Coffee cookies – for apples and thyme

Coffee cookies. My ultimate favourite cookie ever. And a reminder of my mother and my childhood in the kitchen. And probably the strongest reminder of my mother’s constant quest for excellence. Which brings me to this writing.


Seeing a coffee cookie, reminds me of her favourite extraction from a song;

♪♪  “Do what you do do well, boy, do what you do do we-ell, give your love and all of your heart and do what you do do well…” ♪

Not to be mistaken with doing something better than someone else, or doing it according to the standards of someone else, but to set your own standards and strive to give and do your own best. To put love into whatever you take on. To go to bed at night, knowing that you gave your best. Whether you’re ironing  a shirt, or writing a book, or playing a tennismatch, or preparing a sandwich, or baking a coffee cookie; the best is, you not comprimising for second best.

I can’t put a coffee cookie in my mouth, be it my own or baked by another hand, without thinking of this philosophy stemming from my childhood and following me to where I am today.  Her coffee cookies had to be perfect in colour and length, the tops had to have perfect little “spikes” and never were they to be flat and fat and run-out in the pan, which of course goes all the way back to the preparation of your dough. Those  cookies, not reaching all of these criteria, would be put aside never to see the cakestand. And that would mean another batch to be prepared to reach the desired quota. To stack the cake stand with pride.

I have not only inherited her recipe, but also her strive for excellence. I have passed it on to my daughters. And from the heart they put into their ordinary and sometimes mundane tasks, I know they’ll pass it on too. Maybe that is why I still enjoy baking these coffee cookies… a reminder, a question to myself: Do I still give all of my heart and all of my love to do what I do well?

Coffee cookies

  • 8 cups flour
  • 1½ t salt
  • 2 cups yellow/brown sugar
  • 2 cups golden syrup
  • 1.1 lbs butter
  • 3½ tablespoons cooking fat
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 cup strong black coffee at room tempreature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a big mixing bowl.
  2. Add the butter and fat and work into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Mix the baking soda with a little coffee and add to the flour mixture with the rest of the coffee, the golden syrup and the vanilla extract. Mix together well, cover and leave overnight.
  4. The next day: Set the oven to 200ºC.
  5. Grease cookie pans and set aside.
  6. Using a sausage maker/meat grinder/electrical food grinder/cookie maker with a cookie fitting, push clumps of dough through the cookiemaker, cut to the desired lenghts, about 4-5 cm.
  7. The dough can also be rolled, cut into strips of about 4-5 cm, with the tops lightly scrathed with a fork to give it some texture.
  8. Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes until golden brown.
  9. Leave the cookies on a wire rack to cool.
  10. Filling: Mix together 2 heaped tablespoons of butter. Add icing sugar, strong black coffee and vanilla extract and mix until a spreadable, but not runny consistency.
  11. Spread one side of a cookie with the icing mixture and cover with a second cookie.
  12. The longer the cookies are kept, the more flavourful they become.

Makes about 180 filled cookies

*I post all my recipes for that matter, hoping to inspire people to experiment themselves and play around with their imagination when it comes to detail. I’m never too specific, because I would like to encourage people to cook with their tastebuds and instinct and imagination, tasting along the way, changing direction, altering the recipe, really discovering your own methods rather than just following a recipe to the letter. That way, you develop an instinct for cooking and you really make a recipe your own, otherwise it will always stay someone else’s.

Coming back to the length and shape of these cookies:  When working with a cookie maker of some sort, it comes out a certain thickness and you just have to decide on your desired length, which I suggested be 4-5 cm(1.6-2″), but it can surely be longer or shorter. By pushing the dough thicker out the end, will result in a thicker cookie.

A tip: I also always find it wise to put only a few cookies in the oven as the first batch, whichever cookie I’m baking, so as to decide whether I like the thickness or the length or the shape, or test the temperature of my own oven, the time of baking etc, and then I will go over to the final process of cutting and baking in normal big batches. It prevents huge batches of burnt or uneven baked or failed cookies and lost effort and disappointment.

Suggestion 1: If you are rolling out the dough, I would suggest a thickness of about 4-5 mm.(about 0.2″) Cut them into rectangles of about 50mm x20mm (2″ x 0.8″). Scratch the tops with a fork to give little ruffled edge, like you would get with a sausage maker or cookie maker.

Suggestion 2: On 2 tablespoons of butter, add 1/2 cup icing sugar and mix. Add about 30 ml of black coffee to the icing mixture and mix. Finally add another 1/2 cup icing sugar or until you have a spreadable filling that isn’t runny. Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence and spread between two cookies. Milk can be substituted for the coffee.

A good book on cooking/baking techniques and info on whatever you need to know about cooking and baking is Larousse Gastronomique – a complete encyclopedia.

This is an entry for Apples and Thyme, of which Inge at Vanielje kitchen and Jeni at the Passionate palate are the hosts.


Lamb-shanks with a curry sultana sauce

Time for a little indulgence. Although January is a month of light eating, the desire for something more substantial and velvety arises on cold, rainy evenings. Then we take comfort in slow cooking meat meals with a voluptuous sauce, where we sit back and lick our fingers and sweep the sauce from our plates with fresh chunky bread. This is a recipe from Mariëtte Crafford’s book, Sonskynkafee(Sunshine café), a delicious book filled with stories and great recipes.


Lamb-shanks with a curry sultana sauce

  • 6 small lamb-shanks with the bone cleaned and a nice helping of meat
  • olive oil
  • 500 ml organic chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 bay leaves
  • a chopped onion
  • a few open cardamom pods
  • 3 tablespoons masala
  • 5 t cumin seeds
  • 5 t white  mustard seeds
  • 5 t black mustard seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, leaned and crushed
  • a piece of ginger root, grated
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • 150 ml yogurt
  • 250 ml sultana raisins
  • salt and pepper
  • 150ml cream
  • 125 ml flaked almonds
  • fresh coriander/parsley leaves
  1. Sauté the lamb-shanks in oil in a heavy based casserole until nicely browned, cover with the stock, add the lemon juice, cinnamon and bay leaves and cook uncovered until the lams begins to soften.
  2. Sauté the onion and add to the lamb.
  3. Mix all the spices with the 4 tablespoons of water and add to the lamb.
  4. Season to taste.
  5. Stir in the yogurt and add the sultana raisins. Simmer gently until the lamb is very tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened.
  6. Stir in the cream and leave for 10 minutes to heat through.
  7. Serve with rice in bowls, pour over some sauce and finish off with a sprinkling of flaked almonds and fresh coriander/parsley leaves.

                                                  Serves six