Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cookies of Joy

St. Hildegard?
Many years ago, I attended a Benedictine-led workshop and consequently went through an intense St. Hildegard of Bingen phase.  

What's not to love about this 12th Century German Abbess?   Scholar, musician, herbalist, cookie baker, visionary, peace maker.  And earlier this month, on October 4, Pope Benedict named her a Doctor of the Church.  (Which, for all of you non-Catholic readers, is an honor given by the Pope to some extra holy saints whose extensive writings have remained relevant throughout the centuries.  She joins the ranks of the big guns -- Ambrose, Augustine, Thomas Aq. and my dear Little Flower among them.)

Clay and I recently went to the Ferdinand Folk Festival to hear one of our favorites, Colin Hay.  There, the Sisters of St. Benedict were selling their delicious cookies.  We had hoped for gingersnaps, but they were sold out, and one of the Sisters suggested we try the Hildegard cookies.  Oh my.  They were delicious -- spicy and comforting.  St. Hildegard said these cookies could "slow the aging process, create a cheerful countenance, lighten a heavy heart and release intelligence".  Well.  Who wouldn't benefit from a couple of those cookies?  

While I should support the Sisters and just order a case of cookies from them (as I am in great need of intelligence releasing lately), I thought I would try to make them up myself.  So, I did an internet search for recipes.  After several failed attempts, I found a recipe from the book From Saint Hildegard's Kitchen, which I think must be very close to the Ferdinand Sisters' recipe.  I also added a few comments of my own when my intelligence was released:

Cookies of Joy
Cookies and tea on my Aunt Edna's china tea set -- my dad had sent it to her when he was in Korea, and she gave it to me for a wedding gift.  Plus, the last of my St. Therese Day roses.  

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

12 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
4 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups spelt flour* (or whole wheat flour) 
1 teaspoon salt
2 rounded Tablespoons of "Spices that Bring Joy"

First, make your Spices that Bring Joy:  3 parts cinnamon, 3 parts nutmeg and 1 part ground cloves.  (I would suggest buying new spices if yours are more than 6 months old -- they lose some of their zip, you know.)  Mix well, and store in an airtight container for your next batch of cookies.

Melt the butter in a medium bowl.  When it is cool, add sugar, honey and egg yolks; beat lightly.  Add spelt flour and spices.  Mix well.  Divide the dough into two discs and wrap with plastic; place in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.  When chilled, roll out dough on very lightly floured board to about 1/4 inch.  Cut into round or rectangles and place onto parchment- or Silpat-lined cookie sheets.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, watching carefully, until golden brown.  (You want them to be crisp.)  After a few minutes, remove to cooling racks.  When completely cool, store in airtight container.  

*If you live in a little town like me where few know what spelt flour is, you can order it from King Arthur here.

Peace.  And joyful cookies.

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