Christmas Cookies 2011, Recipe #2, Jan Hagel

My “favorite” cookie amongst the group I traditionally bake for the December holidays has changed over the decades – and sometimes changed back. Jan Hagel, also called Dutch Hail, remained my go-to, lovin’-it cookie for years. Sometimes I think it still is. Maybe it’s that nostalgic, “honoring the ancestors” thing again. I’d never heard of these cookies before coming across them in an old Betty Crocker cookbook in the late 1970s. I don’t even know if they’re genuinely Dutch, but the name indicates at least a Holland-rooted influence.

My typically American, mongrel family background includes Dutch (as well as German) on Mom’s side, although I’ve never pursued genealogical digging to discover just how many years ago those ancestors arrived in the New World. Did they settle right away in New Netherlands (which is what this area was called), or had they first tried out some other likely homespace? I may never know for sure, although I could start some research at the Town Clerk’s Office in Broadalbin, NY someday if I want to (and had time to) learn more about the past. I’ve just always assumed the former was the case, ancient relatives coming directly to this area. Why not? In grade school, we spent plenty of time learning about our Dutch settlers, their architecture and other influences; and I was enthralled by the New Netherlands items in the Albany Institute of History and Art, often walking the few blocks from our Central Avenue apartment to the museum to wander through its many exhibits. Especially enticing: a miniature mock-up of an Old Albany street – for me, it was like viewing a dollhouse that I wasn’t allowed to touch.

Tulips, with statue of Moses in background. Washington Park, Albany, NY.

 Of course, there was – and continues to be – the annual Albany Tulip Festival each May, much of which took place in Washington Park (another location just a few city blocks from us). These days, that event is an even bigger deal in these parts, having gone well beyond the crowning of the Tulip Queen, a festival ball honoring said Queen and the ritual washing of State Street by young girls and women in Dutch attire. (I have a memory of a schoolmate “qualifying” to beone of those street sweepers via a verifiable Dutch lineage. Her last name was Krull, as I recall. I don’t think ancestry matters any more, but it made for a nice local newspaper article at the time!) Nowadays, over every Mother’s Day weekend, the park – already adorned with thousands of tulips (which happen to be my favorite flowers) – fills up with music by live bands, food and crafts vendors, and an awesome number of festival-loving folks anxious to enjoy everything offered.

Dutch-costumed annual washing of State Street at start of Albany Tulip Festival, Albany, NY

Now that you’re all “Dutched” into the right mood, here’s my recipe for Jan Hagel, a truly easy, nutty, delicious – though not fancy – bar cookie. I love its faint cinnamon taste and bit of crunchiness from the nuts. The only thing different that I did with it this year was to substitute half of the walnuts with finely chopped macadamias. That’s only because I temporarily ran out of walnuts. It was a heavenly “edit” – but then I love macadamias! Sometimes I double this recipe, depending upon how many other cookies I’ll be baking and how many holiday cookie plates I expect to gift to others.

Oh yeah – at one time I concocted a “healthier” version of this cookie to enter into a Quaker Oats contest. This was back when the current healthy super-food craze was oats. I got lots of jibes and jokes from family and friends about my experiments (in coatings for pork chops, in cookies, atop casseroles, in meatloaf, etc.), but processing oats into a powder and adding some in place of the flour did work well in Jan Hagel. Unfortunately, I’ve lost the proportions of that recipe substitution – but feel free to experiment if the spirit moves you!

JAN HAGEL (a/k/a Dutch Hail)
Yields about 40-50 bar cookies (approximately 3” x 1” each)

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter (my original recipe said “or margarine” – I never do this any more)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon (I usd Roasted Saigon Cinnamon but plain cinnamon works fine; sometimes I add a dash of nutmeg too)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ½ cup finely chopped walnuts

Process

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease a jelly roll pan (15½” x 10½” x 1”).
  3. Mix butter, sugar and egg yolk together.
  4. Blend flour and cinnamon.
  5. Stir flour/cinnamon mixture into the butter mix.
  6. Pat the dough into pan.
  7. Beat the water and egg white until frothy.
  8. Brush frothed egg white over dough.
  9. Sprinkle with nuts.
  10. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until very lightly browned.
  11. Cut immediately up removal from oven – into finger-like strips.
  12. Let cool about 5 minutes in pan before removing to a rack or plate to cool completely.


Note: Photographs from the Albany Tulip Festival in this post are from “All Over Albany” website.  

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