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Holiday Spice Cookies

Although the holidays are just behind us, we still face a few more winter months. Nothing’s better on these cold days than a warm cup of tea and a nice, spiced cookie. In this spirit, I’d like to share with you my great-great-grandmother’s recipe for Holiday Spice Cookies.

A cup of tea with two holiday spice cookies

My grandmother, like her mother and her mother’s mother, had a peculiar penchant for lavender. Every day she would pluck a fresh spring from her garden and tuck it into a buttonhole on her yellow knit sweater. She always told us, as children, that her mother did the same; however, her mother’s sweater was more of a chartreuse than a pure yellow. Her mother’s mother had a blue knit sweater, but did the lavender thing all the same. My mother hates lavender and won’t have anything to do with it, so she wears a black cashmere-blend shrug with no buttonhole to adorn. In any case, my great-great-grandmother enjoyed lavender and other aromatic herbs. She experimented with an unusual recipe that resulted in one of the most distinctive spice cookies I’ve ever tasted. The recipe is quite simple and follows:

A box of ultra-fine baker's sugar, a box of unbleached cake flour, a metal mixing bowl, a bag of potpourri, two brown eggs, a stick of butter, and a tin of baking powder

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cold butter
  • 1½ cups baker’s sugar
  • 2¾ cups cake flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2½ ounces food-grade potpourri

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

Begin by preheating your oven to 350°F. Then, into a large mixing bowl, cut the butter into pea-sized pieces. Add the sugar, salt, and baking soda and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and continue to mix until completely blended. Now, slowly sift in the flour, mixing continuously.

A metal mixing bowl with dough and a wooden spoon in it

Once all of the flour has been added, continue to stir for about 1 minute until the mixture is smooth. Quickly add the potpourri.

A bag of potpourri being dumped into dough in a metal mixing bowl with a wooden spoon

Continue mixing until the potpourri is completely integrated. Dough will be lumpy.

Dough, lumpy with large potpourri chunks, being mixed with a wooden spoon in a metal mixing bowl

Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. Then, spoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Six mounds of dough with large pieces of potpourri sticking out of them on a cookie sheet; a metal spoon is depositing the last mound

Cook in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until lightly brown.

A hand wearing an oven mitt putting a cookie sheet with cookie dough into an oven

While cooking, prepare the glaze by whisking the confectioners’ sugar and water until smooth. Allow the cookies to cool for about 10 minutes and apply the glaze with a pastry brush.

A pastry brush applying a white glaze to six cookies on a baking sheet; the bowl of glaze is in the background; the cookies now look perfect and have no obvious potpourri sticking out

Once the glaze has set (about 15 minutes), enjoy with a cup of tea. Or simply place the cookies on saucers throughout your home for a freshness you can smell.

A cup of tea with two holiday spice cookies on the saucer; one cookie has a bite taken out of it

In an airtight container, these cookies will keep for about 1 week.

A note about the potpourri: Be sure to use high quality, food-grade potpourri. Most modern potpourri purchased from home stores is sprayed with chemical scents that are not safe for cooking.

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