One of the nice things about being a food writer is that you get to spend time with other food writers and taste and share the recipes they create.
My friend, Beth Lee (who blogs at omgyummy.com and lives in the Bay area) has a new cookbook out and it is truly The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook. The book, published by Rockridge Press, offers up 50 traditional recipes, many inspired by Lee’s Ashkenazi grandmother. While the book has lots of delectable recipes for babkas, bagels, challah and other Eastern European and East Coast Jewish specialties (including my favorite black and white cookies), it also offers goodies from other Jewish communities ranging from pita to Yemeni bread, Sephardic fritters, borekas, baklava, and more.
The book also has an extensive introduction on baking basics and ingredients and the recipes are well written and easy to follow. I felt like I could hear Lee guiding me through the steps as I baked.
I tried her recipe for Honey Cookies. They were light, satisfying, and not too sweet, a nice accompaniment to another dessert (try them with ice cream or a lemon or honey mousse) or by themselves. They also are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. They would also be good to serve during Rosh Hashanah, when desserts made with honey are traditional for some.
I made them slightly larger than the recipe calls for and used lemon curd to make sandwich cookies. A berry jam would work as a cookie filling, too. The recipe is dairy. For a non-dairy option, Lee says to replace the melted butter with ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of vegetable or olive oil.
The recipe below is adapted for space, style and to reflect my experience making it. Thanks to Lee for letting me share this recipe from The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook: 50 Traditional Recipes for Every Occasion.
Beth Lee’s Honey Cookies
Adapted from The Essential Jewish Baking Book (Rockridge Press)
Makes 48 cookies
2 ½ cups flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup honey
¼ cup brown sugar
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. grated lime zest
½ cup sugar
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. In a second medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, butter, honey, brown sugar, lime juice, and lime zest until well mixed.
Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Stir with a wooden or metal spoon until there is no flour visible.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Chill for at least 30 minutes. While the dough is chilling, line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. If baking both sheets at the same time, place oven racks in the top and bottom third of the oven. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Place sugar in small bowl. Take heaping tablespoons of dough and roll into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in sugar and place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Flatten with hands or tines of a fork until they are about ¼-inch thick.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, until they have spread and begin to brown on the undersides. (If using 2 sheets at once, rotate halfway through.) Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Notes: If the dough turns sticky while rolling, try oiling your hands or wetting with cold water. If the weather is very warm, you may need to return dough to refrigerator for a few minutes to firm up. I found a thin metal spatula worked best to remove the cookies from the baking sheet. The cookies will be soft at first but crisp up nicely when they cool. Stored airtight at room temperature, they stay crisp and last several days.
This material is adapted from my September 2021 cooking column in Temple Beth Abraham's Omer newsletter.