Sunday, September 6, 2009

Railroad Cookies

Pictured: 1957 Lionel Flatcar courtesy of Earl aka Ole Sweetie-Pi

Do you like model or toy trains? We do. Ole Sweetie-Pi is a model train collector and now I've caught the bug. Model or prototype, there's just something magical about trains. Maybe because trains remind me of slower times, old-fashioned values, romance coming and going via rails, or maybe it's those black and white Christmas shows that had magical scenes of electric trains circling beneath glorious Christmas trees.

And no surprise to anyone, I am equally as interested in the foods served in the dining cars. (How handy to be able to tie in two interests.) To my knowledge, these cookies were not served in any dining car (those recipes will follow someday soon, I think), but they are called railroad cookies as their pinwheel look reminds some people of spinning train wheels. Whatever the origin of the name, these cookies are something special.

They remind me of a filled cookie in that they have a luscious, sweet date and nut filling. They are alternately soft and crisp at the same time due to the sugar cookie that encases the filling. These cookies take time to make, though most of the time is refrigeration time. I found the sugar cookie portion a little difficult to work with; it wants to crack and crumble as it's being rolled out, out and crack and crumble again it's rolled around the filling. I had to keep pinching the dough together as I worked with it so that the filling would not spill out. I found that the dough worked a little bit easier if I let it slightly come to room temperature before trying to roll it (even though the directions say otherwise).

In spite of my angst, I really like this cookie for its uniqueness and flavor and would definitely make it again. I think of this as a special occasion cookie, probably more for the holidays than for everyday.

Railroad Cookies
(Heirloom Recipes by Marcia Adams)

1 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sugar
1 cup packed, light brown sugar
3 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Date Nut Filling

2 cups dates, finely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup pecans, ground

In a medium sized bowl, cream the shortening and the two sugars until well blended. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well.

In a separate bowl, combine and whisk 2 cups of flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cream of tartar and salt. Add to the creamed mixture; beat well. Gradually add the remaining 2 cups of flour; dough will be firm. You'll probably need to do step by hand as the dough is quite heavy. Divide the dough into two equal parts, wrap in plastic wrap, and set in your refrigerator to chill, for at last two hours, or overnight.

When read, take out one of the halves. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 9" x 13" rectangle, 1/3" thick. Spread half the filling over the entire surface, then starting at one long edge, proceed to roll the dough into a cylinder. Cover the roll with plastic wrap and again refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Repeat with remaining second half of dough and filling.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Slice each roll into 24 slices, abut 1/2" thick and place on a lightly greased or parchment-lined cooking sheet. (I strongly recommend using parchment because the sugar in the filling can caramelize and make the cookie difficult to remove.) Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Let it rest on the cookie sheet a minute or so as the cookies are soft and then remove to a rack to finish cooling. Store in a tightly covered container, with waxed paper between layers.

To make the filling

In a medium saucepan, combine the dates, sugar, and water and cook over medium heat for about three minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture will become nicely thick but will still have some texture to it. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Cool. Add the ground up pecans and stir well.

When spreading the filling on the dough spread to the edges of three sides, leaving a narrow margin along one long side so that the filling does not ooze out.

37 comments:

  1. Oh dear, these railroad cookies looks so tempting with all that filling in it. I have bookmarked this yummy recipe and going to make it for sure. Thanks for this awesome cookie recipe.

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  2. This is the first time I've heard of a railroad cookie, which is surprising because my husband is a train conductor for the UP. The cookies sound great.

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  3. I was so excited when I saw the picture of your cookies, as I'm a huge cookie fan, but then I got down to the "filling" part :( Unfortunately, I'm allergic to pecans, but I know my husband would love these! My son starts preschool on Tuesday, so I'm going to have a 3 hour block of time, three times a week, to do things that I enjoy doing...one of which is obviously cooking/baking! This will be added to my "to do" list!

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  4. Katy, they are the great cookies...esp. with nut and date filling.
    Angie's Recipes

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  5. Rachel, I wouldn't hesitate to swap out the pecans for walnuts if it's just the pecans you're allergic to. Or, if you wanted, omit the nuts altogether, maybe toss in another little bit of dates, grins.

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  6. Hi Katy, Just came across your wonderful blog. I admire how you combine your love for food with your love for our Lord ! Its sunday morning...and i just stumbled on your blog... I like to think everything in my life is through 'God given grace'...

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  7. Katy....these look well worth the effort and somehow the fact that they are 'old fashioned' just makes them that much better. I have to say that I am in LOVE with dates so this is perfect. Of course, the cinnamon is DEFINITELY a big plus n'est pas?!!! Have a happy Sunday

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  8. They look lovely! My husband has an antique lionel train too... he gets it out and sets it up so the kids can watch it, but there is a no touching rule (those things were really not very safe for kids!)

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  9. This is so very interesting! Almost like a ranger cookie recipe! I am not a fan of dates but I think baked into the cookie like this it would be quite yummy. Thank you for sharing :)

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  10. Delicious cookies Katy...I loved the name of the cookie too...Interesting...i an surely gonna try this one...

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  11. Railroad cookies? I've never heard of those but they look delightful! I especially like the date-nut filling! They go to my must try list!

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  12. These look wonderful. The filling is unusual in a rolled cookie. I can't wait to try these.

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  13. These look so good! I just love dates!

    Model trains are very fun to watch. I can see why you've caught this bug. ;0)

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  14. oh these are wonderful, and remind me of cookies i'd eat during the holidays. i love the trains too!

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  15. Pinwheel cookies are lots of fun. I like the date/nut combo in the filling.

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  16. I love dates and sugar cookies! Combining them must be delicious! My Grandpa loved trains. Every Christmas he would set them up so that they went through every room of his house. A sweet memory.

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  17. I like this one and love the last recipe; normally I can't comment or read as I'm a vegetarian :)

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  18. Oh Katy...I love dates and these cookies sound amazing...I love that swirled in filling! I'm definitely going to have to make a batch of these :)

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  19. I think these look and sound delicious! I only make a couple of recipes with dates and love them both. I'd really like to try these. I like the name too. Railroad Cookies. I'll have to add them to my book next to Ranger cookies and Monster cookies. : )

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  20. WOW! These look so special @^@.

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  21. OOOOH those look heavenly!!! I love your recipe posts :)

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  22. Cookies look fantastic, love the filling!

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  23. OMG...it's my family favourite thing!

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  24. Railroad cookies, how cute are those! I think they sound delicious, I love the date nut filling!!!

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  25. The filling does sound good! My dad has worked for the railroad for 36 years, I wonder if he's heard of these.

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  26. Hi Dear. Love the old fashioned railroad cookies. Very nicely explained. I will take more tips from you before I try them.

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  27. The cookies look wonderful and I love the picture of the train. I have attended train shows and my son just loves them!

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  28. I haven't heard of those cookies either but they look super! And those pancakes in the last post, can't believe I missed those!

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  29. I really wish I didn't have this "thing" against making cookies as those sound good and I bet my Mom would really dig! (Brownie points!:))
    ~ingrid

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  30. Oh my, my MIL used to make a Date Pinwheel cookie that sounds really close to these, and they were so delicious! I love the railroad name and also enjoy the old movies with trains. Thanks Katy!

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  31. My hubby is a train buff. We have boxes of the HO(?) scale stuff in the attic.
    Would love to ride the rails. I've only gone from Sacrament to Reno.
    What a fun cookie! Date filling sounds great and looks like a real treat. :)

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  32. I love bacon in a nice creamy soup! Yours looks delicious! You should try this in the breadbowls I have on my blog, they are so yummy. I'm adding this to my cooler weather list...it's still 105 degrees here in AZ!!

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  33. THese sound wonderful. You can really get a good idea about a recipe from the list of ingredients.

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  34. these cookies look so good. the date and nut filling makes them even more delicious! Do you think I can substitute butter or margarine for the shortening since I don t find it here.

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  35. I'm so glad you posted this recipe as I was looking for it! I had a Railroad Cookies recipe from some magazine years ago, and lost the darn sheet. Now I have this and another one to compare with and will see if these are "the ones". For anyone who hasn't had Railroad cookies, they are worth it! Thank you again!

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  36. To the person that asked about butter or margarine versus shortening, the recipe I used called for butter.

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  37. Sheryle, so glad you stopped by! Hope you enjoy these.

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