Historical/ Historical Recipes

Almond Paste and Spinach Filled Cookies: An Elizabethan Recipe

Yes, it was Christmas time and I was making gifts for friends and neighbors. I enjoy giving “perishable” gifts: Baked goods, relishes and jams and jellies that use produce from my gardens. And best of all, everyone is happy to receive them!

This is neither a new recipe nor an original recipe. In fact, variations on this recipe date back to over 400 years ago, with the first recipes appearing in print in the late 1500s during the reign of Elizabeth 1. The earliest reference I have is from The Accomplisht Cook, printed in 1660 in England, under the title “Other made Dish of spinach in Paste baked”. And as odd as it may sound to have a cookie filled with spinach, it is a favorite with many of the visitors to, and cast, crew, General Manager and CEO of The Virginia Renaissance Faire.

Thanks to modern translations and modern ingredients, this is a very easy recipe to make. I am also including very easy to follow directions for almond paste.

If you wish to immediately go to my version of this historic recipe, just scroll down to the recipe card . But if you’d like to know a little more about the differences between baking and recipes in the 1500s and today, please enjoy  The Inside Scoop

The Inside Scoop

One of the most pronounced differences between recipes from the 1500s and from today is that, unlike modern recipes, recipes from the 1500s were not broken into “Ingredients” and “Directions.” Rather, recipes were presented in more of a story format, that is, in the way a person would talk about it while making it. For example, the original recipe for this dish, as printed in The Accomplisht Cook which includes modern spellings for many of the words, reads:

Other made Dish of spinach in Paste baked

Boil spinage as beforesaid, being tender boil’d, drain it in a cullender, chop it small, and strain it with half a pound of almond-paste, three or four yolks of eggs, half a grain of musk, three or four spoonfuls of cream, a quarter of fine sugar, and a little salt, then bake it on a sheet of paste on a dish without a cover, in a very soft oven, being fine and green baked, stick it with preserved barberries, or strow on red and white biskets, or red and white muskedines, and scrape on fine sugar.

Spelling was also highly individualized during the 1500s and 1600s. For example, to make a cake, Mrs. Sarah Longe tells us in Her Receipt (recipe) Book, “Take halfe a bushell of fflower, 8 pound of Currence, and boyle it by it selfe,” To make rice pudding, she wrote,”Take a pound of Rice, boyle it in a pottle of milke till it bee thicke as you may cutt it with a knife when it is cold,” In fact, standardized spelling did not occur until the late 1700s and early 1800s and was promoted by printers who needed to have one form of spelling for each word.

The amount of any particular ingredient was also highly individualized. For one bread recipe, the baker is told to “use as much flour as the morning milk will wet.” I don’t know if this milk came from one cow or two! Another recipe states, “Take fine flowre and good Damaske water you must have no other liquor than that, then take sweet butter, two or three yolkes of eggs and a good quantity of sugar and (seasonings) as your Cookes mouth shall serve him……..and a little Gods good about a spoonful.”

By the way, no authentic recipe from the pre-1800s will include baking soda or baking powder, as one expects to find in cakes and cookies. Soda ash was not discovered until 1791 and baking soda did not become commercially available until 1846.

Almond Paste and Spinach Filled Cookies: An Elizabethan Recipe

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By Connie Teunis Serves: 48
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

An Elizabethan cookie filled with spinach and almond paste that is sure to delight the 21st century palate!


  • For the Almond Paste:
  • 168 g./ 1 ½ c. Blanched Almond Flour
  • 180 g./ 1 ½ c. Powdered Sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 ½ t. Almond Extract
  • ¼ t. Salt
  • For the Spinach Filling:
  • 285 g./ 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed, with excess water removed
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 170 g./ 6 oz. Almond Paste
  • 1 T. Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 36 g./ 3 T. Granulated Sugar
  • For the Cookie Dough:
  • 115 g./ 1 stick Butter, softened
  • 72 g./ 6 T. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 large Egg, Whisked
  • 30 ml./ 2 T. Sweet White Wine (a dessert wine)
  • 1/8 t. Salt
  • 120 g./ 1 c. Whole-Wheat Pastry Flour or Whole Wheat flour
  • 120 g./ 1 c. White Pastry Flour
  • Colored Sugar (opt.)



To make the Almond Paste:


Place all almond paste ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Divide into 6 ounce portions; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 1 month or freeze for up to 3 months.


To Make the Spinach Filling:


Place the thawed spinach, egg yolk, 6 ounces of almond paste, heavy whipping cream and granulated sugar in the bowl of the same food processor; pulse until smooth.


If spinach filling appears wet, transfer the spinach filling to a medium saucepan and cook over low heat until there is no standing liquid. Remove from heat; cool.


To Make the Cookie Dough:


Combine the softened butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. And the egg, wine and salt and mix until smooth. Gradually add the flours and mix on low until completely mixed.


To assemble:


Set the oven baking racks so that one is 1/3 of the way from the bottom and the other is 1/3 of the way from the top.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.


On a floured surface, roll small batches of cookie dough out to 1/8” thick. Use a 2” round cookie cutter to cut out 48 discs of dough; place 24 discs (or as many as will fit) onto each cookie sheet. Top each disc with 1 tablespoon of the spinach and almond paste filling. Roll out more cookie dough and cut out another 48 discs; these will go on top of the spinach filling. Using a ½” round cookie cutter or other small cookie cutter, cut out the center of each disc. Place these discs on top of the spinach filling to form a cookie and filling “sandwich.” If desired, sprinkle colored sugar on top of the cookies.


Place baking sheets in oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until dough is firm to the touch and just starting to turn a very light brown. Remove trays from oven; let cool for 2 minutes and then transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Cool completely.


Wrap any remaining cookie dough in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for 1 week or in the freezer for one month.




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