I sustained myself through the recent polar vortex with the warmth of a dear friend and a new take on Dutch Spice Cookies. It’s easy to ignore the weather when the house is filled with good conversation and lingering whiffs of ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
Lucky for me and my friend I had the cookies on hand. As the temperature plummeted recently, I got a craving for old-fashioned goodness. Naturally I hauled out my denim blue binder of sure-fire favorite recipes.
These have been lovingly curated from clippings and scribblings over the years. The great stuff makes it into the binder, the rest lingers in the “try me” pile in my writing room. Rarely does a recipe make the cut in its original form. It must first yield to my pen and palate to earn a place in the permanent collection.
These cookies touch a timeline of my emotions. They’re reminiscent of the windmill-shaped treasures of my childhood. You know the ones. They come in a nostalgic blue-and-white delft-designed tin — still a staple in the Vermont Country Store catalog. Yet something about the cookies says “adult.” The flavor appeals to taste buds that have graduated from oh-so-sweetness and evolved to appreciating something beyond chocolate. A poignant transition, if there ever was one.
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When making these, it’s worth your while to grate your own nutmeg. Sure, you can use the stuff from a little jar, but freshly grated nutmeg packs particular pleasure for your nose and tongue. Besides, I’ve saved you oodles of time by skipping the dough-chilling step. Trust me, it works.
A practice I’ve preserved from the old recipe is to roll out the dough with a dusting of powered sugar instead of flour. The extra sweetness counterbalances the spices and leaves just a trace of glaze on the baked cookies. Nice.
Dutch Spice Cookies pair particularly well with classic Twinings tea — Prince of Wales for me, English Breakfast for my friend. They also keep their snappy crispiness for weeks in a tightly sealed tin (windmills optional). You’ll be rewarded with a puff of spice every time you open the lid.
Don’t wait until the next big chill to whip up a batch. Like a longtime friend and a cup of tea, they’re good to have around.
Dutch Spice Cookies
Makes approximately 36 cookies.
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 blanched almonds, chopped
3 tablespoons water
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Arrange oven racks in the center and top third of oven, preheating oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the butter and brown sugar in a large mixer bowl until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, sift the flour into a medium-sized bowl, then stir in the baking soda, spices, salt and almonds.
Add half the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and brown sugar mixture. Mix well. Add the water with the remaining dry ingredients then mix to form a stiff dough.
Dust a sheet of waxed paper with confectioners’ sugar and place about half of the dough on top. Dust dough with additional sugar then top with another sheet of waxed paper. Roll dough 1/4-inch thick and cut with a 21/2-inch round cookie cutter dipped in confectioners’ sugar.
Use a spatula to place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet. Assemble dough scraps and re-roll, dusting with sugar as needed.
Bake cookies for 22 minutes at 350 degrees, rotating sheets between racks halfway through the baking. Remove from pan and cool completely before storing in a tightly sealed tin.
Julienne Gehrer is a freelance writer and author of “In Season: Cooking Fresh From the Kansas City Farmers’ Market.”