Baking History

A Taste For The Past

Jumbles (Think Spice…Think Nutmeg)

Posted by bakinghistory on July 25, 2008

Ring-shaped cookies nicely spiced with nutmeg

Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen is the host of  Think Spice… , a monthly blog event initiated by Sunita of Sunita’s World. This time the theme is Nutmeg—a spice that brings a wonderful, warm aroma to savory and sweet dishes alike.

ROUNDUP IS HERE

Jumbles—also spelled Jumbals—are ring-shaped cookies that date back to Colonial times and were  much more popular in the 1800s than they are today.

These cookies were usually flavored with lemon zest and rose water, and often included coconut and/or treenuts. Virtually any early American cookbook contains several recipes for Jumbles, and often call for sour cream  among the ingredients, as in the case of the recipe featured here. This produces a wonderful texture, dry and crunchy and yet very very light. The pleasant aroma of nutmeg truly shines through thanks to the low amount of sugar and butter which would otherwise overpower it. They are nice with tea or a glass of milk.

The shape of these cookies evolved in time: the earliest versions were shaped by rolling small quantities of dough between the palms of hands and forming small rings—this is the method I used here. Later the dough was rolled and cut with a donut cutter, which quickly provided  ring-shaped cookies of a uniform size and thickness. The most recent versions were simply shaped as drop cookies.

My personal preference is for the earliest method for shaping the cookies. The final result are cookies that look plain and homey, and with slight imperfections and differences in size. I like the fact that one can tell they were hand-shaped.

The dough produced by this recipe is soft and smooth, and extremely easy to work with. The baked cookies have a wonderful texture and are great for dunking.

The original instructions called for “enough flour” to form the cookies. My rule-of-thumb—and preference—is to use an amount of flour that is equal to twice as much the amount of sugar. In this case almost 2 lbs of unbleached, all purpose flour.

The brand of flour I use is King Arthur, which is a little higher in protein than other all purpose brands. If you use another brand you might need a little more flour, but don’t be tempted to use too much, or the cookies will turn out heavy and hard like rocks.

Using a proportion of 1:2 for sugar and flour produces cookies that are crunchy, keep their shape and are not too sweet. If you prefer you can add a little more sugar, keeping in mind that it makes the shape less neat and the cookies brown faster.

From the original recipe by Mrs. M.D. Carrington  (a lady of Toledo)

In:“The Home Cook Book: Tried and True Recipes” , 1876—USA

Ingredients

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter, slightly softened

1 cup (all natural) sour cream (240 g)

3 eggs (medium)

1-1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated (or less, to taste, but not more than 1-1/2 tsp)

1 tsp baking soda

2 lbs AP flour (King Arthur)

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Cream the butter at medium speed, gradually add the sugar and mix well. Add the sour cream and then the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the baking soda.

Sift the flour with the grated nutmeg, and add to the egg mixture, mixing at the lowest speed just until a soft dough forms. Gather the dough in wax paper and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Break off small pieces of dough and roll them between the palms of your hands to form little ropes about the thickness of a pencil. Shape rings, more or less large in diameter and bake for 12-15 minutes until dry and crunchy.

It is important not to underbake these cookies—they have to be crunchy and dry, which is why a longer baking time at a lower temperature is necessary.  Insulated cookie baking sheets are ideal.

It is not necessary to grease the baking sheets, and once ready the cookies don’t stick and are extremely easy to transfer to cooling racks. Keep in air-tight containers once completely cold.

7 Responses to “Jumbles (Think Spice…Think Nutmeg)”

  1. Aparna said

    I’ve never seen these cookies before. I just lovethe way they look.
    I don’t really have a sweet tooth so these are perfect for me. Shall try them out.
    Thanks for participating.

  2. bakinghistory said

    @Aparna: Thanks for hosting! These cookies are among my favorites, I hope you’ll like them too😉

  3. Louise said

    Hi Manuela,
    These cookies remind me of what we use to call S cookies. I’m going to have to check my recipe. I adore the freshly grated nutmeg. I can smell it from here:) Thanks for sharing your “Rule of Thumb” method. I’ve noted it for future use. Yes, with all your wonderful posts, I must bake something as soon as things cool off.

  4. coffeepot said

    I have never seen these cookies before either. How fun and tasty looking.

  5. bakinghistory said

    @ Louise: Thanks🙂. There are cookies called “S” in Italy as well, I would love to see your recipe and compare the two.

    @ Coffeepot: Thank you for visiting! The shape I think is a great part of the appeal of these cookies, it is well suited to their texture. In fact, the name Jumbles or Jumbals is said to come from the Latin word for twins, but I find a very interesting assonance between the word Jumble and the Italian word Ciambella, (C + I in Italian is pronounced as in the English word “Chimp”), which indicates baked goods made in a ring shaped either cookies or cakes or even breads.

  6. Jude said

    very cute.. I thought they mini-mini-bagels. Never heard of these before. Love the historical info and descriptions.

  7. bakinghistory said

    @ Jude: Thanks🙂

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