My holiday must-have

I encountered these at my former sister-in-law's back in the early 1990s. It was love at first bite -- the first time I had eaten something remotely gingersnap-like without wanting to spit it on the floor. I love gingersnaps now, but for the first three decades of my life they were WAY too strong for me. I guess by my early 30s I had finally killed off enough tastebuds to enjoy them.

I don't have many holiday traditions, but I cling fiercely to the few I do keep, and this is one of them. I have probably made them almost every year since, even though I am usually the only one who eats them. I always use the same two cookie cutters, too; a star and a crescent moon. Makes my inner pagan happy.

As far as I can tell from my one Google search exhaustive research, these are kin to Moravian Spice Cookies; thin and crispy, not too sweet, low in fat, packed with spicy goodness. The flavor has kind of a gingerbread cookie vibe but not as strident.

Oh, the disclaimer: I exercised all due diligence in searching for this recipe online, to no avail.

Spice Crisps
from Bon Appétit, December 1992

Makes 8 dozen, depending on how big you cut them

1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons (= 6 Tablespoons) firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses (unsulfured)
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger (not fresh ginger)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt

(* = See Notes below)

Combine wet ingredients in heavy small saucepan. Cook on low heat until mixture just boils, stirring occasionally*. Cool to room temperature.

Sift dry ingredients into mixing bowl. Stir in cooled sugar mixture. Dough will be stiff. Knead until dough holds together and is smooth*.

(Dough can be prepared one day ahead - wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

Position racks in top and bottom thirds of oven* and preheat oven to 350 deg.

Butter two cookie sheets*.

Divide dough in half. Roll out one half of dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8" thickness. Using a 2" cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Place 1/2" apart on prepared cookie sheets. Scraps can be re-rolled.

Bake 10-12 minutes (swap positions of cookie sheets at ~5-6 minutes) until cookies are lightly browned with slightly darker edges.

Remove cookies from cookie sheet as soon as possible and transfer to cooling rack.

Repeat with other half of dough.

Store in airtight container at room temperature. Can be made two weeks ahead.

  • I cut the butter into pieces and heat my wet ingredients in the microwave, a minute at a time, stirring in between. Use a good-sized bowl because the mixture will bubble up quickly once it gets hot.

  • I am kind of a spice snob - I grind most of my spices as I need them. I think it makes a difference. I even have white peppercorns! Maybe I should get some mustard seeds for next year....

  • The recipe doesn't state it, but I've found I need to refrigerate my dough awhile before rolling. Maybe because I can never wait until the sugar mixture is completely cool before proceeding.

  • Instead of buttering the cookie sheets, I line my sheet pans with baking parchment. Then I can slide the whole parchment sheet over to the cooling rack. I haven't tried a Silpat yet.

  • My oven is old and cranky. I only bake one cookie sheet at a time, on the second from the top rack.

One blog I read states that when properly rolled, a stack of 16 Moravian Spice Cookies is one inch thick. Sounds like a challenge for next year!

1 comment:

Karen Frisa said...

Just wanted to say thanks for continuing to post. I always enjoy reading your food endeavors! Maybe one of these days I'll be motivated to try a recipe...