The world’s prici­est spice adds un­ex­pected el­e­gance to a much­loved holiday cookie. Take time to “bloom” the saf­fron to coax max­i­mum flavour from the threads. Then to gild the lily, fin­ish the warm cook­ies with a sprin­kling of gold sand­ing su­gar or ed­i­ble gold leaf (see TIP) sold in bak­ing sup­ply stores.

½ tsp (2 mL) packed saf­fron threads

1 cup (250 mL) un­salted but­ter, di­vided 8 oz (250 g) block cream cheese

½ cup (125 mL) ic­ing su­gar

½ tsp (2 mL) salt

2 cups (500 mL) all-pur­pose flour, di­vided 1 cup (250 mL) apri­cot jam, di­vided

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp (15 mL) wa­ter

Gran­u­lated su­gar, or gold sand­ing su­gar, or gold leaf (op­tional)

1 Place saf­fron threads in a mor­tar and finely grind with a pes­tle, or place on a chop­ping board and finely chop. Scrape into a small mi­crowave dish and add ½ cup (125 mL) but­ter. Mi­crowave un­til but­ter starts to bub­ble. Stir and leave at room tem­per­a­ture for 30 min­utes. Place the re­main­ing but­ter and cream cheese on the counter and leave for 30 min­utes as well.

2 Scrape saf­fron but­ter into a food pro­ces­sor. Cut the re­main­ing ½ cup (125 mL) but­ter into 4 pieces and cream cheese into 8 pieces. Scat­ter in pro­ces­sor. Sprin­kle with ic­ing su­gar and salt. Pulse un­til evenly com­bined, scrap­ing down sides of­ten.

3 Add 1 cup (250 mL) flour and pulse just un­til most is mixed in. Re­peat with re­main­ing flour and stop as soon as it starts to form a ball. Turn onto a lightly floured work sur­face and, us­ing floured hands, form into a large log. Cut into 3 pieces and form each into a disc. Wrap each with plas­tic wrap and re­frig­er­ate overnight or up to a week.

4 To bake, re­move dough from re­frig­er­a­tor. Leave at room tem­per­a­ture un­til soft enough to roll out, about 45 min­utes. For easy spread­ing, place ⅓ cup (80 mL) jam in a small mi­crowave bowl. Re­move any large pieces of apri­cot, finely chop and re­turn. Mi­crowave jam just un­til warm, about 20 sec­onds.

5 Pre­heat oven to 350°F (180°C).

6 Place 1 disc on a lightly floured sur­face. Cover with a large piece of clear wrap. Us­ing a rolling pin, roll disc into a 12-inch (30-cm) cir­cle. Thinly spread with warm jam. It doesn’t have to go right to the edge. Cut into 16 wedges, prefer­ably with a pizza cut­ter. Be­gin­ning at the wide end, roll 1 wedge to­wards the point cre­at­ing a cres­cent. Place point-side down on a parch­ment-pa­per-lined bak­ing sheet. Re­peat with re­main­ing wedges, leav­ing gen­er­ous spa­ces be­tween them. Whisk egg yolk with 1 tbsp (15 L) wa­ter and brush over cook­ies. If you are not go­ing to use gold leaf, sprin­kle with su­gar if de­sired.

7 Bake in cen­tre of oven un­til golden, from 18 to 20 min­utes. Let sit on pans 5 min­utes, then re­move to racks to cool. Re­peat with re­main­ing dough and jam. Cooled, wrapped cook­ies can be kept at room tem­per­a­ture for 4 days or frozen up to 2 months.

Makes about 48 cook­ies


Do not sprin­kle formed cook­ies with su­gar if you are go­ing to gold leaf them. Once cook­ies are baked and cool, and just be­fore serv­ing, use a small soft paint­brush and small sharp knife to ap­ply gold leaf. Hold­ing a goldleaf sheet with the brush, cut away a tiny piece us­ing the knife. It should stick to the point of the knife. Trans­fer to cookie. Use brush to push the piece down and at­tach to the cookie.

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