Words cannot express how excited I get for the Holidays. Our tree goes up over Thanksgiving break, as well as all of the Holiday decorations. The kids and I ooh and aah over all of the holiday decorations for sale in stores like Costco (what some people find crass and overly commercial I find beautiful and fun to look at). I adore Holiday music–yes it is on at our house already. I love giving and getting. I love the sweets on every table. I think Thanksgiving through New Year’s is one of those wonderful times when people can get some respite from trying to be so financially, nutritionally and otherwise practical and responsible all of the time. A time to take a break and have some hot chocolate with a homemade marshmallow and visit with people you have not seen in a while. A time to dream about the frivolous sweater (or cookbook) you really hope someone might get for you and a time to fantasize about all of the gifts you want to get for your loved ones.
Of course reality has to set in to some extent–John and I have spent the last 3 days frantically staring at the budget to figure out exactly what we can afford–but I definitely enjoy taking this time of year over the top. Which is why all of my photographs and knick-knacks have already been put away and their Santa Claus/winter solstice/Christmas equivalents have been put in their place. And Holiday cookie baking has begun.
I decided some slice and bake cookies would be a good place to start, something we could bake a few of, to try, but then also store in the freezer to slice off and bake over the next few weeks, as they are needed. So Alex and I started with Clove Snaps, a fantastic Fine Cooking recipe for crisp little cookies that are fragrant with warm autumnal spices, most especially my personal favorite, cloves.
Alex and I intensified the spiciness of these cookies by first of all grinding whole spices and then second of all beating the spices into the butter, instead of the whisking them into the flour. Beating spices into the fat allows the oil in the spices to more completely permeate the flavor of the cookie. I also added some white pepper to increase that peppery bite.
Alex could not resist smelling the butter-spice mixture as it beat. It was better than the best potpourri.
- 6 3/4 oz (1.5 cups) AP flour
- 2 t whole cloves
- 1/4 t ground cinnamon
- 1/4 t whole black peppercorns
- 4 white peppercorns
- 1/8 t fine sea salt
- 1/4 lb (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 t packed finely grated orange zest I used a few drops of orange oil
Place the whole spices in a spice (or clean coffee) grinder and grind until fine. Set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment (or in large bowl with hand mixer), cream the butter with the ground spices, including the cinnamon, at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and mix just until combined, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the egg and orange zest and mix until well-blended, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until the flour is absorbed and the dough starts to come together, about 30 seconds.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until the dough forms a smooth mass. Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a log approximately 8 inches long. Roll tightly in plastic wrap, and then tightly in heavy duty foil. At this point you can either chill for at least 2 hours or place the dough in the freezer.
When you are ready to bake the cookies, pre-heat the oven to 375 F. Slice the dough into rounds as thin as you can, approximately 1/8-inch thick. Place them on a silicone or parchment lined cookie sheet about an inch apart.
Bake until cookies are golden around the edges and on the bottoms, about 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets on racks--they will not be crispy when they first come out of the oven. Store in airtight containers.