On the fifth day of Christmas … my true love gave to me … Comfort & Joy Spice Cookies.
No Christmas cookie collection is complete without at least one old world spice cookie. The smell of these cookies baking in the oven is one of the joys of the holiday season. Thus, every December, I make a triple batch of my favorite spice cookie in the world, Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor.
But, remember, this year I challenged myself to come up with an all new collection. So no Pepparkakor, unless the Bradley troops revolt at the last minute (when they discover there are no Pepparkakor), and I am cajoled back into the OtherWorldly Kitchen for a final round of baking.
I might be able to fend off that eventuality with this wonderful new cookie, however. It is similar to Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor in its spicing. The flavor that dominates is cardamom, then cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and orange. There is also a copious amount of white pepper, the heat from which builds as you continue to eat the cookies, a sensation that I like very much. The surprise of the pepper and the uncertainly over how hot it will actually become makes one slow down and enjoy the nuances of the spices and the crisp, delicate texture of the cookie.
That puts this cookie in the “meditative” cookie category. It’s a cookie to enjoy reflectively, in solitude, with a lovely cup of tea in the afternoon. Then somehow the world in my mind slows down and the underlying peace and harmony in all things reveals itself, if only for a few precious moments.
Comfort & Joy Spice Cookies
This crisp, melt in the mouth, spicy orange cookie packs a surprising wallop. If you can’t take the heat, reduce or leave out the white pepper. On the other hand, if you eat whole chiles like candy, increase the white pepper by another teaspoon.
2 cups King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons white pepper
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
¾ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ cups unsalted butter, cool room temperature (3 cubes)
1 cup sugar
finely grated zest of one large orange
½ teaspoon orange oil (or 1 teaspoon orange extract)
powdered sugar in a shaker
- In a large bowl, sift the flour and cornstarch together with white pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. Whisk to thoroughly distribute the spices. Reserve.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly.
- Add the orange zest and orange oil, and blend.
- Add the flour mixture and mix briefly just to incorporate.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and shape each portion into a log on a sheet of plastic wrap. Seal the plastic wrap around each portion of the dough and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight. (The sealed dough can be refrigerated for 2-3 days if necessary.)
- Removing only one log of dough at a time from the refrigerator, divide the first log in half. Roll each piece gently on a floured pastry cloth to a rope with ½-inch diameter. Cut rope into 2½-inch lengths. Shape or trim the ends of each piece so that they taper. Curve each piece slightly.
- Arrange curved cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
- Bake at 350º for 12-14 minutes. Watch closely to prevent cookies from over-browning.
- Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks. While still warm, dust generously with sieved powdered sugar.
- When completely cool, store in air-tight cookie tins. These cookies improve with age and will keep, if stored in a cool, dry place, for many weeks. You can also freeze them.
Makes about 6 dozen.
To follow along as we bake our way through this year’s cookie collection, see the kickoff post, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night.
Also, check out last year’s collection, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls.