Buttermilk Cookies with Nutmeg and Thyme are the perfect afternoon, tea time snack, whether served with coffee, tea or milk. A copy of Victuals was provided to me by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review. Affiliate links have been used to link to items I am discussing.
People I am in love. I am so in love, that after receiving Ronni Lundy’s Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes and digging into it, I immediately purchased her Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken: The Heart and Soul of Southern Country Kitchens and even Joseph Dabney’s Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking just because she recommended it as another cookbook celebrating the intersection between Appalachian food and Appalachian people and their stories. Or, as Lundy herself puts it (I am paraphrasing a tad), the connections between earth and table, and between table and the people seated at it. This is so much more than a cookbook, and if you like food writing of any kind, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
But what if you do not enjoy food writing just for the sake of food writing? First of all, let’s just not discuss that, and we’ll stay friends, ok? Second, the photography is gorgeous. Last but not least, Victuals is still a cookbook, filled with a treasure trove of recipes. Some examples of recipes I have bookmarked? Morels and Ramps with Eggs on Toast; Buttermilk Cucumber Salad (I could eat the whole buttermilk section); Appalachian Sour Corn; Palisades Hominy Salad; Apple Stack Cake (similarly to Buttermilk, I want everything in the Apples section); Shredded Beef Shank and Buttermilk Dumplings…. the list goes on. The ingredients are distinctly mountain southern–but the choices go far beyond ham hocks and greens.
Before I get to singing the praises of these Buttermilk Cookies, let’s address the elephant in the room. How different the cookies look in the above two pictures. The bottom cookies were the cookies I made first–and while they were delicious, they were very cakey and not at all what I was expecting based on the book’s pictures. They almost tasted more like a madeleine or flat muffin. I might have been quicker to write the recipe off, except for one thing. My mom’s style of cooking, while not of the mountains, has a lot in common with Appalachian cooking. She grew up rurally on a farm with down to earth meals that came from the food they raised or grew themselves. And she hates the way I measure flour.
I would say I got my instincts from my mom, but not my actual knowledge. Through no fault of hers, I am more of a self taught cook and baker just because of when and how in my life I became interested. And as a result, having read many books on the subject, I totally believe in the importance of weighing flour. Victuals does not give weights, but without a weight, my habit is to whisk and fluff the flour, spoon it into a measuring cup, and then use the flat edge of a knife to level it off. My mother finds this ridiculously fussy and has always just scooped her flour straight out of the bin. So Alex made a second batch (the batch in the top photo), scooping the flour. If you are curious, for fourteen cookies, this made a nearly 40 gram difference (148 grams of flour in the lower picture, the fluffed, spooned and leveled flour versus 187 grams scooping the flour).
What did I learn from this? When cooking or baking from an Appalachian cookbook (without weights, etc), pretend I am my mom!
I also confirmed that mere grams make a difference. Alex’s batch of Buttermilk Cookies had the texture I was looking for. More crumbly-in a good way. Sturdy and neither too dry nor too moist–I believe Alex even dunked hers in milk. More European (I would argue that much of Appalachian culture, including cooking, is closer to its forbears, i.e., the British Isles, than in the rest of America). More tea time.
“Tea Time” was the theme of this month’s Creative Cookie Exchange, and for me tea time includes any cookie best served with coffee, tea–or even milk after school. A tea time cookie should not be too rich or indulgent and its flavor should be mild, so as to not clash with the stronger flavors of coffee and tea. And bonus points if the cookie is easily whipped up–which these Buttermilk Cookies are. They came together very quickly, and it was my choice to chill the dough. If anyone wants to try baking them off immediately, please report back and let me know how they turn out! I did not chill them long, only forty-five minutes. And don’t make too much fun of me, but when I think of a great cookie for tea, I want to imagine I am being served little tea cakes in Regency England. These Buttermilk Cookies fit the bill perfectly.
Closely adapted from Ronni Lundy. We added the thyme at her suggestion and loved it, but if that is too weird for you just leave it out.
The coarse sprinkling sugar was my addition--leave it out if you prefer.
As is my preference with all drop cookies, I like to chill this dough before baking. Note that the prep and cook times do not reflect this.
- 1 1/4 cups (187 g) AP flour, measured by scooping (or weighing)
- 1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg (use double if pre-ground)
- 1 t minced fresh thyme
- 1/2 t baking soda
- 1/4 t fine ground sea salt
- 1/4 cup finely ground cornmeal (I blitzed coarse ground cornmeal in my spice grinder)
- 6 T (3 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup whole buttermilk
- coarse sugar for sprinkling (I used a tiny Swedish pearl sanding sugar), optional
Whisk together the flour, nutmeg, thyme, baking soda , salt and cornmeal. Set aside.
Beat the butter until creamy.
Add the brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, around 3 minutes on medium high speed if using a stand mixer.
Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
Beat in the egg. Scrape again.
Beat in the buttermilk. Scrape again.
Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, mixing on the lowest speed. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 45 minutes.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F and place the oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
Scoop the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheets. I got 6-8 2-tablespoon dough sized cookies per baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the edges have browned.
Cool completely before storing.
Cookies in the afternoon at “teatime” are a long held tradition, whether served with tea, coffee or even milk for an after school snack. No matter what you serve with your cookies, we’ve got a great list for you to choose from!
You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:
- Lilikoi-Lime Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies from All That’s Left Are The Crumbs
- Rich Tea Biscuits from Food Lust People Love
- Lemon Poppyseed Shortbread Cookies from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Chai-Scotti from What Smells So Good?
- Buttermilk Cookies with Nutmeg and Thyme from The Spiced Life
- Chocolate Covered Digestive Biscuits from Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Lemon Blueberry Shortbread Cookies from Upstate Ramblings
- London Fog Cookies from A Shaggy Dough Story
- Lemon Basil Marmalade Cookies from 2 Cookin Mamas
- Honey and Vanilla Madeleines from A Baker’s House
Looking for a collage to pin?
I love a good science experiment and learned a lot from your photos and the measurements of the flour. I am going to have to try that out next time I am baking cookies.
OMG I would be so way off! I always weigh my flour to 120 grams per cup!! Even less than yours! I’d be in big trouble. This is soooo interesting! The cookbook is on my wish list.
Ha! Yeah mine always come out to 126 g.
Linda @ 2 Cookin' Mamas says
It’s interesting the way people have learned to cook. I have never weighed flour while baking and tend to be like your mom- just scoop it out of the container. Maybe it’s an age thing? In any case, I love the addition of an herb in the cookie as I tried mine with basil this time. Yours sound perfect for afternoon tea.
I can’t say that I have ever tried cookies with thyme. They sound wonderful!
I measure my flour the same way, but I always find it easier and more precise to weigh ingredients. Most recipes in Australia call for only grams or mls, and it is so much easier than getting out measuring cups. I really love the flavors in these cookies, so I definitely know which herb I’m adding to my garden next.