Belsnickel cookies

  • Makes about 2 dozen.
  • 30 to 40 minutes' active work, plus time for chilling.

This is adapted from Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking, first published in 1938. I’m assuming these cookies were intended for Belsnickelers who went door to door demanding treats at Christmas time. They’re really just sugar cookies, but quite good ones.

A couple of notes: This is a very rich, soft, dough. You absolutely must chill it before you can plausibly roll it out, and even then it will be difficult to work with; if you are lucky enough to have a marble paste-board, now’s the time to use it. When taken from the oven they should be lightly browned and set at the edges, and they are definitely worth the trouble, rich and crisp and just sweet enough.

The cardamom sugar sprinkle is not traditional; the original recipe called for plain sugar. But I’m Pennsylvania Dutch, and so if I do it, that makes it Pennsylvania Dutch. Enough said.

    • ½ cup butter, melted
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs

    Pour melted butter over sugar in a bowl and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, beating one at a time, into the mixture.

    • 1½ cups flour
    • ½ teaspoon baking soda
    • a pinch of salt

    Whisk together and add to the wet ingredients.

  1. Chill the dough for at least an hour.

  2. Roll the dough out on a floured board, quite thin. Cut into small rounds or other shapes. (The cookies will spread as they bake, so leave room on the sheets and don’t get too fancy with the shapes.)

    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • ½ teaspoon cardamom

    Sprinkle the cookies with cardamom sugar.

  3. Bake at 400° until set and lightly browned, about 10 minutes for ⅛-inch-thick cookies (or 7 to 8 minutes at 385° in a convection oven). Cool on sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to racks.