Friday, May 31, 2013

Spice Cookies

Spice Cookies 2

This month at Tasting Jerusalem, we're sampling Ottolenghi's baked goods.  Having recently made (and adored) Ottolenghi's Plum & Oat Bars, I had no hesitation dipping into more of his sweet treats.  Jerusalem: A Cookbook has some positively sensational sweets and desserts, but I figured these Spice Cookies would make a great wee treat to take into the shop for my work friends to enjoy.

We're also dipping into Something Sweet from Ottolenghi at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week, so this post is doing double duty.

In the introduction to this recipe, Ottolenghi says, "These are very loosely inspired by duvshanyot (round iced cookies, made with honey and spices, typically for Rosh Hashana), or pfeffernusse.  They are actually more closely related to an Italian spice cookie and are hugely popular on the sweet counter at Ottolenghi over Easter and Christmas."  In fact, when I shared these at work, the first reaction I got was, "these taste like Christmas".

The cookies are crisp on the outside, and slightly softer on the inside, delicately spiced, with lovely hits of chocolate, raisins, and citrus.

I made a few minor changes to the recipe, mostly just to suit what I had on hand.  I used raisins soaked in an orange liqueur, rather than the currants and brandy called for in the original recipe - I think cranberries would be a nice alternative too.  I added in some cardamom, just because I love it, and left out ground allspice which I didn't have.  Also, because I failed to observe baking rule 1.01, I failed to read the recipe through before I started, and then discovered in the midst of everything that I had little more than a tablespoon of butter on hand, instead of the 1/2 cup required by the recipe.  I wasn't going to run out to the supermarket at that stage, so a few tablespoons of yoghurt to the rescue, and things worked out fine.  I can't say what difference the butter would have made to these cookies, but I certainly didn't feel as though the absence was discernible.  Also, the original recipe only asked for 1/2 an egg - as there is no world in which I would measure out 1/2 an egg (and then be left wondering what to do with the other 1/2), I put in the whole egg.  I also thought this might compensate for the lack of butter.  Lastly, I topped them off with some of my homemade Seville Orange Spoon Sweets, instead of the chopped candied peel called for in the original recipe.

I hope you give these a try.  I have to say that I'm not normally a huge cookie lover - given the choice I would usually opt for a piece of slice, or even cake.  These were, however, delicious cookies.  They were easy to make and the house smelled amazing while they were baking.  I would definitely make these again.

Spice Cookies 1

Spice Cookies Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

125g (4 oz) raisins
2 tablespoons orange liqueur (I used "44")
240g (8 oz) plain flour
1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
150g (5 oz) dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used Whittaker's Dark Ghana)
35g (1 oz) room-temperature butter
3 heaped tablespoons natural yoghurt
125g (4 oz) caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (I used Heilala)
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
grated zest of 1/2 orange
1x medium free-range egg
1 tablespoon diced candied citrus peel

3 tablespoons lemon juice
160g (6 oz) icing sugar

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C (375 degrees F).

Soak the raisins in the liqueur for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.   Add the chopped chocolate, and mix well.

Cream together the butter and sugar, using an electric beater, just until well combined.  Then add the yoghurt, vanilla paste, and citrus zest. Continue beating for about a minute, then add the egg and beat for a further minute.

Now add the dry ingredients and the raisins, along with their soaking liqueur.  Mix until everything comes together - you might need to use your hands.

Roll spoonfuls of the dough into round balls and place them on baking sheets lined with baking paper, about 2cm (3/4 in) apart. (* See note below)

Bake the cookies in the preheated oven, until the outsides have firmed but the centre is still a little soft - about 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the oven, cool on the baking trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack set over a sheet of parchment paper.

While the cookies are still warm, whisk the glaze ingredients into a thin, smooth icing, and then drizzle a tablespoon of icing over each cookie - it will drip away, leaving a very thin glaze on the cookies.  Finish with a little of the candied peel on top of each one.

Store in an airtight container.

*Note:  The recipe did say at this stage to rest the cookies in the fridge for an hour before baking.  I didn't notice this until after I'd put the cookies in the oven, and I don't think they suffered adversely for this omission.

I am sharing this post at Tasting Jerusalem, a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, and liking our Facebook page.

If you would like to get to know Yotam Ottolenghi a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...

IHCC Ottolenghi Leek Badge resized

... or check out Jerusalem and Ottolenghi's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Fishpond NZ.


I will also be submitting this post to Sweet New Zealand.  Inspired by Alessandra Zecchini, Sweet New Zealand is an event for all Kiwi bloggers (whether living at home or abroad), or all foreign bloggers living in New Zealand, to link up their sweet treats.  During the month of June, I will be hosting Sweet New Zealand right here at Couscous & Consciousness.

Sweet New Zealand Badge A

And, just because I really like to spread the love around, I'm also sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely, and very amusing, Michelle at Ms. enPlace.

See Ya in The Gumbo Badge


  1. I haven't tried any of Ottolenghi's sweet treats yet, but I am excited for the upcoming sweet treat theme. These cookies do look like Christmas to me. I'm actually really fond of a spice cookie and I love that you put some of your orange spoon sweets on top. I'm glad the cookies turned out well with your substitutions. I'm always a bit leery about changing things when I bake as it doesn't seem to be as forgiving.

    Looks very pretty!

    1. Thanks, Kim - I do think it was really more good luck than good management that my changes turned out ok. I'm always really nervous about changing things when I'm baking as well, but this time I was lucky that everything was fine. So many other Ottolenghi sweet treats I still want to try.

  2. They certainly sound like Christmas! But I don't think I can wait so long to try them.

    1. Thanks, Foodycat - definitely recommend that you make them long before Christmas comes around.

  3. Sue - love the changes you made for both circumstance and taste! Intrigued by your homemade orange topping - must go check out what that is - it's a bit more up my alley! There are so many recipes I want to try in the chapter and I'm sure that's true for others, we will definitely dip back into the desserts chapter again in another month! Thanks for a great post. Hope you won't mind if I grab a photo and give you credit to include in the monthly round-up

    1. Thanks, Beth. The orange spoon sweets are incredibly delicious and really fun to make as well. I agree - so many wonderful Ottolenghi desserts to try :-)

  4. love all the spices in these cookies and you had me cracking up laughing as you talked about measuring out half an egg and what to do with the rest - LOL

    1. Thanks, Mireille. The funny thing was that the very next day I made the Fish & Caper Kebabs that I posted here (, which also happened to ask for half an egg so if I'd planned ahead I would have had the use for the other half. Needless to say once again I used a whole egg.

  5. Hi Sue, These cookies looks great! With all the last minute changes with the butter and eggs, and did not rest them in the fridge before baking, I'm glad that they turned out wonderful! These cookies sounds perfect for festive occasions!

    1. Thanks, Joyce - it was a bit of a surprise that they worked out so well, especially without the butter!!

  6. I can just imagine how great your house smelled when these were baking with all of those wonderful spices. I hate the half an egg thing too and usually dump in the whole thing. ;-)

    1. House sure did smell good, Deb. There are quite a few Ottolenghi recipes I've discovered that call for half an egg. I don't really get why, but I'm guessing that perhaps a lot of his recipes are adapted from ones they use in the restaurant kitchen and so once the recipes are divided into smaller quantities then you end up with half an egg. Nevertheless I always put in the whole thing - why waste half a good egg?!

  7. Mmmmm....chocolate, citrus and spices sounds like a wonderful combination. I think you're right - these cookies shouldn't wait until Christmas to be made.

  8. Heavenly cookies Sue, love all the spices making them not so sweet - makes these cookies right up my alley. And yes half an egg? That is I guess you're maybe in to very very tiny omelettes!!


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