The Secret Ingredient Your Favorite Buttery Cookies Need

One of the easiest things in the world to bake are old-fashioned butter cookies  — so few ingredients that can be quickly assembled for a crumbly divine result. All you need is butter, sugar, flour, water, and a pinch of salt combined to create them. And while we're not trying to complicate things, there is one simple ingredient you can add to your next batch that will give them an indefinable, elegant boost: grated nutmeg. 

You might only be familiar with nutmeg as a member of the warming winter spices trotted out for year-end holiday bakes, a member of a team that includes cinnamon, cloves, and maybe cardamom. But we're here to tell you that, not only can nutmeg be used in just about everything from roast vegetables to mortadella, it can also be used as a secret agent to elevate other buttery bakes like snickerdoodle cookies, sugar cookies, or anything made from shortbread.

Nutmeg is your new favorite sidekick

There's a reason why nutmeg is traditionally grated on top of a glass of eggnog: While it's friendly with just about everything sweet and savory, nutmeg adores butter and cream. It's wonderfully evocative citrus-sweet scent and warm, welcoming flavor folds perfectly into butter's enveloping creamy sweetness. 

Because of this, grate a little nutmeg into any cookie recipe that contains generous amounts of butter for a slightly nutty and earthy element. The spice doesn't have to be featured or even call attention to itself; the nutmeg will just raise all the other ingredients up to a new level.

For the best balance of flavors, stick to grating around ¼ of a teaspoon per two dozen of any cookies you bake, and then experiment with more or less depending on your preference. We guess what we're saying here is that, when you see any baking recipe that calls for a good amount of butter, it may prove difficult to find a reason not to grate a little fresh nutmeg into the dough.