As a kid, I was a great one for projects. Homemade play-dough. Cookies painted with egg/food-coloring paint. Dollhouse furniture. Leaves pressed between waxed paper. I was never very good at any of these, and my record on finishing what I started was less than stellar. So maybe I should clarify that I was a great one for the idea of projects. I liked thinking about them, planning them, more than actually doing them. What patient parents I have! At some point – I was maybe eight or nine – we had a book full of project ideas. It has long since disappeared, but I seem to remember that it had something to do with a World’s Fair or the Olympics. It was a guide book for kids like me, with ideas and charts and drawings. All sorts of cool stuff you could actually do at home! On your own! This book gave me the ill-fated idea for a science fair project to hatch chicks. In a shoe box. With a light bulb. My father had to track down fertilized eggs and buy some for me and we built a sort of Easy-Bake oven incubator. This was not a successful experiment. It resulted in no baby chickens. And unhatched eggs left under a hot bulb do not smell good. My interest in the grand project waned somewhat after that experience.
But tucked away somewhere in that book, between the potato battery and Indian-basket weaving, was this recipe for Clove Cookies. And though my general project-completion record was low, I have always loved a good recipe. And this one is easy and makes a darn good cookie. I copied that recipe in my wobbly handwriting onto one of my earliest index recipe cards, re-copied years later onto a designed recipe card with pictures and “from the kitchen of…” at the top. Glued that card into a binder. Recopied it into a recipe-keeper notebook I was given as a Christmas present, cut out that page to put in a vinyl page protector in binder. As you can tell, my inability to see a project through also applies to my many and varied attempts to decide on a pre-computer recipe organizing system. But this recipe has stayed with me, moved from format to format.
The use of cloves in a cookie may smack seriously of the 1970s origin of this recipe, but boy is it good. These cookies are warm and spicy and scream autumn leaves and crackling fires. I come back to these cookies whenever I need something homey and comforting and happy. They start out with a pleasant, soft, slightly chewy center, but after a day or so turn into a lovely, crunchy wafer. The taste of cloves remains central, but mellows. These cookies will please you every time you open the tin. And they are not a project at all.
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Stir the melted butter into the sugar in a large bowl until well blended. It will be a mixture like very wet sand. Stir in the vanilla. Beat in the egg until smooth and incorporated.
In another bowl, stir together the flour and cloves with a fork to distribute the cloves evenly and break up any clumps. Stir the flour into the butter-sugar mixture until thoroughly blended. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm it up.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. When the cookie dough is firm, scoop it out in one teaspoon mounds onto the cookie sheet, spacing them an inch apart. I use a small cookie scoop for this. Press down lightly on the cookies, then bake for 7 – 9 minutes, until the cookies have spread, the edges are golden brown and the centers soft. Leave to cool on the tray for one minute, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies