Curtains and bed linens were washed and dried out on the "bleek", a grassy area behind the house that was mowed short for that purpose. Sunshine and fresh air would help to remove the yellow hue and washing liquid odors from the fabric and give it a fresh smell. This was also the time that heavy rugs and mats would get a good beating to get rid of all the dust. Who remembers those rug beaters?
Spring cleaning was also the moment that the ceilings would be whitewashed, all the wood furniture would be rubbed with oil or wax and the rooms would be redecorated with new wallpaper. As you can imagine, it would sometimes take several days to get it all done. Many of the neighborhood women or relatives would come over and help with the heavier loads, especially the mattresses. It was therefore custom that the woman whose mattresses were put out that day would offer this particular cookie (beddenkoek, another name for janhagel) with the afternoon coffee.
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But not everybody enjoyed Spring cleaning, as this site confirms. Instead of working up a sweat cleaning and scrubbing, some people would move house during the weeks before Easter and so avoided having to do any cleaning or wallpapering in their current house. Housing regulations stated that all newly rented homes should come with freshly painted and wallpapered walls and a month of free rent, courtesy of the housing agency. It still meant taking out all the furniture and rugs, but instead of moving it back in the same house, they would move it into a freshly painted and wallpapered house, often two doors down from the old one! Smart, or cheeky? You decide!
Either way, all this (reading about) cleaning might have made you tired, so it's time to put your feet up and have a cup of coffee. This cinnamon flavored cookie is quick to make and will make your house smell wonderful, so treat yourself to a janhagel, whether you've cleaned the house or not!*
2 sticks butter (230 gr)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup shaved almonds
1/4 cup coarse sugar
Heat oven to 350F. Using the paddle on a mixer, combine the butter with the sugar until it looks like coarse sand, then add in the egg. Combine the salt, flour, cinnamon and baking powder and add it to the mixer and let it turn, on medium, until the dough comes together - all the dry ingredients should be incorporated and you should have a cohesive whole.
Remove the dough, pat it down into a circle and wrap it in plastic - then refrigerate for about 30 minutes. This should allow the butter to set up (better baking results). When it has rested, roll the dough out (not too thin!) into a square (or trim the edges) onto parchment paper or a silicone mat. Beat the egg and brush the top of the dough, then sprinkle almonds and sugar on top. Don't forget to sprinkle all the way to the edge! Don't cut the cookies yet, you will do that when they come out of the oven.
Bake the slab of cookie dough golden in about 15 minutes. Remove it from the oven and cut with a knife or pizza cutter while they are still warm. The average size is about half a playing card - but you can divide the dough into equally sized rectangles and make them as big as you wish! The cookies will harden as they cool.
By this time, whomever is in the house will come and see what you are up to - these cookies smell amazing! Explain to them that these are "schoonmaak" cookies and that you can only get one if your room is clean. Just kidding....but hey - it might just work!
Makes about 25 cookies.
*There is always tomorrow, but if you really would like some motivation to get started, I can highly recommend this website. BabySteps!