Little Brown Birds and Jan Hegels

Jan Hegels and Lady Apples
Jan Hegels and Lady Apples

I mentioned in my previous post on acorn cookies that I have an extensive cookie file, and as I was riffling through it, I came across an old Gourmet Magazine article called “Dutch Cookies: A Baker’s Dozen.” I love European cookies because they are often so beautifully made, and because in hundreds and hundreds of years of cookie baking, the so-so recipes got weeded out, and the really good ones remain. Or at least, that’s my theory. I decided to try a recipe for Cinnamon Almond Wafers, called Jan Hagels. There were several things going for these cookies. For one thing, the dough doesn’t have to be chilled, nothing has to be cut out with cookie cutters, there is no frosting to fuss with, and the cinnamon sugar topping called loudly to the little girl in me. I set to work.

IMG_2233I donned my new indigo apron for this occasion, a bit of which is shown above. Actually, real indigo-dyed fabric being in short supply locally, I got some fabric at a local craft store that–in my imagination–looked like it was indigo-dyed, and I made a simple apron with a ruffle on the bottom edge.

Jan Hegels (Cinnamon Almond Wafers)

Ready to go into the oven.
Ready to go into the oven.

1-3/4 sticks of unsalted butter (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons), softened
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
1 large egg, beaten lightly
2-1/3 cups flour
2/3 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and lightly butter a baking sheet. In a medium-sized bowl, cream the softened butter with the brown sugar, the lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon of the egg, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in the flour. Pat the dough out into a 14 x 10-inch rectangle on the buttered baking sheet. (I found it easier to use a rolling pin.) Brush it with the remaining egg, and sprinkle evenly with the almonds. In a small bowl stir together the sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over the almonds. Bake in the 350 degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until it’s golden. While the pastry is still hot, cut it into 2 x 1″ wafers. Transfer to racks and let cool. Makes about 50 wafers.

IMG_2271
Cut into rectangles while still warm.

Baking notes: It’s not easy to measure such a slithery substance as egg yolk–I estimated the amount, and then added a bit more to the dough as I was mixing.  I used the grated rind of one lemon–this didn’t add up to a whole teaspoon, but was enough to give the cookie a nice flavor. The recipe calls for the dough to be patted out, but after a moment or two or ineffectual patting, I rolled it out. This may sound odd, but I grabbed an impeccably clean beer bottle to roll out the dough. I have found that the cool glass of the bottle rolls doughs out beautifully. The goal is to roll the dough out as evenly as possible, as this results in a deliciously crisp cookie. The original recipe called for the cookie to bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Mine was done in about 16 minutes. Check your cookie after about 15 minutes, looking for golden brown edges. I checked with a ruler to see how big a 2 x 1″ rectangle was, and then cut the cookies by eye.

IMG_2275The upshot, is that this is my new favorite cookie. The next time I make it, I will sprinkle some sparkly sanding sugar over the almonds, along with the cinnamon sugar.

IMG_2289One more Jan Hegel picture.

IMG_2237As I was baking, I kept getting the feeling I was being watched. Now why would that be?

IMG_2252Then an odd little brown bird showed up at the feeder (on the right), and I realized that it was a goldfinch, in its winter feathers.

IMG_2268And a new squirrel, a red one, has also shown up. He looks like he could use some TLC–I’ll have to give him a Jan Hegel.

IMG_2229And, lastly, we’ve started to decorate for Christmas. Here are two little baby penguins guarding a small Christmas tree. I call them Ed and Fred!

Hope you have a good week. Namaste. Fran

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5 thoughts on “Little Brown Birds and Jan Hegels

  1. The Jan Hegels look awesome, Fran! But, oh, those squirrels. Daryl was just commenting this evening that feeding the birds is getting expensive and it’s not even the birds eating most of it. The little acrobats get into the feeders! Great for entertainment – not so much for the pocketbook. We’ve tried giving them peanuts, but they bury those and eat the bird seed! : )

  2. I don’t see any way to get the upper hand over squirrels, Sherri. I always say that they are small, but they are relentless. Jim has been getting a 50 pound bag of the sunflower seeds, and it should last the winter, I hope. Fran

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