Because sometimes people are quite suddenly coming for tea or whatever in less than an hour and there’s nothing nifty in the freezer and you deeply don’t want to go to the store and also must do something about the books and papers currently covering every flat surface in the house.
Aha, I thought, time for Lightening Cookies, aka Split Seconds, an American home cooking classic. The ingredients are always on hand; only 1 mixing bowl is needed, shaping is extremely swift and you can bake the whole batch at once.
But then when I dug it out of the files the classic recipe wasn’t split second, or at least not last second, because you have to plan ahead. It only works when the butter is very soft.
So I unclassically made them in the processor, proving once again that mixing method all by itself makes a huge difference in baking. The original cookies have a firm, sort of cakey texture and a balanced flavor that really shows off the jam. The processor cookies are more tender, much crisper and quite strongly butter flavored. Not at all bad, but not at all the same.
Split Seconds, aka Lightening Cookies (original recipe)
for about 50 cookies:
2 scant c. flour
½ tsp. baking powder
2/3 c. sugar
¾ c. very soft butter
1 beaten egg
2 t. vanilla
@1/3 – 1/2 c. fruit preserves or jam
1. Heat oven to 350. Put dry ingredients in a shallow mixing bowl and stir with a wire whisk to combine. Using a wooden spoon, work in the butter, egg and vanilla just until you have a cohesive dough.
2. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into four parts. Shape each into a log about 13 inches long and a scant inch thick.
3. Place logs well apart on parchment paper or ungreased baking sheet(s). They need room to spread and still have air circulation; use 2 sheets if necessary.
4. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to press a deep trough down the center of each log. Fill with preserves, mounding them slightly. Bake until light gold, 15 to 18 minutes.
5. Remove logs from pan and slice on the diagonal while warm, wiping the knife blade from time to time. Cookies will firm up as they cool.
Splitter Seconds (Using ingredients cold from the fridge):
1. Put dry ingredients in a processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse to combine. Cut butter into tablespoon sized chunks and distribute over the surface. Pulse many times, until you have coarse meal.
2. Make a depression in the meal, between the side of the bowl and the blade spindle. Break in the egg, pour vanilla on top of egg. Pulse again until dough clumps – at first it looks like it won’t happen, but it will.
3. Proceed as above.
Chocolate Split Seconds
1 ½ c. + 2 tbl. flour
¾ c. sugar
½ c. cocoa
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
¾ c. butter
1 tsp vanilla
sharp flavored fruit preserve – raspberry or apricot jam or orange marmalade
Use either of the mixing methods above to make, shape and fill dough. Bake @ 15 minutes or a bit more, until a test slice looks cooked (cut 2 inches off an end and look in). Cookies don’t change color until they’re overdone.
Double Chocolate Slices:
1. Prepare Chocolate Split Seconds but leave the troughs empty before baking. When logs are almost done, remove from oven and gently press troughs with a spoon handle to restore depression. Finish baking, then fill troughs with chocolate chips or chopped bittersweet chocolate.
2. Return sheet to turned off oven for about 45 seconds, just long enough to soften chocolate. Spread chocolate to fill troughs, smoothing the tops.