Shrewsbury cakes

These are not your ordinary cookies. They’re lighter and less sweet than modern cookies, delicately flavored, and made without chemical leavening, in a style that goes back more than 300 years to England (where they were named for the town of Shrewsbury). This version is essentially the “Shrewsberry Cakes No. 1” from The Carolina Housewife, a charity cookbook compiled by Sarah Rutledge of Charleston, South Carolina, and first published in 1849. (more…)

Almond wafers

Light, crisp or chewy as you prefer, perfect with sorbet, ice cream, or a lemon or orange pudding or pots de crème. (more…)


Since I first made these a few years ago they have become my favorite Christmas cookie — richly spicy, crunchy, not too sweet, satisfying but not heavy. The Dutch traditionally make them for St. Nicholas’ Day on December 6, and there are as many recipes are there are Dutch grandmothers. Each has its own blend of spices; some call for brandy instead of rum, some omit the almonds, and some include lemon or orange zest. This blend comes from The Dutch Baker’s Daughter, who says that the basic ingredients and proportions date the the 15th century. It seems plausible to me. (more…)

Molasses-ginger cookies

These are big, soft, chewy cookies, not cakey like my usual gingerbread. Melting their butter gives them their texture. (more…)

Peanut graham crackers

These are hard but crispy, and they shatter just a bit when you bite into them. They’re undeniably sweet, but they’ve also got a good amount of protein, so think of them as crunchy, long-keeping energy bars. The recipe is adapted from Sarah Tyson Rorer, Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book (Philadelphia: Arnold And Company, 1902), p. 535. (more…)

Peanut butter cookies

Unlike most peanut butter cookies, these are made with natural peanut butter made from 100% peanuts. They also contain ground peanuts for added flavor. I leave out the vanilla, which I don’t think adds anything to the peanut flavor, and add a bit of nutmeg instead. Note that warm from the oven they’ll taste quite strongly of nutmeg, but once cooled the flavor will mellow. (more…)

Gingerbread for rolling

This is a gingerbread you might plausibly have eaten in 1830, spicy, molasses-dark, and just rich and sweet enough for Christmas. (more…)

Sugar cookies

This makes enough dough to keep your kids occupied for awhile, should be easy enough for them to work without frustration, but still tastes good. For variations on the spice, see my historical flavor suggestions. (more…)

Belsnickel cookies

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. (more…)