I know I had a major hiatus this year, but you didn’t think I was gonna go through a Christmas season without posting at least one festive recipe did you? This my friends, is my favourite time of the year to bake for, with its heavenly rainbow of spices, berries and booze. Nuh uh, no way I was gonna skip this party! But I gotta confess, I was a bit lost being back in the kitchen. I had to do a major stock up of basic ingredients and my oven, out of sheer neglect perhaps, stopped behaving like it should (preheat to 160°C, oven thermometer says… 230. Ooookay then).
So I had to go through a few trial-and-errors to get my oven-preheating process down to a fine art before I tried out these Spiced Vanilla and Honey Christmas Cookies (let me take a brief moment to pay tribute to the two cakes that were lost in battle a few nights ago). I braced myself for burnt lumps of coal but hallelujah, they survived. A couple of batches after that also came out unscathed so I think it’s safe enough to tackle cakes again. But I’m getting a little sidetracked with my mourning.
This is pretty much Christmas melted down and pummelled into pint-size bites of cookie goodness. The original recipe came from my mother’s retro Good Housekeeping cookbook, which is my go-to for old-fashioned home recipes. I made a few tweaks of my own though to make it softer, chewier and more fragrant. Spices, check. Make that lots of spices; check check. Vanilla? Not a classic Christmas flavouring but check check check because vanilla is awesome. And of course, honey; the nectar of the gods.
Just don’t skip the garnish of vanilla salt flecks on top though. I know I have a salty palette so extra sea salt flakes in cooking is the norm for me but I really believe it adds a little something-something particularly when you take a bite with the sweet icing sugar coating. But if that’s not your thing, feel free to skip it (I won’t judge!). And if you’re pressed for time, you can skip the icing altogether and just roll the cookies in icing sugar while it’s warm. To be honest though, it’s just won’t be the same.
But the awesome bottom line is, you’ll barely break a sweat making these. Perfect for this festive time of the year when you make a beeline for super-easy recipes like Santa to a fat ham. I mean, sweating for hours in a kitchen amidst frantic celebrating? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
- 340g plain flour
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1.5 tsps ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground all-spice
- 1/8 tsp of ground cloves (about 2 small pinches?)
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- A generous pinch of vanilla sea salt
- 125g butter, softened to room temperature
- 115g dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 60g honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 130g icing sugar
- A pinch of ground all-spice
- A pinch of ground cinnamon
- About 4 tsps water (20ml)
- 1/2 tsp of vanilla bean paste (or the seeds of half a vanilla pod)
- Sift flour, baking soda, spices, pepper and salt into a bowl, mix until evenly combined and set aside.
- Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until just pale and fluffy (do not overbeat). Beat in the egg until mixed then stir in the honey and vanilla.
- Stir in the flour mixture and bring together into a dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight for the spices to develop.
- Preheat oven to 160°C. Roll tablespoons of dough (about 20g) into balls and place onto baking sheets lined with baking paper, about 2cm apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until just firm to the touch. They'll seem soft at first but they'll harden up as they cool down (but should remain chewy).
- Sift together the sugar and spices. Add the water and vanilla bean paste and whisk until lump-free and thick (you can cut the sieving if you wish by whisking it all up in a stand mixer until smooth).
- Dip the tops of the cookies into the icing to coat, sprinkle a few flakes of vanilla sea salt and place on a wire rack to set. Store in an airtight container.