of sweet, sweet salmon pie, which was all of the rage back then. However, Princess Rotilda’s parents noticed a horrifying side effect: She couldn’t calm the freak down because she was so full of sugar. She bounced on all of the beds, toilet-papered nearby kingdoms, and sent rafts of flaming horse doo doo through the moat that circled their home. So, her parents told the chef to quit putting so much sugar in all of the food—but not to cut down on the protein because Princess Rotilda also liked to lift weights, and she needed to bulk up. The chef tried lots of things that Princess Rotilda just spit out or set on fire. Then, he got the brilliant idea to use natural sugars in the form of dried fruit and currants and maybe mix in a little bit of beef suet and actual beef, and that’s how mincemeat was born—and that’s also how Princess Rotilda won all of her weight-lifting competitions, delivered all of the mail-in ballots single-handedly, and kept the peasants safe from flaming alligators.
In any case, mincemeat does not sound very appetizing—and some may wonder why anyone would want to “swaddle” such a thing in dough and bake it, but mincemeat is the absolute best thing to eat this time of year. When I was a child, Grammy would visit from Florida in December, and she would make these delightful, “swaddled babes” cookies that were filled with mincemeat. She left me some hand-written recipe cards, but not one of them includes this recipe. If Grammy were ever in my shoes, she would do one of two things: 1) Knock on a neighbor’s door and ask if they had this recipe or 2) Visit the local Olive Garden to see if the chef on duty might know this recipe.
Instead, I’ve googled this phrase, which is now a part of my search history: “mincemeat Christmas cookies swaddled babes.” I then clicked “images” and found what I was looking for—sort of. I found a recipe for kolaczki from the website “The Polish Housewife” (Lois Britton). This recipe calls for a delicious-looking apricot and sugar filling, but I decided to buy a couple of jars of mincemeat to use instead.
I followed the recipe for the dough, exactly as it appeared:
–8 ounces of cream cheese
— 1 ½ cups of butter
–3 cups of all-purpose flour
–1/2 tsp salt.
–Cream the butter and cream cheese together in one bowl.
–Mix the flour and salt in another bowl.
–Add the flour mixture to the butter/cream cheese mixture and stir well.
–Refrigerate the dough for one hour or more.
Then, I rolled out the dough and cut it into squares. In the middle, I placed about a teaspoon of mincemeat filling. Next, I folded the corners in, and baked everything at 350 for about 15-18 minutes.
In the oven, the corners want to come undone, which means that the swaddled babes will be exposed to the extreme oven temperatures. Also, the filling will be exposed, which makes for a very awkward and messy cookie jar later on. I tried really hard to make those corners meet—and to seal them, but they were stubborn and wanted to come undone. But I was determined. Halfway through baking, I stuck my hand inside the hot oven and forced those corners back over the middle. The searing mincemeat stuck under my fingernails was worth it. (Please do NOT stick your hands inside the oven. I am an untrained, unprofessional home cook, who still requires adult supervision.) Also, as they’re cooling, you can try to push the corners back, since they’re still pliable—but again, they’re hot. Very hot. If you choose to follow this advice, keep a responsible adult nearby. I’d lend you Nate, but he’s swamped with all of my holiday high jinks at the moment.
The cookie part surrounding the mincemeat filling is flaky, like a pie crust, and the mincemeat is warm, spicy, and sweet—but not too sweet. It’s just enough to keep the family sane during the holidays—and away from the castle moat for a while.
Your Turn: What treats are you making this week/month?