Nutmeg Bite cookies: Cookies that taste like Christmas to me

nutmeg-bites

Scientists tell us that scent is our strongest sense for evoking memories. That’s why smelling wet wood smoke reminds me of melting my rubber boots by the fire and lily of the valley will always remind me of my mother’s Muguet du Bois perfume.  As we change seasons we change scents as well, opening a whole world of memories.

Bring on the smell of crisp fall leaves, juicy apples and sharp cheddar. Blow a zephyr breeze of pumpkin spice and hot coffee my way too. Fall is a magnificent time of year for all the warm scents we love. Ginger, cinnamon, clove, and of course nutmeg. Nutmeg is the often overlooked milder sister of the more popular spices, and usually plays a background role, but in my beloved recipe for Nutmeg Bites, it takes over center stages and completely earns top billing.

I’ve been making these cookies since I was a teen. No holiday season, which in our family starts on Sept 21 with our wedding anniversary and continues right through to January 13th with my nephew’s birthday, would be complete without a few batches. I look forward to them every year, especially the rum frosting. I don’t have cocktails during the year, I don’t make mixed drinks with rum, but there is something about the rum frosting in conjunction with the nutmeg that sends me into the happy dance. Nearly everyone who  has ever tasted these cookies has asked for the recipe and the “secret” ingredients. And the scent? The scent reminds me of warmth, of friendship and of holiday cheer and soothes my soul.

Enough talk, let’s get to filling the kitchen with the scents of the season. Onward to make Nutmeg Bites.

One of the best things about these cookies is that they are indeed a one-bowl confection. Everybody in the pool, a minute or two in the mixer and the next thing you know, you’re scooping and baking. Think of these cookies when time is running short. Toss all ingredients into the bowl of your stand mixer:

3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup softened butter, unsalted
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla

Blend on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until the dough is cohesive. (nope, I didn’t forget the leavener, there isn’t any in these cookies)

The dough will be soft and smooth and moist, but not really sticky.

See what I mean? You can pick it up and roll a ball and it won’t stick to your fingers. Can you see the speckles of nutmeg in the dough?

Wrap and chill the dough for one hour. Towards the end of the chill time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Use a teaspoon scoop or other small measure to scoop out tablespoon-sized balls of dough. While you could make them larger, part of the beauty of these cookies is their small delicate shape. You just feel a little fancier when you eat little bites IMO.

Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. The edges will be slightly browned and the cookies will be round and domed. Set the cookies aside to cool slightly.

While the cookies are cooling, prepare the rum frosting.

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons softened butter, unsalted
2-3 tablespoons rum

If you cannot have alcohol, you can use cream instead of liquid rum, and add 1/8 teaspoon rum flavoring or extract.  Do try to keep the rummy-ness in the icing though, it really makes a difference in the final flavor of the cookie.

Stir or whisk by hand until the icing is smooth and lump free. It should be thin enough to spread, but thick enough not to run.

Ice each cookie with a generous swirl of frosting and top with a dash of nutmeg. I like to use my microplane grater for this. Zip, zip, zip.

Deep cleansing breathe in… and out… and in… and… oh heck, just grab a glass of milk and meet me at the cookie tray!

Please bake, rate and review our recipe for Nutmeg Bites.

Print just the recipe.

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. kaf-sub-shippeb

    These sound excellent, thanks for sharing the recipe! I will definitely be making them for the Christmas cookie fest at the office this year. Just one question, does the frosting dry out a bit so that they can be stacked, or does it stay fairly soft for several days?
    Good question. The frosting will develop a little hard crust, but remains soft inside. If you iced them more flat than swirly, you could definitely stack them with parchment in between layers. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  2. carolina

    ñaaammmm….se ven deliciosas….sin duda seran uno de los sabores de mis galletas este año!!! gracias!!!

    Nom..looks delicious…no doubt will be one of the flavors of my cookies this year. Thanks!

    Gracias! espero que os gusten. Hornear feliz!
    Thanks. I hope you enjoy them. Happy baking! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  3. 4paws2go

    Nutmeggy goodness! Those look, and sound absolutely lovely! A great addition to holiday cookie boxes for our neighbors.

    Thanks!

    Laura
    I’m tickled pink to know so many folks will get to share one of my favorite recipes. Hope everyone loves them like I do. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  4. mem2387m

    Have you ever used spiced rum in this recipe? I’m wondering if that would add too much flavor. I have no reason to skip the alcohol but I’ve never been a fan of it in baked goods.
    I’ve used both, and personally I like the regular rum better. It is more like what I grew up with and it doesn’t overpower the nutmeg. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  5. "Bobbi Krasuski"

    They sound delightful…will definitely want to make them this year. We must be the same generation…I so remember my mother’s Muguet du Bois also!!
    I don’t know about you, but I’m only *29*. 8-) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  6. bakeraunt

    This recipe is very much like the one for Nutmeg Cookie Logs that I got from one of the Pillsbury pamplet cookbooks years ago. The dough is formed into “ropes” and cut into three inch lengths, then baked. Then the “logs” are frosted, and one runs the tines of a fork over the top to give the impression of snow covered logs. That recipe is always a big hit whenever I bake it. The frosting hardened enough that the cookies can be carefully stacked and not lose the impression. I would not try shipping them.
    YES! I got the recipe from my Gramma Coppolino years ago from a cookie exchange, and used to make logs. Then I discovered that they taste the same even if they don’t look like logs, and they are ready faster. :) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  7. Anneripp

    Mmmm. Sounds like something my grandmother used to make. I’ll have to try and see!

    BTW, the blog link on the homepage–the one with the image of the chocolate cake slice–doesn’t seem to be working correctly.
    Thanks for letting us know. If you pop customercare@ kingarthurflour.com an email with the link to that page, we’ll get it fixed ASAP. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  8. gaa

    Mary Jane – I, like you, simply adore nutmeg. It takes a prominent role in my holiday baking. My rolled cutout cookie is a nutmeg sugar cookie which specifically calls for two “heaping teaspoons of nutmeg.” I don’t even measure the nutmeg; I just grate away until I think I have enough … and then I add a few more scrapes. Your Nutmeg Bites recipe is identical to my mom’s Rum Log recipe. As stated by Bakeraunt in her post, the dough is rolled into ropes which are then cut into smaller lengths. I try to make the cookies look a little crooked, like a log. Then, after I spread on the rum frosting but before I grate on the fresh nutmeg, I score the frosting with a tiny fork (can’t remember where I got it … I think it was the one my mom used) to make the frosting look like bark on the log. These cookies are like mini Yule logs. I have not made them for my holiday cookie tray for many years. I think it is time to resurrect it. Thanks for reminding me that oldies are definitely goodies!!!
    I used to go the Lincoln log route, but the drop cookies are a bit faster. I can’t wait to hear how happy everyone is this year with your cookie trays. Go for it! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  9. gaitedgirl

    I think my best friend and I might have a new addition to the Annual Christmas Tin thing we do. Each year, since 2003, she and I have gotten together for a day of early Christmas cookie baking to give to our families (not to mention how many times I just ate the cookie dough – quality control, people!) and I think this one might have just made the list for this year’s tin!

    Reply
  10. sakelarides

    I see you grated fresh nutmeg for the dusting on the frosting, but do you use freshly grated nutmeg in the dough too. It seems like it would take a long time to grate a full 2tsp. Worth. Plus the fact that fresh is so much stronger in flavor. I love nutmeg too but it just seems like a lot. By the way, I have several crank style nutmeg graters and I always wind up with thin slabs of nutmeg that won’t grind any more. Does. Anyone have any ideas of how to use them up. Thanks. Can’t wait to start holiday baking! :-)
    I do like to use freshly grated nutmeg, with a microplaner. It goes pretty quickly and if you grate onto a sheet of paper, you can pour into the measuring spoon easily. You could also do part pre-ground and part freshly grated. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
    1. bakingbanshee

      For a tip of using up the ends of the nutmeg – i bet you could use it to infuse milk or cream and it would be delicious. You’d just heat the milk and the nutmeg up together in a little saucepan. Then strain out the nutmeg. I’ve never done it so I don’t know if the nutmeg would start to disintegrate in the heat – you might want to put in in a cheesecloth or tea strainer just in case. It would be so tasty to use the nutmeg cream in the custard for a bread pudding, or pour it over warm apple pie, or add it to tea or coffee.

  11. milkwithknives

    Beautiful! I’m a big nutmeg fan, too. My sweet potato pie recipe uses a big dose of nutmeg and absolutely nothing else for flavoring. These look so Christmasy with the white frosting and sprinkled tops, but I don’t think I’ll wait that long to try them out. Thanks for the rum alternate, too, as we have a few religious people at work who wouldn’t appreciate me sneaking alcohol into them!

    P.S. I can’t stop gazing in awe at your little handful of spice-flecked deliciousness. Cookie dough is my favorite food group.

    Reply
  12. OTquilter

    I’m with Bakeraunt. These are very similar to the Nutmeg Logs from the “Wellesley Cookie Exchange” cookbook that I have been making for many years. I like the idea of grating some nutmeg at the end!

    Love that cookbook – it’s a wealth of great recipes, isn’t it? Thanks for reminding me… PJH

    Reply
  13. lynn-ski

    Not that it will stop me from trying these out as-is anyway – they sound DELISH! – but how would this recipe do with your gluten free flour blend? I’m trying to give up gluten and see myself failing miserably in the cookie/pastry department during the holidays! Any thoughts? Thanks!
    I think you should have good luck with this as gluten free. I’d say you’ll probably be good with 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum for structure. Let us know how it goes. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  14. kaco

    For recipes that call for ground nutmeg, should I use less if I am freshly grating the nutmeg? Thanks, these look delicious!!
    Yes, you can use freshly grated, it will give a wonderful flavor. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  15. jcorbett2010

    I would love to make this cookie for our cookie exchange. Do they stay fresh for a while? Also have you ever tried freezing them? Thanks!
    You can absolutely freeze these cookies for up to 4 weeks. Just don’t frost before freezing. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  16. doylesonja

    I am anxious to try these. Rum flavoring and freshly grated nutmeg are the anchors to my family eggnog. These sound like they will have a similiar flavor. YUM!
    Enjoy! Elisabeth

    Reply
  17. rochelle_keefer

    I had butter laid out for shortbread but when I saw this recipe, I changed my plans for it. These cookies are fantastic. I ate a couple while they were still warm and almost didn’t ice them because they’re so good plain, but the icing compliments the cookies so well, I’m glad I made it anyway. They are putting me in the holiday spirit. They’ll go great with a cup of eggnog!
    Eggnog with dark rum? Sounds like the holidays are coming! Elisabeth

    Reply
  18. mikest

    Made these yesterday and they were a big hit! They go on the cookie list for this year. I didn’t have “rum”, but I did have “coconut rum”… :D No offense, but I liked the icing better than the cookie… Sugar, butter and coconut rum… Sounds like a winner to me!

    I did use the “ground nutmeg” and found it a little too subtle for me. I have nutmeg nuts, so next time I’ll grate fresh. They also look really pretty with colored sugar on the top, blue, red and green for the season!
    Love that idea of using different colored sugars! Elisabeth

    Reply
  19. JenBishop

    I’m going to have to go out and buy some rum now. Thanks for posting a new cookie for me to try with my cookie exchange this year.
    I hope it is the hit of the party! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  20. "Paul from Ohio"

    Made them yesterday. Wasn’t WILD about them, but just ate two and the flavor definitely grows on you (me). THEY ARE A TERRIFIC addition to a Christmas cookie plate assortment – great size, easy to make and the Rum in the icing makes them kick ___ …well, you know what! Along with the Christmas Cookie selections in the latest Edition of The Baking Sheet (made the Shortbread ones so far), they will make a really tasty fresh and original Christmas Platter for whatever club you belong to that has a Christmas Party. Or, forget the club and make them for your Family Christmas Party. Or hey, make them for YOURSELF!!!

    Reply
  21. arvoto

    I have been making nutmeg “logs” for Christmas for about 40 years. When my daughter was in the Navy, I sent boxes of cookies every 2 weeks for nearly 4 years. These were always a big hit. Kathy from Ohio

    Yes, Kathy, MJ hit a home run with this blog on an old favorite, didn’t she? Th cookies are just SUPER tasty… Thanks for sharing here. PJH

    Reply
  22. Stephanie

    Hello,
    I made these for an early Thanksgiving potluck at work (2012) and was really disappointed. Out of the 20+ people who tried them, I did not get one thumbs up. No one at home liked them either. I’m an avid baker, especially of cookies. They are very ordinary and I would not make them again, even if I “doctored” them up. I did follow the recipe exactly, bought nutmeg and ground it fresh, as well as high quality rum. The one positive comment I received was that the frosting was good. Thank you.
    I’m sorry to hear that this wasn’t a hit for you. I’ve never run into that reaction before. I hope you’ll find other recipes on our site that work out better for you. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  23. charlottelynn321

    I made these twice today (goofed a bit on the first batch) and LOVE them. My family does, too! On the first batch I didn’t mix them long enough, so they were more crumbly and dense. I should have come to the blog first to see pictures and tips! Then I made another batch for Thanksgiving dessert, and that dough was much softer and smoother. They still didn’t spread like the ones on here — perhaps because I used white whole wheat flour? But the taste is fabulous, and I can’t wait to serve them on Thursday! Oh, I also didn’t make the frosting because I don’t like the taste of alcohol and we generally don’t eat sugar much here. I think without icing they’re great! lots of nutmeg and butter flavor!
    The whole grain flours absorb more liquid which is why your cookies were not able to spread the way they should have. The dough was too dry. Whenever applying a whole grain flour to a recipe that use white four, be sure to add more liquid. ~Amy

    Reply
  24. lmichaels

    I just tried to make these for Thanksgiving tomorrow and I’m going to throw the dough out. It turned out WAY too dry, so dry that I couldn’t save it by adding oil – I got a greasy mess that’s still crumbling. I would NOT mix all these ingredients together. I would make it like any cookie dough; butter and sugar then egg and the rest wet then add HALF the flour and GRADUALLY add the remaining flour will you have a workable dough. I still want these cookies but I will try the Woman’s Day version of the recipe in the morning and I’m going to make them into the cute logs besides.
    I’m so sorry to hear that this didn’t work out for you. I’ve made this recipe for literally 20 years as a “dump” cookie and I’ve not run into the problem of crumbling, so I’m quite puzzled. If you’d like to troubleshoot what may have happened, please don’t hesitate to give the hotline a call. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  25. kyleminor

    Hi MaryJane, PJ and company! Like most here, I love nutmeg and have decided to give these a go for Christmas.

    However, I bake a lot of cookies, and like to do the whole “freeze-then-bake” method for as many as I can manage. In your recipe testing, did you ever try freezing the unbaked dough balls, and then baking them from frozen? How about freezing the baked cookies?

    Even if the answer is no, I’m curious to hear your expert opinions on how that might work on these cookies. Thanks in advance!

    I make cookie dough, drop it onto pans, then freeze – once the balls are frozen, I stow them in a bag, and only take out as many as I want to bake at a time. I find they take only a minute or so longer to bake than fresh dough; no need to thaw before baking, just plop frozen cookies onto a baking sheet and pop into the oven. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  26. Brittany

    Can anyone please tell me if these should be kept refrigerated because of the butter in the icing? Does the rum in the icing preserve it so it can stay at room temperature? I just made these and they’re delicious! I want to make sure my left overs don’t go bad…THANK YOU!!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Brittany, these are just fine at room temperature – I wouldn’t keep them for weeks on end, but a week or so, no worries, OK? PJH

  27. "Jane Dough"

    We’re about to finish our second batch of the season. These cookies are the perfect Christmas Cookie and I’m so happy you shared the recipe with us. I knew when you said you had been making them for so long that they had to be good. Followed your recipe exactly as it was written and mine turned out wonderful. Might be making a third batch since Christmas is still a week away!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel

      Jane, go for it – I agree, those cookies just say Christmas, don’t they? Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm here – PJH

  28. P Corl

    I have a question…I am a bit confused by my results with this recipe.I followed the recipe exactly…all the dough did for me was crumble. I was able to gather it into a ball and it is as I write this in the fridge for it’s hour. I don’t know what the end result will be. Baking is such a mystery to me. I could’ve beaten this for 2 days and it wasn’t going to become a ‘soft dough’. Does anyone have an idea as to why this happened?
    Thanks in advance,
    Pam

    Reply

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