Jan Hagel Cookies
Jan Hagel Cookies
(Dutch Almond Shortbread)
Who can say 2020 was a wonderful year? I am thankful and happy to report that I can! What makes my year something special is searching for and finding my biological father. My year started with spitting into a test tube through Ancestry. I’m excited to say the DNA test result matches were more than I expected. Although they were not a direct match with my biological father, they were a 100% match with three of his close family members. One message sent to my matches got the ball quickly rolling, and within two weeks I had my first contact with my biological father. His name is Bernie, and imagine his surprise, not knowing that I existed until now. How someone digests such a thing I cannot say, but what I found was a very welcoming, warm and sincere man who was “pleasantly surprised” to learn of me. What I also quickly learned was that Bernie is very much a family man with a family of four children. How cool, now I have more siblings! Wait, not quite… not only was Bernie the man being searched for by an adopted child but also one who has adopted his own four children and over time has assisted them in finding some of their biological roots. So I have to say half-siblings in spirit but not biologically. But the interesting twists in my story don’t end here. I was adopted by a family who live in the same small town as my biological family. I went to the same high school his children did, shopped at the same stores and practically grew up right under his nose. Ooooh how small the world just became!
I have since had the pleasure to meet Bernie, his lovely wife Joan, most of his children, two aunts, and cousins. I also have a biological grandmother still gracing the earth at 92 years old, but sadly with our pandemic world I have not been able to meet her yet. It’s truly hard to find the words to describe what an experience it all has been and continues to be, but I do know that time spent with Bernie and his family is very much a gift and I look forward to our continuing story.
Now, on to the Dutch Jan Hagel cookies, also known as Dutch almond shortbread. As you’ve probably guessed I have learned that I am Dutch on my father’s side. My biological grandparents immigrated to Canada from Holland in 1949 on the vessel RMS Seythia. They settled in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada to farm and raise a family of seven children. I’ve been dabbling in several different Dutch recipes but these cookies are my favourite so far. Jan Hagel Cookies are crisp, buttery and very addictive. They are a traditional Dutch cookie often made at Christmas and will become part of my holiday baking line-up from now on. I’m excited to continue to experiment in Dutch cookery and hope to share more recipes as time goes. Till then, enjoy!
Author Compelled to Cook, adapted from Jan Hagel Koekjes.
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature plus more for pan
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature divided
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 3/4 cup sliced almonds
- as needed coarse sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F and set oven rack to the middle position. Lightly butter a 10"x15" baking tray, set aside.
- Cream together butter and granulated sugar. Divide the egg and add the egg yolk, cinnamon, salt and almond extract. Beat to fully combine. Add flour and mix only until dough starts to come together.
- Press or roll dough evenly into prepared pan. Whisk egg white with 1 tbsp water. Brush evenly onto prepared dough. Sprinkle evenly with almonds and then sprinkle with coarse sugar. Just enough to create a nice sparkle.
- Bake for 20-22 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 3-5 minutes and then cut into squares or diamonds while the cookie is warm and soft. Once cut, allow to cool completely before removing from the pan. The cookies will firm up as they cool.
-coarse sugar is a larger crystal sugar that doesn't melt when baked so it keeps a sparkle on the goods it's sprinkled on. It may also be called pearl sugar, decorators sugar, sparkling sugar.
-I get about 45 - 2" diamond shaped cookies, plus the best and crispiest half diamonds around the edges.
-I've tried sliced almonds with and without the skin and both are good to use and is a matter of preference.
-I find it just as easy to cut the squares instead of just scoring them while they are warm, but if you're having difficulty just score them and cut when cool.
-cookies are best if eaten while fresh, however they will last in a sealed container at room temperature for several days. If freezing, allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container away from strong odours.