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Going Dutch: Say Hallo to the Jan Hagel

Jan Hagel cookies
What can we say about our love affair with Jan Hagel? It just sort of...happened. OK, truth be told, we'd just poured 2 cups of flour into a bowl to make banana bread and realized we had no bananas. After scouring our recipe books for another recipe that might start out with the same amount of flour, we decided to try the Jan Hagel from our beloved Betty Crocker's Cooky Book.

As Betty informs us, the Jan Hagel is a cooky of Dutch origin; as the internet informs us, they are also sometimes known as Hollanders, Janhagels, Dutch Almond Cookies, Dutch Hail or Sugar Hail Cookies.
But what may have started out as a fluke has blossomed into an obsession: these cookies, which are thin, crunchy, and very buttery, are also really, really good. But what gives with the name?
As we found out through one site, A Cookie for Every Country, Jan Hagel (yan HAH-ghle) "is Dutch for ‘an unruly mob’ or ‘rabble,’ with hagel in the sense of ‘multitude’ or ‘swarm.’ In the cookie, the rock sugar resembles hail." Another site backs up the hail theory, citing that Jan Hagel is merely translated "John Hail". The recipe we used didn't call for rock sugar, but maybe those little bits of nut could stand in for the "hail"? Also, though we can't find a reason behind it, there is another legend which was interesting, which is that "Jan Hagels are fed to homesick little children in heaven upon their arrival at St. Peter's Gate".
Who could blame the little lost souls--we wouldn't want to leave these cookies behind, either.

Jan Hagel Cookies
Here's the recipe:
  • 1 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts (we used a mix of walnuts, almonds and cashews--it was delicious)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a jelly roll pan, 15 x 10 x 1 or so. Mix butter, sugar and egg yolk. Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting. Blend flour and cinnamon; stir into butter mixture. Pat into pan. Beat water and egg white until frothy; brush over dough; sprinkle with nuts. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until very lightly browned. Cut immediately into finger-like strips. Makes 50 3 x 1 inch strips.


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Reader Comments (25)

Funny, we made banana muffins today!

January 7 | Unregistered Commentermarciemo

I'm pretty sure I'm in love with those and I haven't even tasted them yet. Looks like I know what I'm doing tomorrow! Now if I could just find my jelly roll pan...

January 7 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa Contessa

Can't find anything about the kids waiting at the heaven's gates story in my books here. In one of my Dutch books tells that these were made for spring cleaning in the old days.

The correct topping is almond slivers and a special kind of rock sugar called "greinsuiker", which looks like hail but has a pretty loose structure.

January 8 | Unregistered Commenternoskos

It's supposed to be cold and yucky this weekend. Guess I'll be stuck inside whipping up a batch of these treasures.

Hallo Jan Hagel!

January 8 | Unregistered CommenterClumbsy Cookie

Hey, I saw on foodbuzz that your NY resolution is to tackle more remote cakes, including the Smith Island cake. I used to work with a girl from Smith Island who would make them every year for co-workers. When asked where she got the patience to make such a multi-layered cake, her answer was "there isnt anything else to do on Smith Island". I went to Smith Island a few years ago, and she is right, although what a beautiful place to die of boredom. Oh , and those cakes - also to die for, and worth every layer of work.

January 8 | Unregistered Commenterigot2babe

Oh, halllllo!
There WILL be an unruly mob at my house if I make these babycakes! How simple and delicious! The Dutch cannot screw up sweets!

I could fall in love with that.

January 8 | Unregistered CommenterPeabody

I am SO THRILLED to see this recipe! This was my favorite favorite favorite cookie when I was a kid, but I thought it had passed out of fashion, since I am now an old bat. Thank you, Jessie!!

January 8 | Unregistered CommenterBMoreSweet

COOKIE!!!! ;-)

January 8 | Unregistered CommenterCookie Jill

Looks yummy & easy to veganize too!

The homesick little deceased children theory is so sad! I will think it's just translated from John Hagel. I'm going to have to try these. They look crispy and yummy.

January 8 | Unregistered CommenterJoie de vivre

Those look great!

January 9 | Unregistered CommenterHayley

Beautifully simple little cookies and intriguing backstory. Thank you for the treat!

January 10 | Unregistered Commenterpastry studio

I love it that Betty Crocker is your go-to for cookie inspiration! Makes me want to head for the pearly gates right now!

Excellent, excellent recipe and background. I better pay more attention to master Crocker.

January 10 | Unregistered CommenterJeanna

That's my kind of recipe..delicious!

January 11 | Unregistered CommenterTanya

looks delicious! Thanks for sharing.

January 11 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie Leber

HALLO, Jan! (imagine it said it a come-hither voice). ;)

...just when I thought I'd tried all the cookies there were to try :)! Hand these over...with the pink plate, please :D.
...So running out of bananas when the initial plan was to make banana bread isn't so bad at all :)!

January 11 | Unregistered CommenterSophie

ooh, i love that cookbook and i should look in it more often. this looks great!

January 13 | Unregistered Commenterkickpleat

marciemo: Were they delicious?

Vanessa: They're so wonderful. I hope you will enjoy them when you get a chance to try 'em!

Noskos: Interesting! I wonder where the heaven's gates theory comes from! I'd take 'em for spring cleaning of course :-) I thought it was odd that the Cooky Book didn't have the dense sugar but I guess the little writeup above the recipe in it is honest about being an american version!

Courteous: They're delicious!

Clumbsy: Jan says hallo back!

Igot2: Awesome!!!! Thank you for the input on the cakes!

Catherine: Ha! You're so right. They cannot screw up sweets.

Peabody: I'll bet you'd make 'em even better!

Bmoresweet: YAY! Glad to bring back happy memories. I love them so. I'd never tried 'em before!

Cookie Jill: You said it!

Melisser: Totally easy to veganize! Bet they'd be good.

Joie de vivre: They're so yum!

Hayley: Thanks!

Pastry Studio: Thanks. They're simple, but so delicious!

TW: It's my favorite book, just about ever!!

Jeanna: Yes, you must!

Tanya: My kind too. These babies are gone already.

Carrie: They're so good. You're welcome!

Susan: OMG! I was just catching up on NPR...and who did I hear!?!?!?! Talking about cookies!

Sophie: Yup! We certainly made the best of the no-banana thing!

Kickpleat: Oh, isn't it the best? I love the recipes.

January 13 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

I'm thrilled to see both the recipe and the back story on these cookies here. They've been a long tradition in my mother's family, and I've gotten in the habit of making them for work functions. One of my co-workers refers to them as 'crack cookies' because they're so addictive!

January 21 | Unregistered CommenterJammies

Jammies: I am with your coworker. They're so good!

January 21 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

Just wanted to let you know, I finally made these. Brought them into work today - BIG HIT!!! Thanks!

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