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Friesian Thumbs

The Dutch do cookies; they even gave the English language the word. And is there a more Dutch cookie than this one? Distinctive spicing; check. Chopped nuts; check. Traditional shape and back story; check. And yet it seems a bit obscure outside of Holland.

Oh, the story? It seems that they are from the northern province of Friesland (surprise! Okay, no) and not only are they traditionally cut into a thumb-like shape, but they were originally made in a local bakery, where the baker was proud enough of these that he put his maker’s mark on them – his thumb print. I didn’t bother, but you could if you like. I have to say mine ended up more like fingers than thumbs but whatever.

All the source recipes I looked at were extremely similar, and called for 1 egg. I used 2 egg yolks instead, because I was also making cookies that took 2 egg whites. It worked just fine so that’s convenient but I’m sure the original version works very well too.

36 to 48 cookies
1 hour – 40 minutes prep time, plus 1 hour chill time
not including toasting the nuts – allow 30 minutes for that

Friesian Thumbs Dutch Cookies

Toast & Peel the Hazelnuts:
3/4 cup whole hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking tray, and bake for 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub them in a clean tea-towel to remove most of the skins. Chop them coarsely.

If you can find them being sold already chopped, you can replace them with 1 cup chopped hazelnuts (100 grams). Give them a little toast too, but WATCH THEM; like, literally stand there by the oven, because I can’t tell you how long it will take but I suspect the answer is not long.

Make the Cookies:
2/3 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup Sucanat or dark brown sugar
1 large egg, OR 2 egg yolks
1 2/3 cups soft unbleached flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground anise seeds

Cream the butter and work in the sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg (or egg yolks).

Measure the flour and add the salt, cinnamon, ginger, and anise seed to it. Add the prepared hazelnuts to the flour. Mix well.

Mix the dry ingredients into the creamed butter and sugar, and mix to form a soft, smooth dough. Cover it and refrigerate it for 1 hour.

Bring the dough out to warm up a little. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking trays with parchment paper.

Pat or roll the dough into a neat rectangle, about 1 cm thick. Cut it into fingers; 1 or 2 cm wide by 6 or 8 cm long. A pizza cutter is very nice for this. Place them on the prepared baking trays. Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly coloured and set. Let cool and store in a tin, in a cool, dry place. They keep well and even improve with a little sitting, if you can keep them hidden.

Last year at this time I made Baked Apples with Cheesecake Filling. Uh, apparently the end of March needs some help, no kidding.

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