Wednesday, May 29, 2024

American Cookie #1: {Dutch Tea Cookies - Oldest Cookie Recipe In America}

Over the winter I found a gem of a cookbook called American Cookie by Anne Byrn. Bryn's cookbook combines three things I love: baking, reading, and history. The book was captivating (who knew the history of cookies was so exciting)? I vowed when summer rolled around I would spend some of my time off exploring the history of the American cookie!

Each week, I'm going to be highlighting a new American Cookie and sharing it's history, as well as my results. This week I am beginning with the Dutch Tea Cookie, which the historians say is the Oldest Cookie In America! 

The History of Dutch Baking in America: In 1609-1664, the Dutch controlled the Hudson River Valley and they pioneered cookie baking! Who knew? Dutch settlements had a town bakery with a central oven where the baker baked bread for home consumption, but some bakers also baked up cookies and traded them for animal hides. Dutch foodways were established in America and there is still a deep Dutch imprint found today with tea cookies and also with doughnuts, also known as ollykoeks.

The History of Dutch Tea Cookies: Dutch historian Peter G. Rose says this recipe may be one of the oldest cookies in America. The recipe was found in the handwritten cookbook of Maria Sanders van Rensselaer (1749-1830) and adapted for the modern kitchen. The cookies were called "Tea Cookjes", which was a half-English, half Dutch spelling. 

My Results: I believe these are the simplest cookie I've ever made. They consist of four ingredients: butter, sugar, flour, and water. There is no egg or leavening. Directions indicate the cookies can be baked for as little or as long as you like, depending on how crispy and brown you'd like them to be. I baked mine for about 22 minutes, until they became just golden brown on the bottom and on the edges. 

I was expecting them to be mild and sweet and that is exactly how they turned out. I like how the cookies are soft in the middle and crispy on the edges. I can see how they would pair very well with tea. I rather enjoyed them and can see myself making them in the future, especially since they can be made with so few ingredients. For best results, I would allow the dough to chill for several hours, or overnight. 

My Rating:  3 out of 5 stars!

I'm going to be rating all the cookies with the five-star format, one star being the lowest rating and five star being the highest.  

Dutch Tea Cookies

Adapted from American Cookie

by Anne Bryn

Makes About 8 dozen (1-1/2" cookies)


1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

3-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup water, chilled in the refrigerator

Place the softened butter in the bowl of a mixer and beat on low until the butter has creamed well, about 1 minute. With the mixer running, gradually pour in the sugar, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Resume adding the sugar and beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes total time. Set aside.

Measure the flour into a medium-size mixing bowl. Spoon a third of the flour into the butter and sugar mixture and beat on low speed to combine. Add half the water, then beat until smooth. Add another third of the flour, then the remaining water, and finally the last third of the flour, beating only until just incorporated. Cover the top of the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill at least 1 hour and as long as overnight.

Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350F. Scoop or spoon about 1/2" balls of dough onto baking sheets, spacing them at least 1" apart. These cookies do not spread much in baking. You can get 12 to 15 cookies per baking sheet. Place the baking sheets in the oven.

Bake the cookies until golden brown around the edges and underneath, 16 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven and how browned and crispy you like the cookies.

Transfer the cookies at once to a wire rack to completely cool. Repeat with the remaining dough, giving the baking sheets time to cool down between batches. Once cool, serve with tea. Or place in storage containers and freeze for up to 6 months. 


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