My love for hot cross buns is well documented in the pages of this blog. But I only ever seem to think of them around Easter, when really, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be enjoying sweetened yeast buns with just a hint of spice, currants and candied fruit any ol’ time. Which is what made these Spice Cookies my first choice for this month’s baking theme for Tasting Jerusalem.
You get the flavors of hot cross buns, the spice, the currants, the citrus in cookie form. And while it may seem slightly odd to be making spice cookies in the spring, because the truth is they do taste like the holidays, I couldn’t resist.
Ottolenghi and Tamimi aren’t content to simply make this a spice cookie in the strictest sense, the recipe adds a touch of cocoa powder and a goodly amount of chopped chocolate. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I don’t think it really needs it! Maybe I’m a hot cross bun purist at heart.
One tip, form all the dough balls before chilling the dough for an hour. Without the room in the fridge to chill two cookie sheets, I did enough to fill the first sheet and then left the rest of the dough in the mixing bowl, figuring I’d just roll the rest when I was ready to put them into the oven.
It works, but it takes a little more rolling and the heat from your hands to form them, somewhat defeating the purpose of chilling in the first place.
If you haven’t gotten on board with Tasting Jerusalem yet, the baked goods would be a great place to start. With hosts Beth and Sarene, we’re having a great time as a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. More info on this month’s theme is at OMGYummy and you can check out the action from the last few months on Facebook.
With the spice cookies done, there’s still lots to bake. I’m eyeing the krantz cake and the semolina coconut loaf.
Reprinted with permission from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
Spice CookiesPrint Recipe
- ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp / 125 g currants
- 2 tbsp brandy
- scant 2 cups / 240 g all-purpose flour
- 1½ tsp best-quality cocoa powder
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp each ground cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg
- ¼ tsp salt
- 5 oz / 150 g good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely grated
- ½ cup / 125 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ⅔ cup / 125 g superfine sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp grated lemon zest
- ½ tsp grated orange zest
- ½ large free-range egg
- 1 tbsp diced candied citrus peel
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 11/3 cups / 160 g confectioners’ sugar
Soak the currants in the brandy for 10 minutes. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt, and dark chocolate. Mix well with a whisk.
Put the butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon and orange zest in a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment and beat to combine but not aerate much, about 1 minute. With the mixer running, slowly add the egg and mix for about1 minute. Add the dry ingredients, followed by the currants and brandy. Mix until everything comes together.
Gently knead the dough in the bowl with your hands until it comes together and is uniform. Divide the dough into 1¾-oz / 50g chunks and shape each chunk into a perfectly round ball. Place the balls on 1 or 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing them about ¾ inch / 2 cm apart, and let rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C. Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top firms up but the center is still slightly soft. Remove from the oven. Once the cookies are out of the oven, allow to cool for only 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack. While the cookies are still warm, whisk together the glaze ingredients until a thin and smooth icing forms. Pour 1 tablespoon of the glaze over each biscuit, leaving it to drip and coat the biscuit with a very thin, almost transparent film. Finish each with 3 pieces of candied peel placed at the center. Leave to set and serve, or store in an airtight container for a day or two.
“These are very loosely inspired by duvshanyot, or Pfeffernusse. They are actually more closely related to an Italian spice cookie and are hugely popular on the sweet counter at Ottolenghi over Easter and Christmas. The recipe was adapted from the excellent “The International Cookie Cookbook” by Nancy Baggett.”