Last month, Marc was invited to a surprise October birthday pot-luck for two friends in Santa Cruz. Though the party had been planned awhile, somehow Marc hadn’t seen his email invite. So getting ready to go was a last minute decision!
Marc couldn’t go without bringing a pot-luck dish. But…What to make? It needed to be easy, quick, transportable, and since one of the hosts has food restrictions, had to be a recipe that fit within those diet constraints. I suggested we could make a simple cookie recipe, which would be fun to do together and help ease Marc back into enjoying cooking again.
I’m a fairly expert cookie baker. Used to bake monthly as a volunteer for a community group. Have my production techniques down pat, so I can bake – start to finish – 5 dozen cookies in about 2.5 hours (depending on how long the baking takes for each batch).
This recipe is adapted from The Spice Cookbook (1964) by Avanelle Day & Lillie Stuckey, now out-of-print. The front cover says “A Complete Book of Spice and Herb Cookery ~ Containing 1400 superb recipes for Traditional American and Classic International Cuisine.” That claim is a bit of a stretch, especially with today’s food blogging world of fabulous home cooks sharing AUTHENTIC international cuisine from around the globe! But given The Spice Cookbook was published almost half a century ago, the statement verges on quaint…and can be forgiven.
I bought my copy in 1968 as a high school senior and especially enjoyed cooking from it in my early 20’s. The recipes are good, though they need some adaptation for today’s tastes and my personal preferences of using organic, less refined ingredients. An especially delightful unique touch are all the charming illustrations by Jo Spier. (I’ll do a more in depth review of this cookbook in a future post.)
Soft Spiced Honey Cookies
* 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 tsp. baking soda
* 1 tsp baking powder
* 2 tsps ground cinnamon
* 2 tsps ground ginger
* 1/2 tsp ground cloves
* 1 cup organic butter, softened
* 1-1/4 cups strained honey
* 1/4 cup organic sugar
* I/3 cup buttermilk (replaces 1 egg)
DIRECTIONS (Pre-heat oven to 350F)
1. MEASURE dry ingredients. Sift flour first, before measuring out 4 cups for the recipe.
NOTE: I used to do my baking measuring casually by ‘eye-balling’ amounts and rarely sifting the flour first. With experience came to understand measuring more carefully gives better, more consistent results as one can end up with 1/4 to 1/2 cup more flour than the recipe needs by skipping this small step.
Marc & I had a humorous baking ‘debate’ over cup leveling techniques. I said using the flat surface of the knife was better than using the knife edge as he’s doing in these photos. He just rolled his eyes. Oh, well. So much for passing on “Motherly wisdom.”
After all that…Marc caught me “tapping” the cinnamon into the measuring spoon (reverting back to those old “eye-balling” techniques) since the spoon was too wide to fit into the jar. We both laughed.
2. SIFT dry ingredients together until well blended. Set aside for later use.
3. MELT butter over low heat in saucepan large enough for mixing cookie batter. Stir and watch carefully, so the butter doesn’t burn.
Baking with Honey TIP: It’s MUCH easier to measure & pour honey from a lightly oiled cup. A delicate vegetable or nut oil without a distinct flavor is best.
4. ADD honey & sugar. Stir to blend until sugar is dissolved.
5. COOL for 10-20 minutes in refrigerator until pan is just warm, not hot.
6. POUR in buttermilk and stir well.
(OR if using an egg, beat in well.)
7. STIR in flour mixture, a cup at a time, until well mixed. BEAT 20 strokes.
8. MAKE sure dough is cool enough to handle for hand-shaping. Shape into 1-1/2 inch balls.
NOTE: I oiled my hands. Marc didn’t. Oiling your hands is not necessary. The dough handles well.
9. PLACE on non-stick or parchment paper lined cookie sheets, 2 inches apart to allow for spreading.
10. BAKE 15 minutes or until lightly browned at 350F.
11. COOL on cookie racks ’til room temperature.
YIELD: 3-4 dozen (depending on the size of the cookies you make). Store in an airtight container.
COMMENTS: ALL spiced cookies and honey cookies are tastiest a day or two after baking. It allows the flavors to blend and become more distinct.
These simple, plain-looking cookies can be “fancied up” with chopped nuts or dried fruit or glazed lightly. But they’re very good just like this.