What exactly is “mystery dough”? I figured the recipe I had from my late grandmother Jessie’s files had just enough information to create something, armed with my years of amateur baking and cookbook reading.
This pursuit of trying to figure out a cryptic recipe brought back a reference to “Biblical exegesis” in an undergraduate literature class years ago. I wondered why the professor was referring to “ex of Jesus”, when that did not make any sense to me (as far as I knew, He did not have any “exes”). Later, I discovered that the word meaning a critical interpretation, analysis, or explanation, especially of the Bible. One must practice exegesis diligently in fleshing out a recipe, too!
So, like a Biblical scholar or literary critic, I had the barebones for resurrecting, or, I should say, recreating the recipe. Armed with some vague memories of my grandmother’s baking preferences, I also recalled her liking the Czech pastry, kolachkes, as they were known in the western suburbs of Chicago. The kolachkes (AKA, kolaches, which I have spotted in Vancouver) have a buttery-cream-cheese-based dough, so I wonder if this recipe was for that very rich pastry, often apricot-filled.
The mystery is over, with amazing results – and the recipe:
I decided to use two fillings I had made, the strawberry-black pepper-mint jam (from “la fee des confitures, Christine Ferber, or the “fairy of jams,” as she is known) and an apricot butter. The former I chose, as it is my favourite of all fruit jams, jellies, preserves, conserves, butters, spreads, or however else you might care to label them. I decided to use my own apricot butter, given my grandmother’s frequent use of apricot jam as a filling and her love of all things related to this particular fruit. (I had thought of using my blood orange marmalade, but, as I used the fork to create an “A” for apricot on the pastry’s top and an “S” for “strawberry”, I would have had to write “BO” on top – and who would have wanted to eat that??)
The result? The pastry is rich, flaky, and tender – and why would it not be, given that it’s 50% cream cheese, 25% butter, and 25% flour? It complements the fruit filling nicely. I would consider making these in half the size for a smaller cookie-like item, but this size works well as a turnover for dessert – and would be all the more extravagant with ice cream.
One change I would try next time is to be more careful in sealing the dough and then refrigerating the finished pastry triangles prior to baking. The fillings did ooze out, as is the case with home-made pop tarts, I gather. This “mystery dough” made, nevertheless, a wonderful, satisfying yet simple dessert. Now the mystery dough is no longer a mystery to me, at least, and, despite the sleuthing required, it is a memorable – if unintended – retroactive gift from my grandmother.
Jessie’s Mystery-Dough Tender-Jam-Filled Pockets
Makes four substantial pastries
- 1 cup AP flour (all-purpose), with some additional for rolling
- 4 ounces chilled butter, cut into small squares
- 8 ounces of chilled cream cheese (I used spreadable, but any variety should work)
- 8 tablespoons of jam or preserves of your choice
- Mix flour, butter, and cream cheese in stand mixer, just until blended (about one minute).
- Turnout dough onto counter, cutting board, or other surface and form ball; flatten dough into disk. Refrigerate for several hours or place in freezer for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Remove dough from fridge or freezer and divide into four equal pieces.
- Roll each piece into a square of dough, approximately ¼” thick.
- Place two tablespoons of jam (your choice!) on one side of dough, as if it were two triangles, filling the jam on one triangle to about ½ ” from the edge.
- Fold plain dough triangle over jam triangle side and crimp edges with tines of fork (or fingers). Make sure to seal carefully and completely.
- Refrigerate for one hour before baking
- Adjust rack to lower-middle position.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bake on parchment paper or silicon-lined baking sheet for 20-25 minutes or until just starting to become golden brown. Cool on wire rack until just warm or room temperature.
- Eat and revel in the solved mysteries of Jessie’s delectable pastry pockets.