Recipe for Literacy:
Mary Berry's "Jumbles" Cookies
Literacy–in particular, learning to recognize and write letters–has been a big focus of Joss’s class this year! As a lifelong reader, it’s such a joy to watch him excited about joining letters together–often in nonsensical strings, but nonetheless.
Lately, one of his favorite games is “Is Your Name…?” which works thusly:
So the other day, when I was searching for yummy things to bake, I was excited to run across a recipe for “Jumbles” in “Mary Berry’s Baking Bible”! I like this cookbook because it contains mainly classic British recipes, many of which I’ve never heard of, such as Flapjacks (similar to granola bars, from what I can tell?) and Parkin. It also has a chapter titled “Baking for Children,” which is where I found the Jumbles. Turns out, Jumbles are a soft, lemon-flavored cookie and, according to the description, “It is usual to shape this mixture into ‘S’ shapes, but of course you can shape it into any letter or number of your own choice.”
Lest you think my life is one creative joy after another, I will come clean and tell you that, although Jumbles seem like the perfect thing to make with a budding young linguist, if said youngster is tired and grumpy and prone to falling apart if a cookie crumbles, etc., well, maybe you should wait for another day.
Despite all that, me and my favorite kitty cat chef managed to make a decent batch of Jumbles, and Joss did enjoy instructing me as to which letter to make next. We made “A,B,C,D,E,F” and “J,O,S,S,” and “C,3,P,0” and “R,2,D,2” etc.
The recipe says they make about 32, which may be about how many we made–I think ours were pretty big, and don’t see why you couldn’t make smaller jumbles if, say, you wanted to try this activity with a group of (perhaps slightly older) children who are able to roll out and shape their own letters without getting too frustrated. Just adjust the baking time for smaller cookies.
- 150 g (5 oz) softened butter (Yes, these measurements are in grams and ounces, so you’ll need a scale! Or, you can do a little math using this US to Metric Equivalents Scale)
- 150 g (4 oz) sugar
- A few drops vanilla
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 egg
- 350 g (12 oz) flour
- whole milk, optional (I added a few Tablespoons of whole milk to help the mixture hold together because it seemed too crumbly to me)
- honey, to glaze
- demerara sugar, for dusting (we just used white sugar because that’s what we had)
1. Put butter, sugar, vanilla, lemon, egg and flour into bowl of an electric mixer. Mix until combined. If mixture is really crumbly, you may want to add a few Tablespoons of whole milk.
2. Use the dough to form letters! (Mary Berry’s book says to divide the dough into 32 equal pieces; we just pinched off a little bit at a time, eyeballing it to try to keep everything a similar size). Put them on baking trays that are either greased or covered with a silpat (Parchment paper may work, but I’d worry about the honey sticking to it). Chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
3. Before removing the dough from the fridge, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. When heated, bake jumbles for 10-15 minutes, until slightly golden. Remove from oven and turn the heat up to 425 degrees. Brush the warm jumbles with honey (I used a squeeze bottle of honey, but if we’d had a microwave, I might have tried microwaving it in a separate bowl for just a few seconds so I could actually brush it on evenly), and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for another 2-3 minutes to carmelize the sugar. Cool.
First removal from oven (Left) and second removal from oven, after glazing and caramelizing the sugar (Right).
*NOTE: The cookies are delicious and soft, but because (if you do other letters than ‘S’) they have “joints”–and because the honey may run onto the pan, they break easily. Remove them carefully from the pan using a thin metal spatula or by peeling the silpat away from the cookie, rather than scooping the cookie off the tray.
Don’t forget the most important step: Enjoy! I’m sure these would go lovely with a nice cup of tea–perhaps as part of a Poetry Teatime!
Let me know if you make these or if you have any other favorite “alphabet” recipes! Feel free to share them in the comments!