Maidstone Biscuits

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This is a very simple recipe for a crunchy almond flavored biscuit from the Middle Ages.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons chopped, blanched almonds
1 teaspoon rosewater (or substitute) *

Cream the sugar and butter together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Stir in the rosewater and almonds. Fold in the flour to form a stiff dough. Form pieces of dough into balls about the size of a golf ball in your hands and flatten them onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees. When baked the biscuits should be golden brown in color.

* It was traditionally flavored with rosewater, which is still available in specialty food stores. If you can’t obtain rosewater, you can use vanilla or even orange extract instead.

 

Asbusas (Ancient Egyptian Cookies)

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Abusas are an ancient Egyptian cookie:

2 lbs semolina (this is cream of wheat)
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 pound butter
16 ounces of plain yogurt
slivered almond halves

Bring all ingredients to room temperature. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and semolina (cream of wheat). Rub the butter into this mixture by hand until very well blended. Add the yogurt and mix with your hands until the dough feels smooth. If it feels dry add one tablespoon of water at a time until a firm dough forms.

Butter a 13x9x2 inch pan and pat the dough into the pan. With a sharp knife slice the dough in 2 x 2 inch squares. Press one almond half onto the surface of each piece. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.

 

 

Snickerdoodles

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  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups flour, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix together all ingredients thorough salt thougherly. Chill dough. Roll into balls the size of a small walnut.  Roll in mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Place about 2 inches apart on baking sheet.  Bake until light brown at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, but still soft.  These cookies will puff up at first, then flatten out with a crinkled top

Ancient Egyptian Date Candies

 

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This recipe was found on an ostraca (pottery shard) that dates back to 1600 BC. Here’s is a modernized version:

1 cup of fresh pitted dates
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1/2 cup ground walnuts
small amount of liquid honey
1/2 cup finely ground almonds

Put the dates, cardamom, cinnamon, and walnuts in a food processor and run at high speed to make a paste. Take chunks of this paste and form it into walnut sized balls. Brush these with some liquid honey and roll them in the ground almonds to coat them.

 

French Madeleines

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus 4 tablespoons for pans
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
⅔ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

Equipment 

  • 2 12 shell madeleines pans
  • Stand mixer

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Coat two 12-shell pans with melted 4 tablespoons butter and brush in each mold (cooking spray will work as well, although I prefer butter).

Whisk together flour and baking powder.  Melt butter and place in a bowl to cool to room temperature.

Add eggs and sugar in a bowl and beat with a hand or stand mixer on medium-high speed until mixture is light and fluffy, around 3 to 5 minutes.  Add vanilla and zest and continue beating for another minute or so. Fold in the flour mixture until just blended, then drizzle the cooled butter over the batter and incorporate completely.

Using a teaspoon, fill shell molds with batter until almost full. Carefully press batter to distribute it evenly.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until madeleines puff up and are golden brown. Remove pans from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 2 to 3 minutes, then invert and tap madeleines onto the rack.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

Allow to cool completely if planning to store and/or freeze. Serving madeleines warm from the oven is preferable for a special treat

 

Pecan Pralines

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This may very well be the quintessential Southern candy and a personal favorite.

3 cups brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sorghum molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 cups toasted pecan halves

Add the brown sugar, cream, butter, and sorghum in a medium pot over medium heat and bring it up to 236 degrees stirring constantly (this is very important keep stirring with a wooden spoon until it comes up to temperature).

When the temperature has been reached, remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture cool to 150 degrees and then stir in the vanilla, sesame seeds, and pecans. Spoon onto wax paper in tablespoon-size or a bit larger mounds and allow to cool.

Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days, not that they’ll last that long.

 

Gingerbread Cookies

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Gingerbread Cookies

1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup melted butter
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup molasses
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon extract
4 cups unbleached flour

Combine the sugar, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Mix well. Add the melted butter, evaporated milk and molasses. Add the extracts. Mix well. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly.

Knead the dough for a smoother texture. Add up to ½ cup additional flour if necessary to prevent sticking. When the dough is smooth, roll it out ¼ inch thick on a floured surface and cut it into cookies.

Bake on floured or greased cookie sheets in a preheated 375 degrees oven for 10 to 12 minutes. The gingerbread cookies are done when they spring back when touched.