Traverse City Record-Eagle


November 29, 2012

Recipes showcase season's spices

Pepper, allspice, cinnamon and fennel star in cookies

There's no better time than the holidays to experiment with spices.

Take a basic oat drop-style cookie and add the comforting, holiday flavors of cinnamon and honey. These cookies beg to go with tea, hot cocoa or even milk left for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Want more bang for your buck? Try adding dried fruit and nuts, too. Golden raisins and peanuts would be a great combination.

We took the classic hermit bar and reimagined it as a holiday drop cookie. We also replaced the traditional raisins with more festive dried cherries, then spiked them with allspice.

Sometimes you want a cookie sweet enough to take the enamel off your teeth. Sometimes you don't. For those more grownup times, we created fennel cornmeal wafers, which are delicate in both texture and sweetness. They would go great with a glass of dessert wine, or as an accompaniment to a cheese course.

Finally, while we tend to think of black pepper as a savory seasoning, it also has a sweet side. No, pepper itself doesn't taste sweet, but its trademark bite does pair well with sweet ingredients. We used black pepper in a richly sweet and buttery sable (pronounced SAH-bley), the French cousin of more traditional shortbread cookies. And while we usually bemoan the trend in recipe writing to call ONLY for freshly ground black pepper, this is a case where you'll want to grind it just before using it. It is, after all, the star ingredient.

Cinnamon-Honey Oat Drop Cookies

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 c. packed brown sugar

½ c. honey

1 t. vanilla extract

4 eggs

2¼ c. all-purpose flour

1 t. baking soda

½ t. salt

1½ t. cinnamon, divided

2½ c. old-fashioned oats

¼ c. granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, brown sugar, honey and vanilla. With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl in between additions.

Stir in the flour, baking soda, salt and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Stir in the oats.

Scoop by the tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between each cookie. Using a slightly moistened hand, flatten the cookies until ½ inch thick.

In a small bowl, stir together the granulated sugar and remaining ½ teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle lightly over the top of each cookie.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until no longer glossy and just starting to turn golden brown at the edges. Let cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. Makes 36 cookies.

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