As much as I appreciate a plate of beautifully cut-out cookies, I have limited patience for such things (which is funny, since some years back, I became the keeper of the family cookie cutters. I have at least 75 different ones). I prefer a cookie that can be sliced, dropped, or pressed into a pan and cut into bars.
This cookie belongs to the category of things that can be pressed or poured into a rimmed pan, baked and sliced. Called a Jan Hagel, it’s traditional Dutch Christmas cookie that tastes a bit like an almond shortbread. I do love the flavor, but I also appreciate the fact that it takes no more than 10 minutes to construction and only needs 8 pantry-staple ingredients, two bowls, and a hand mixer.
This cookie entered my cookie lexicon back in the winter of 2007, during the time when I was the newly minted head blogger over at Slashfood (AOL’s long-gone food blog). We had a tradition of posting a Cookie-A-Day during the month of December and so the pressure was on to find new and novel cookies. I enlisted my mom to search through her recipe binder, to see if she had any usable suggestions tucked away.
And she did. She had a Christmas cookie recipe pull-out from a mid-1980s issue of Family Circle. I made four or five of the recipes from that publication and shared them on Slashfood. However, the only recipe that took root in my heart was this one, for the Jan Hagels. I’ve made them just about every year since.
I like to make a fairly thick cookie. I find that you end up with a really flaky top, and a base that tastes and feels like a combination of shortbread and marzipan. If you want a flakier texture throughout, use a larger pan, spread the dough a bit more thinly, and shorten the cooking time.
Make sure to store these in an airtight container, away from other cookies, so that you don’t loose the crispness of the top.
Jan Hagel Cookies
- 8 ounces butter that's two sticks
- 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon for the topping
- 1 egg white and yolk separated
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups unbleached all-purposed flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine the butter and 1 cup of sugar in a large bowl, and beat with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk and almond extract.
- Add the flour and salt and beat until the dough comes together.
- Press the dough into an even layer in the bottom of a quarter sheet pan. For a thinner, flakier cookie, use a half sheet, but don't press the dough all the way to the edges. There's no need to grease the baking sheet, the dough has enough butter to prevent sticking.
- Beat the egg white with your hand mixer (make sure to wash the beater!) until it is light and fluffy, but not to the point of stiff peaks.
- Using an off-set spatula, spread the beaten egg white out on top of the cookie dough.
- Sprinkle the almond slices evenly over the egg white-painted dough.
- Finally, mix the remaining tablespoon of sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle it evenly over the top of the cookie dough.
- Bake the cookies for 30-35 minutes (shorter if you're going the thinner cookie route).
- As soon as you take the cookies out of the oven, slice them into diamond shapes, by making overlapping diagonal cuts.
- Let the cookies cool completely before you remove them from the pan. Break them into diamond shapes and store in an airtight container.
It will surprise nobody to know that I’m making mostly jam-filled cookies this year, a necessary consequence of having learned to can this past summer and producing 150+ jars of fruit jam. Hence: Martha Stewart’s excellent hazelnut thumbprints, Epicurious’ walnut sandwich cookies with blackberry jam, linzer EVERYTHING, and a stealth winner drop cookie with sour cherry jam that tastes 100X better on days 2-3 than it does straight out of the oven.
Any chance you’ll share the recipe for that drop cookie w/jam?
So I don’t have almond extract (and unlikely to procure). But I do have a lovely bottle of Pisa, a hazelnut, almond and pistachio liqueur. Maybe a tablespoon of that to get the nutty flavor in there? Would it be heresy to sprinkle some finely chopped pistachios or hazelnuts in with the sliced almonds?
I’ve not tried it with your substitutions, but I imagine it would be quite good.
How big is 1/2 a sheet pan? Mine are all different sizes……
All quarter and half sheet pans are standard sizes. A quarter is 9 1/2 by 13 inches and a half is 13 by 18 inches.
This is my kind of cookie!
Oh. I so envy you your cookie cutter inheritance. I probably have several dozen cutters but all I’ve acquired myself.
I do like to roll and use my cookie cutters. This year the Butterzeug are going to be stars and moons. My sister is doing the Dutch White Ginger.
I have almost given up cookie baking altogether, but this one is calling me. I need slivered almonds and will get some today. Thanks Marisa. I love those old Family Circle and Woman’s Day recipes.
OKAY, I am making these!!! They seem to use common ingredients in a clever way. (And wow about your cookie cutter collection – I think you should lay them all out on the floor, climb up on a ladder, and photograph the group)
Seems like these would freeze well – have you tried it? I’m thinking of baking them now and freezing them for a shindig next week.
I’ve never frozen them, but I imagine they’d do quite well.
yes! I can now say they freeze well AND they were a smash hit at our holiday gathering. Definitely a keeper. I’ll make them again!
I should say first and foremost that I made these last new years’ and they were absolutely delicious!
Marisa, I thought it might interest you to know that I found a similar recipe in a New Zealand cookbook, Ladies A Plate by Alexa Johnston (ladiesaplate.co.nz). It was originally published in Aunt Daisy’s NEW Cookery Book No. 6 in 1947, with no author attribution. It is called simply Almond Fingers.
Ingredients are 4 oz/115 g flour, 1/4 tsp baking powder, pinch of salt, 2 oz/55g butter, 4 oz/115 g sugar, 1/3 cup/35 g ground almonds, 1 egg separated, 1/4 tsp almond extract, 1/2 cup/60 g icing sugar, 1-2 oz/40 g almonds (chopped or slivered or flaked). Rub butter into the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the sugar and ground almonds and mix to a stiff paste with the egg yolk, almond extract, and 1-2 tsp of cold water if necessary. Chill 10 min, then roll into 12×8″ rectangle about 1/4″ thick. Beat egg whites until stiff, then add icing sugar to make a spreadable meringue. Dollop meringue on top of base, and spread into a thin layer. Sprinkle with almonds. Leave on counter for an hour so the meringue isn’t as sticky. Cut into fingers, wiping knife between each cut, and place on baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 min at 350 deg F, until meringue is pale gold and the pastry is nicely browned.