Over the last few days I have eaten a lot of cookies. All in the name of research, of course!
I made another batch of cookies, and made a few minor variations to see what a difference it made.
TO MAKE FINE CAKES (actually little biscuits)
From 'The Widow's Treasury' by John Partridge, 1585
To make fine Cakes. Take a quantity of fine wheate Flower, and put it in an earthen pot. Stop it close and set it in an Oven, and bake it as long as you would a Pasty of Venison, and when it is baked it will be full of clods. Then searce your flower through a fine sercer. Then take clouted Creame or sweet butter, but Creame is best: then take your sugar, cloves, Mace, saffron and yolks of eggs, so much as wil seeme to season your flower. Then put these things into the Creame, temper all together. Then put thereto your flower. So make your cakes. The paste will be very short; therefore make them very little. Lay paper under them.
150g butter room temperature
1 cup of plain white flour
almost 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp mace
1 tsp cinnamon
1 slight pinch artificial saffron
1 slight pinch salt
a few drops of water to moisten if needed
Cut the butter into small pieces, and cream with the sugar. Mix the egg yolk in. Mix the spices and salt with the flour. Mix all together, adding a few drops of water if needed. The dough will be quite stiff. Roll out to about 0.5cm thick and cut into circles. Put on a tray with baking paper (I sprayed it with a little cooking spray.) Cook for 12-18 minutes at about 180 degrees Celsius. Cool on the baking paper on a wire rack. This recipe made about 42 cookies, I don't know why there was such a variation; I used the same amounts and the same cutter.
With this batch, the butter was at room temperature and creamed much better. I found my mace and added less saffron. This batch seemed to cook more quickly.
Now I have a dilemma; I like the taste of the first batch most, and the texture and consistency of the second batch. The mace seemed to add a rich sharp, earthy quality. The first batch was much sweeter.
Perhaps I will make a third batch - just to make sure my research is complete and comprehensive, of course!