Belgium: Couques de Dinant (the Dinant Cookie or Dinant Cake)
These famously hard cookies go back a long way to a Roman savory cake called placenta, baked on a round griddle or bakestone (placa)1. Over time, the savory ingredients fell out of the recipe, leaving a basic very hard sweet cake with excellent keeping properties.
The cookies are baked after using a cookie board to imprint them with a design, often incredibly detailed. The small Belgian town of Dinant in the Ardennes became famous for these cookies/cakes during the Middle Ages, and still sells them in many of its small bakeries, in an astonishing number of complex and antique designs. People take them home as souvenirs as much as for eating purposes: we've given them to friends as Christmas tree ornaments in the past.
Couques de Dinant aren't meant to be bitten into, but broken into pieces with the hands and then allowed to melt slowly in the mouth. Legend says that the residents of Dinant threw them at besiegers of the town, though the stories vary enough about which war was involved to make a food historian very suspicious.
Click on "read more" for the recipe and the method.
- 100 g (3 1/2 oz.) wheat flour (1 measure)
- Multi-flower honey (0.3 measure)
- Melted granulated sugar (0.1 measure)
- Baking powder: a pinch
You will also need a flat cookie form or cooky board.
1. Mix all the ingredients into a firm dough.
2. Knead the dough and roll it out. The thickness will depend on the mold you are using.
3. Cut out the dough with a cookie cutter that matches the mold you are using.
4. Place the cut outs, one at a time, into the mold. The design is formed by pressing the dough into the mold with the palm of your hand.
5. Immediately unmold the dough.
6. Transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet.
Bake in a preheated 300° C (575° F) oven for 15 minutes. The cookies are done once the honey is caramelized.
As the cookies cool, they harden (in a way, they're caramel). Thus they should be enjoyed on their own, and slowly! Don't try to chew them -- you could break a tooth! Instead, break off a small piece and let it dissolve in your mouth. The honey will melt slowly and gradually release the cookie's flavor.
Couques de Dinant will keep for several months if stored in an airtight metal tin.
Numerous other recipes for cookie boards and cake boards are here, along with much useful information for collectors. Also, see herefor info on how to tell the difference between cookie boards and cake boards.
1 The byproduct of childbirth was named after the original round cake, not the other way around.