Janny de Moor Janny de Moor

John Hail cookies (Janhagel)


Baking tools:


  • baking parchment
  • baking tray (40 x35 cm),



(makes about 32 pieces,

size about 4-7 cm)


  • 250 g al- purpose flour
  • 75 g white castor sugar
  • 75 g Muscovado sugar
  • ½ tsp tartaric acid (2 g)*
  • ¼ tsp baking soda (1 g)
  • ½ tsp vanilla seeds or -extract
  • ½ tsp aniseed
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 150 g cold butter

To decorate:

  • 3 tbsp almond flakes
  • 3 tbsp small pearl sugar**

Originally this cookie was a kind of flat, leathery, chewy treat, consisting of small drops of dough baked together. Janhagel was an expression for ‘ragtag and bobtail’ and the market speciality owed its name to the fact that it was mostly sold to people who could not afford more sophisticated bakery.

However, in the 19th century the name inspired an inventive baker to provide the cookie with a layer resembling hagel (‘hail’). The ‘Jan’ – a very common Dutch forename – remained and the result was a sweet cannibalistic joke that, like the daring names of so many other delicacies, has survived to our days.

  • Sift flour, sugar, acid and soda (or cream of tartar) into a bowl. Stir in vanilla seeds (scraped from a pod), aniseed and cinnamon. Add the egg. Then add the butter. Cut with two knives into very small lumps. Knead a supple dough.
  • Preheat oven to 160˚C/325˚F/gas 3.
  • Place the baking parchment onto a work surface. Sprinkle the dough with flour and press it with your hand palms onto the parchment. Sprinkle again with flour and roll the dough out to about 34×28 cm.
  • Sprinkle the dough with almond flakes and sugar grains. Press very well. By doing that the dough will stretch a bit further. Place the dough with parchment onto the baking tray.
  • Put the tray on a lower shelf of the oven. Bake for about 50 minutes: the middel of the middle of the dough should feel solid.
  • Cut the pastry immediately after having taken it from the oven into oblong pieces, which you lift with a spatula onto a wire rack to cool off and become brittle. John Hail can be kept very long in an airtight tin.

* Or use 3 g cream of tartar

**In the Netherlands only available at special baking shops. Same hard sugar as for sugar bread, but the grains are as small as little hailstones. As these are possibly difficult to obtain abroad you could use normal sugar cubes crushed into grains with a dough roll and sieve the finer grains out.

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