Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery contains several recipes for this twisted, coiled cookie from the 16th century. Old Receipts from Old St. Johns, collected by Anne Sinkler Fishburne in the early part of this century, contains two. Emily Whaley, Mrs. Fishburne’s daughter, helped her mother assemble the book when she was a child. “Jumbles were sweet cookies which were always served after lunch,” she recently explained. Both of the recipes call for “peach water” as flavoring (the extract is available through specialty food distributors). Walworth Plantation, always in the Porcher family, donated this recipe. Mrs. Porcher added the directions—usually neglected—for shaping the cookies: “The jumbles were always shaped in finger lengths by hand and joined so as to make a circle.”

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Ingredients

  • 2 large egg whites
  • ¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ¼ pound (½ cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
  • ½ pound (2 cups) unbleached (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ cup peach or rose water
  • confectioners’ sugar
  • cinnamon sugar (optional)

Method

In the small bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Set aside. In the large bowl of the mixer, beat the butter until very light, then beat in the sugar and mix until well creamed. Lower the speed and add the egg whites, beating until the mixture is smooth. Sift the flour and nutmeg over the mixture and continue to beat on low. Add the rose or peach water and beat until the mixture is well blended. Refrigerate the dough until it is firm, at least an hour.

Place a baking sheet in a cold oven; preheat to 400°. After a few minutes, remove the sheet, grease well, and set aside where it will stay warm.

Dust your work surface heavily with confectioners’ sugar. Pinch off small handfuls of the dough and roll it into finger lengths, then form circles or the more traditional pretzel twists.

The cookies can be rolled in cinnamon sugar, as a recipe from a neighboring plantation suggests, before baking, if desired. Place the cookies on the warm greased sheet and bake for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to racks to cool. Store in airtight tins.

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