Espécies de São Jorge (Spiced Cookies)

Hi All,

This next recipe is from the matriarch of the Five Marias, my great-grandmother, Isabel.  Growing up in Idaho, she lived on the dairy farm where two of the five Marias, Tia Elvira and Tia Gorette, lived.  She passed away when I was nine years old, but I vividly remember being at her home, especially around the holidays.  She was the sweetest woman, so I’m very happy to be making this recipe of hers.

My Tia Elvira had this recipe in hand, so she was able to relay it to me.  I had some help with this recipe from my mom, and I’m so grateful for it, because it was pretty tricky to make!  Two weeks ago, I spent the weekend with my mom in Baltimore, celebrating her birthday, and we spent it making these sweet/spicy treats.  I remember these cookies being served at many Portuguese festivities and during the holidays.  Although this recipe is tricky to get down at first, once you do it one time, I feel it’s actually fairly easy.  The most difficult part is really nailing down technique of how to make them look so dainty and pretty.  They’re really good and unique; sure to be a hit with any cookie exchange or just for yourself. 🙂




Yields: 12 cookies


1 24-ounce can bread crumbs + 2 cups, toasted
4 cups water
4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons cinnamon
zest from 3 lemons
1 teaspoon of anise essence
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper


2 eggs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Crisco or butter
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups cold water

Tip: I highly recommend watching an online video of this recipe being made to get the technique down!


1) Preheat oven to 350°.  Spread bread crumbs evenly onto a baking sheet, and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until lightly toasted.  Set aside.

2) For the filling, bring water, sugar, and butter to a boil, in a large pot. Lower heat to a simmer and add cinnamon, lemon zest, anise essence, red pepper, and mix together.  Turn off heat, and add in half of the toasted bread crumbs, and mix.  Add the remaining bread crumbs, and mix until all of the ingredients are evenly incorporated into one another.

3) Allow mixture to cool.  Once cooled, butter your fingers and roll filling out long and thin, about 1/3 inch in diameter, 12 inches long, and set aside.

4) For the dough, leave oven preheated to 350°. Using a mixer with the dough handle, beat eggs, sugar, salt, and Crisco.  Add in flour and while mixing, slowly add in water.  Once all mixed together, notice if you need to add more flour or water. The dough shouldn’t be sticky. Knead the dough for several minutes, roll into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 hour.

5) Dust flour onto a flat surface and begin rolling out the dough into a long, oblong shape. Roll until very thin, nearly translucent. Aiming for the center of the dough, use a pastry cutter to cut diagonal cuts about 1-inches long and a 1/2 inch apart from one another.

6) Place the filling directly on top of the diagonal cuts.  Fold the dough in half, over the filling, and the filling should be poking out of the diagonal cuts. Tightly hug the dough up against the filling, and using the pastry cutter, cut the dough about 1/3 inches away from the filling.

7) Using the pastry cutter, gently press down diagonally on the cookie where the filling is peeking out. This will give the cookie some of its lattice appearance. Cut the dough into 3 or 4 equal sizes. Bend into a horseshoe shape or in a circle, closing the loop. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 min.