Specaloos Buttons

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This year I was particularly inspired by the cover of Bon Appetit magazine. I love to bake, but I don’t particularly enjoy decorating. I generally consider time spent trying to make baked goods pretty to be time I should spend making more baked goods. This year, however, I felt festive. I really wanted to try to reproduce the decorations on Specaloos Buttons!

I set about to making these little spiced cookies. The cookie dough is stiff, but it was easy enough to make with a stand maker and a little patience. I creamed the butter for a few minutes, then creamed it with sugar, brown sugar, and molasses for a few minutes, and then added in the egg and vanilla and beat it a few minutes more. I gradually added the flour mixed with salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and fresh nutmeg, mixing just until the flour was well incorporated.

Once the dough was made, I divided it into 3 pieces. I shaped them into 8-inch logs (using a ruler, because that’s what I do), wrapped them well in plastic wrap, and stashed them in the freezer.

3 hours later, I pulled the logs out one by one. I used a silicone brush to brush each log with a beaten egg white and sprinkled on green, red, or granulated sugar. (Large sugar crystals or sprinkles don’t work well here – don’t try it!) I used a ruler to measure my 1/4 thick cookies, and used a sharp knife to cut the log into cookies. I arranged the cookies rather closely on Silpat-lined baking sheets, and stashed each sheet in the freezer while I cut other cookies; chilled cookies kept their shape better. I got a yield of about 78 (with each batch – I’m pretty consistent) so I fit all the cookies on 2 large baking sheets.

I baked the chilled cookies at 375F for 11 minutes, rotating the pans and changing their rack halfway through. I removed the Silpats from the cookie sheets to cool the cookies, rather than transferring the cookies to wire racks.

I made a half-batch of green frosting for the red-rimmed cookies, and planned to make red for the green-lined cookies. I mixed 1 cup of powdered sugar with about 3.5 teaspoons of water, and added as much food coloring as was necessary. (It’s possible I mismeasured the water, because my frosting wasn’t too thick.) I drizzled a little frosting on each cookie, then topped it with candy pearls. I had enough frosting to get through about 80%+ of the cookies, so I didn’t bother making another batch of frosting. I made a second batch of cookies about a week later and decided I didn’t want to bother frosting them.

Specaloos Buttons
Specaloos Buttons – success with decorating?

The verdict on these cookies? I liked them. I really enjoyed the spices in these cookies. The cookies were satisfyingly crunchy. I originally thought the ones with frosting were a little too sweet for my taste, but now I’m not sure in retrospect. Frosted cookies were softer than the ones without frosting. Alex thought the frosting didn’t detract from the spiciness of the cookies.

These aren’t the kind of cookies I usually make, but I really did enjoy them – that’s why I made two batches!

Specaloos Buttons
adapted from Bon Appetit
Servings: 78 -90
Author: Leona Konkel
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mild or light-flavored molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 cups powdered sugar sifted
  • fine colored sanding, or granulated sugar (no large sugar crystals)
  • Sprinkles or other decorations optional
  1. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter until smooth (about 2 minutes). Add sugars and molassess; beat until smooth and creamy (about 3 minutes). Add egg and vanilla and mix until well combined (about 2 minutes). Reduce speed to low; add flour, cinnamon, ginger, salt, nutmeg, and cloves, and mix until just combined.
  2. Divide dough into thirds. Roll each piece of dough into an 8-inch log. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 3 hours.
  3. Whisk egg white and brush all over one frozen log. Sprinkle with, or roll in, sanding sugar or colored sugar. Cut logs into 1/4 inch rounds. Place on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet, about 1/2 inches apart. Place in freezer while you cut the next log.
  4. Make sure oven racks are in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Bake at 375F for 11-13 minutes, one pan on each rack, rotating them halfway the baking time. Tops will be golden and the centers will be almost firm. Repeat with the third sheet of cookies (if you have a third sheet). Cool cookies on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
  5. If using glaze, combine powdered sugar and 7 teaspoons water in a large bowl. This will be a thick glaze. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon glaze onto each cookie. Decorate with sprinkles, sugar, or other decorations if desired. Let glaze set for 30 minutes before storing.


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