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Cloves (Recipe: Chocolate spice cookies)


Ten things I know about cloves (you'll be glad to know them, too):

  1. How can you tell a good clove from a bad one? Good quality cloves are a rich, reddish-brown color. Squeeze a clove between your fingers; good cloves will release a bit of oil. Or, place a clove in a cup of water; good ones will float vertically, while those that are stale will float horizontally, or sink to the bottom.
  2. Other names for cloves are gewuzenelke (German), ley-hyin-bwint (Burmese), gahn plu (Thai), chiodo di garofano (Italian), and ding heung (Chinese). Given my lack of facility with languages, I'm sticking with cloves, derived from the Latin word "clavus", meaning "nail".
  3. There's a strange relationship between cloves and dentistry. If you bite down on a clove, you might crack a tooth (that's why cloves are often stuck into onions, so they don't get lost in a sauce). But if, in the days before anesthesia, you went to a dentist to have that tooth fixed, he might have suggested you pack your tooth with those same cloves, the oil from which has numbing qualities.
  4. Cloves are a good source of manganese, which is good for your health, yet they're a key ingredient (along with tobacco) in kreteks, the popular Indonesian cigarettes that are not good for your health. 
  5. I forgot to include them on my list of aphrodisiac foods in the pantry, though I always have both whole and ground cloves on my spice rack.
  6. They're very particular about where they grow: in tropical climates, near the sea, in an area with rainfall of at least 60 inches per year, with a dry season for harvesting. Originally from Indonesia, cloves also are grown in Zanzibar, Brazil, Penang (Malaysia), India, and the West Indies.
  7. For more than 2,500 years, people have used cloves to mask bad breath. In China as far back as the Han Dynasty, cloves were not only used for cooking but also for deodorization; anyone having an audience with the emperor was instructed to chew cloves to prevent bad breath. In Medieval times, cloves were used to mask the odor of food that had not been properly preserved.
  8. The flavor is pungent, one of the "warm" spices (along with cinnamon, with which it's often used). Chinese five-spice powder, garam masala, and quatre-épices all depend on it.
  9. Use cloves in cranberry-clove marmalade, stovetop baked beans, orange clove cupcakes, pickled golden beets with cloves, curried chickpea salad and braised lentils. And what would mulled cider or mulled wine be without cloves?
  10. Do you remember Clove Chewing Gum, made by Adams? It first came to market during Prohibition, as a breath mint designed to cover the smell of alcohol. In 2003, Adams was bought by Cadbury, which brings back this gum as a limited-production nostalgia item every few years; check here for the next available batch, due in May 2009.

Chocolate spice cookies

Chocolate spice cookies

Adapted by my pastry-chef friend Cindy from a recipe in Nick Malgieri's, these cookies are chewy, spicy, and utterly addictive. Makes 15 cookies.


1/2 cup natural (not Dutched) cocoa powder
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup dry red wine (or water)
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup water


Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Into the bowl of a Kitchenaid-type stand mixer fitted with the paddle beater, sift the cocoa powder. Add flour, sugar, almonds, cinnamon, cloves and baking soda. Mix lightly to combine. Add honey, molasses and wine. Mix until a smooth, sticky dough forms. Allow to stand for 1 minute to absorb the liquid, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Turn the dough onto a generously floured surface, and pat into a 6x10-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Flour the dough lightly, and roll over it once or twice with a rolling pin to even it out. Using a ruler and a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into 2-inch squares. With a dry pastry brush, wipe off any excess flour. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone liner, and transfer squares to the pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and let sit for 1 minute. Then, lift the parchment (with the cookies on it) and place it on a cooling rack.

While the cookies are still warm, combine confectioners sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl, and stir until smooth to make a glaze. Paint the surface of each cookie; the glaze will soak in. In a minute or two, paint on a second coat of glaze. Allow the cookies to cool completely; they will remain chewy on the inside.

If you have any left over, and you won't, store in an airtight container.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Spice cake
Apple spice bread
Señora Gonzales' mole colorado
Chocolate-orange sorbet
Grandma's applesauce

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Cloves are aphrodisiacs??

When I was a kid, my two favorite gums were clove and blackjack. And when we had toothaches, my mom alwas had us chew on cloves. Who knew the clove was also an aphrodesiac! Those Chinese people must have been in quite a state when they finally got their audience with the emperor!

Oh - and in Greek - cloves are γαρίφαλο (garEEfahlow) not to be confused with γαρύφαλλο (garEEfahlow) which means carnation

Like C commented I remember that clove gum! It used to be my favorite. In Dubai my parents sometimes have clove toothpaste too and it leaves a great refreshing taste!

Now I am loving the way your sweet week is starting. These cookies really sound great!

The cookies look like a chocolate Snickerdoodle! Mmmmmmmmmm Snickerdoodles!

I can attest: the cookies are delicious. I found them meltingly rich and assumed they were full of butter. How amazing that there is no butter!!!

I really enjoyed your research on cloves, thanks for sharing. And now I'll have to add those darn cookies to my "to make" list. How utterly enticing of you!

Fortunately, there were a couple of cookies left over by the time I got back to RI. They were delicious! I could detect the clove right away and was surprised how good it tasted in a cookie.

In Spanish the word for clove is the same as the word for nail "clavo" very similar to the Latin. And cloves are often the secret ingredient in many Mexican dishes (I put them in my meat mix for tamales and I also use them in a masa thickened mole sauce). Thanks for the post.

Love the lesson - lol...and the cookies look perfect!!!

I have an old-fashioned memories of studding the easter ham with cloves and pineapple rings after cutting a diamond pattern in the skin. YUM!
Maybe I will break that out this year.

Very interesting recipe :) I'll have to try it out :)

Great info about spices. I am always interested in learning more.

I love cloves. A clove studded ham is my favorite! I also liked the clove gum.

Dentists still use oil of cloves, or at least within *my* memory. When I had a wisdom tooth pulled the dentist stuffed the socket with gauze with oil of cloves on it.

And they were NOT used to disguised rotten food in medieval times. Meat was cheaper than spices, including cloves - they had to be imported from far away, after all, and the meat was local. Not to mention the fines merchants faced if they sold bad food.

Interesting recipe! These sound addictive! I will have to make them very soon! Thanks for sharing! Great site!

Love cloves. Great recipe that doesn't make so many that Gorn gains 10 pounds on one baking ;))

Oh I want some of those cookies! Unbelievable that they don't use butter or oil.

These look amazing! I love using cloves... We will be eating these this weekend - Thanks!

Red wine and chocolate in a cookies? I'm ALL OVER it. Chilling in the fridge now ...

I love chocolate, and I love spice, so I know I would love these cookies. Thanks for another great recipe!

Lordy, those look delicious.

so now I know the cloves I had in the freezer were older than I thought - they floated horizontally - dumped them into the disposal so it might smell sweet and when the weather calms down here in the sunny south I'll buy some fresh ones -

I love the idea of spices with chocolate, though I have never tried it myself. What strikes me in this recipe, is the use of red wine ! That's a new one... I think I should try it ! :-)

I will have to try these cookies they have chocolate, wine and have no milk to boot. I'm always on the hunt for that kind of sweet.
Cloves are yet another thing that does not last long in my kitchen. If I have errand odors I just put some cloves to the boil.
Thanks for the tip on how to tell if the cloves are fresh.
I love that you are showcasing spices. I can hardly wait for your next installment.

I never knew there was so much to know about cloves. I love them studded in a ham.

These cookies sound amazing! Just stumbled across the recipe, and whaddyaknow...I have every one of these ingredients in my pantry, plus a sil-pat I got for my birthday on Sunday...I guess I am baking these tonight!

My mom and granny always gave me cloves if I ever was nauseated...Ayurvedic medicine (I am from India) suggests that cloves can suppress nausea; I always keep some in my purse since I often get car sick.

The cookies look and sound delish, I like the idea of combining chocolate and cloves! Great listing of facts. One thing I just came across was that chewing on cloves also help reduce stomach acid, according to Ayurveda ... this might relate to the comment above about surpressing nausea.

These cookies look wonderful! Yum!

Very cool post. I enjoyed reading all the info about cloves.


Oh, I should have mentioned this in my previous post, but one drop of clove oil has been documented to have the highest antioxidant rating of any known food. Powerful stuff!

That sounds like a fantastic cookie. I'll have to try these.

That list of ingredients is truly amazing and the cookies look so delicious and, yes, addictive. And thanks for telling us that cloves are an aphrodisiac (he he)!

i am also partial to cloves. i will take my outdated cloves and put them in my potpourri pot and mix in some orange rind with enough water and let it simmer. umm wonderful! makes my home smell so good. everyone who comes in thinks i'm cooking. lol!

No butter in these?! I'm definitely trying them.

Clove gum? Yet another thing I have missed. Thanks for the link. I shall be on the look out for it in May.

I had an awesome cranberry chutney the other day (from TJs) that had cloves in it. The cloves gave the chutney an outstanding flavor - I couldn't get enough!

I love the smell of cloves when I need a room freshener I put cloves a cinn stick in some water and my house smell great. I can't wait to bake the clove choc cookies they sound great.

Who knew about clove gum and prohibition? Pretty sneaky!

Oh my. These look fab-u-lous! Clove chewing gum was one of my favorites. I will have to try these.

I made a batch of these last night and YUMMY! I think this is one of the tastiest cookies I've ever made! I made it exactly as you've written the recipe, except I added 1/8 tsp of almond extract to the batter and another 1/8 tsp to the sugar glaze...thanks for this amazing recipe!

Oooo... these cookies look so good! I can't wait to get home and bake them tonight!

Virologist, this makes me smile!!!

I just found this recipe - I am looking forward to trying the recipe, and enjoyed reading all the comments... but what's up with the word Mostaccioli after the cookie name? I'm Italian and as far as I know, that word refers to a type of pasta... so what's the story?

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