Desserts are the feature at the Whole Foods for the Holidays: Real Food Progressive Dinner this week, thanks to our host, Kate of Modern Alternative Mama.
For our family at Christmastime, it’s all about the cookies. My mother always made a bazillion varieties, and my husband’s family absolutely focuses on the cookies as well (pies are for Thanksgiving). I doubt I can get away with adding whole grains of any kind to my mother-in-law’s sugar cookie recipe (read: my husband’s favorite cookie in the world). I already got a shifty-eyed look when I used butter instead of margarine years ago.
That recipe is a post in itself – the first year I got the recipe from her, she left out half the flour. I wondered how I roll out the batter I ended up with! The second year, she also forgot the baking powder and maybe another ingredient. I started to wonder if she had some issues with me trying to make her recipe for her son! Now I’ve got it down, but it’s definitely a white flour/white sugar recipe.
Today I’ve got a slightly healthier version of a sugar cookie with a whole lot of spice and more than a little tradition. Formed in the shape of St. Nicholas for December 6th, this traditional German cookie is called “Speculatius” “Spekulatius” or “image.” The kids and I managed them with either white whole wheat flour or sprouted wheat flour, as well as “less sugar” and “unrefined sweeteners”, so you’ve got lots of options for levels of nutrition today!Print
- Cream butter and sugar together for about 5 minutes or until light and fully combined.
- Add eggs and continue to mix hard until mixture is creamy again.
- Add all the rest of the ingredients, then mix until combined.
- You will likely need to add another 1/2-1 cup flour at this point, mixing by hand or even kneading until the dough is mostly not sticky and has a firm texture and holds together in a ball.
- Refrigerate the dough until chilled through and easy to roll out. I simply put the whole mixing bowl in the fridge uncovered (who has bugs in their fridge?) or covered with a plate when I use the garage because my fridge is full.
- Once dough is stiff, pull out a piece to roll out and leave the rest chilled.
- Coat a clean, flat surface with flour and roll to about 1/8-1/4” for large St. Nick shapes and thinner for little cookies.
- Cut shapes and move to an ungreased cookie sheet or baking stone. You can reroll the leftover pieces, but try not to manhandle them too much so your cookies remain light and not tough.
- Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 9-12 minutes (up to 15-20 if your cookies are 1/4” thick). Because the cookies are so brown with spice, you don’t want to wait until you can see the edges brown to deem them done. If they pick up without drooping in the middle, they’re probably done. Give them a minute to cool on a rack to see if they firm up if you’re unsure. They can make a nice, light soft cookie or a bit crunchy with a few extra minutes.
Makes lots! You’ll be able to roll out 5-6 times, depending on how thick your cookies are.
Stores in the freezer forever, according to the original, but ours usually languish on the shelf for 2-4 weeks…and they’re great!
Seriously, do not skimp on the spices. I realize that’s a lot of teaspoons, but it comes together to be totally delicious.
The recipe cuts in half well, as the full batch generates quite a few cookies!
Option: Replace sugar with 1 c. sucanat and 1/2 c. molasses
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- Seriously, do not skimp on the spices. I realize that’s a lot of teaspoons, but it comes together to be totally delicious.
- If your butter is hard and chilled, you can roll it with a rolling pin to soften or mash it in your warm hands (in the wrapper) a bit. A heavy duty stand mixer can handle partially softened butter just fine if you’re not a planner!
- The recipe cuts in half well, as the full batch generates quite a few cookies!
- I don’t have a cute St. Nicholas cookie cutter or mold. I simply used a piece of clean, thin cardboard and copied the shape from the parent recipe. Use a butter knife to cut around the edges, especially if you’re working with children. This decorative touch is even more beautiful than I could ever hope for!
- A garlic press with a bit of dough makes lovely beard hair for St. Nick.
- Pipe any thick white frosting on for the details (here’s my sugary recipe). You can use yogurt cheese, honey and vanilla or almond extract for a simple real food version. Just make sure it’s thick enough to hold a shape. You may have to add some arrowroot starch (or powdered sugar) to help give it body.
- How to Make Your Own Sprouted Flour
- I changed the original recipe quite a bit: the shortening quickly became butter (I want to try coconut oil next), I decreased the white sugar by 1/2 cup and used Wholesome Sweeteners organic cane sugar, and I used 100% white whole wheat for the white flour. See below for an even healthier option!
- Recipe adapted from this site, originally from To Dance With God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration by Gertrud Mueller Nelson.
Take Two: The HealthiER Version of St. Nick’s Spice Cookies
I made a few more adjustments to the recipe and came up with a very respectable, more nourishing, version…if anything with 1 1/2 cups of sweetener can be nourishing! This version is slightly less sweet, but particularly if you’re going to frost them, it makes a good munchy sweet treat.
1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sucanat
1/2 c. molasses
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
4 c. sprouted white whole wheat flour
4 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cloves
Method: Same as above, just add the molasses in with the sugar.
This recipe will not make it into the upcoming beans recipe eBook, but if you’ve followed KS for a while, you might guess that it’s a perfect candidate for both the Healthy Desserts book and the Recipe Transformations book. It was exciting to find that both remakes of the original turned out tasty!
Be sure to check out the desserts course over at Kate’s, and visit the list of all the topics and participants of the Whole Foods for the Holidays dinner at Donielle’s. Next week is our last week, beverages, at Frugal Granola!
If you’re a Catholic, other Christian, or just curious: I’ll be posting Advent Daily Dose reflections this year to keep you focused during the season of joyful anticipation! (Did you know the Christmas season does not start until Christmas? Most of December is actually Advent!) Here’s today’s dose.
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