The winter holidays are right around the corner, and I’ve been thinking a lot about cookies laden with cinnamon, spices, and all the other nice things (namely, butter). With the structure of Mexican polvorones in mind, I came up with these butter cookies, warming with the scent of cinnamon and the welcome spice of ginger. Taking a cue from my mother’s recipe for polvorones, I first browned the butter to add a nice nutty flavor to the cookies. I then added Korintje Cinnamon, which originates from Indonesia and is the most commonly used and familiar cinnamon flavor. Ceylon Cinnamon would also be delicious and would lend a slightly more complex and subtle flavor to the cookies. To make these simple slice-and-bake cookies a little more worthy of the holiday cookie plate, I studded the outside with crystallized ginger, giving the perfect unexpected kick to these buttery morsels. A dusting of cinnamon-kissed powdered sugar makes these cookies ready for any party.
One more thing: don’t let the amount of butter in these cookies scare you away. It’s the holidays, after all, and this much butter is acceptable but once a year.
Brown Butter Cinnamon Cookies with Crystallized Ginger Studs
adapted from The Troika Table
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ teaspoons + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 ounces (about ½ cup) crystallized ginger, diced
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, for dusting
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it is bubbling steadily. Continue cooking and stirring until the butter begins to brown and smell nutty. Watch carefully, as the butter can burn easily. Stir in the sugar and chill until the mixture is mostly solid (about 45 minutes), or let solidify at room temperature (this would take several hours).
With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar mixture with the egg until it is lightly colored and fluffy. Add the vanilla, 2 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon, and pinch of salt. Mix in the flour until just combined.
Shape the dough into two logs, about 2 ½ inches thick. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least an hour or overnight. After the dough has chilled, stud the dough logs with the crystallized ginger by scattering some of the ginger on your work surface and rolling the dough over it, gently pressing to make the ginger stick. You can also press the ginger into the dough with your fingers. Chill the dough for at least another 30 minutes to make it easier to slice. At this point, you can also freeze your dough, wrapped in plastic, for several months.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the dough ½ inch thick and place one inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, until lightly golden. The cookies will harden as they cool, so be careful not to overcook.
Combine the powdered sugar with the remaining ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and use a sifter or colander to dust the cookies with the mixture.
Yield – about 34 cookies