Christmas Spice Cutouts

This is my idea of Christmas: a nicely decorated Christmas tree (a real one with bee wax candles!), a gingerbread house and a few extra candles sitting on the coffee table, some hot cocoa or spiced tea in a winter-themed mug, and "Jingle Bells" and "White Christmas" ringing through the house. And on top of it all some Christmas Spice Cutouts - which I prefer plain, but if cookie decorating is your thing, be my guest. :-)

Ingredients (makes about 3 dozen cookies):

1/2 cup ground walnuts
2 cups flour
3/4 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg

Tip: You will be able to cut out the most delicate and fragile shapes, if you put the rolled-out dough into the freezer for just a few minutes.

Note: If desired, you may sprinkle the cookies with colored crystal sugar before baking. If you like, you can - instead! - spread the cookies with confectioners' sugar icing after baking and cooling.

Preparation (15 minutes plus chilling time plus 10 minutes baking time per sheet):

1. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade or in a blender, grind the walnuts, 1/4 cup of the flour, and 1/4 of the brown sugar to a powder. Set aside.

2. Sift together the remaining flour, the spices, and the baking soda into a bowl. Set aside.

3. Combine the butter, vanilla, and the remaining brown sugar in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the honey and egg.

4. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour-spice mixture and the nut mixture and mix just until incorporated.

5. Gather the dough into a ball, then divide it in half. Form each half into a flat disk. Wrap the disks in separate sheets of waxed paper or cling foil and chill until firm, at least an hour or as long as overnight.

6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Generoulsy butter baking sheets.

7. Roll out the dough 1/4 inch thick. Cut out cookies and transfer to the prepared sheets, spacing them 1/2 inch apart. Bake the cookies until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.

In an airtight container you can store the Christmas Spice Cutouts for up to two weeks - I am pretty sure, though, that they will be gone long before that ... enjoy!