Monday, 12 December 2011

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Cookie

Chocolate Spice Cookies, a holiday treat!
Sometimes, especially around the holidays, we need a little something extra to go with our lunch, something that makes life worth the cost of living.

In my tenure at Theatre Three, rehearsals for the annual production of A Christmas Carol would begin in September. By November we were more than ready to open, and thus would begin the stream of baked goods flowing into the dressing room. Amongst our prop shelves were shelves dedicated solely to cookies, brownies, cakes, and the like. Very hard to pass up "just one cookie" when the baker shared a dressing room with you, and equally hard to pass up eight or ten when you skipped lunch because of the morning show running late and bleeding into your call time for the afternoon show. I, nor anyone else to my knowledge, ever lost weight during A Christmas Carol—except for an older gentleman named George, who had the willpower of an ox and was able to sustain a self-imposed diet during the last run I did. Certainly an example to us all.

In my first year on A Christmas Carol, there was one little girl playing Tiny Tim who happened to be vegan. She always sighed heavily when the goodies would come in, and she'd ask if there was butter or eggs, and the answer was always yes. I decided to find a delicious vegan cookie recipe—the kind of thing I wouldn't mind eating, or perhaps even enjoyed, that way the other kids would eat them too and our Tiny Tim would feel like she was part of the group.

And the kids did eat them. They loved them! They were certainly different. That first batch had some flaws, but they were mighty chocolatey, sweet, with a crunchy outside and a soft chewy inside. One of the Want girls, who proclaimed herself my "chocolate buddy" that year, gave her nod of approval. And our Tiny Tim was very happy; happy to have bits of chocolate stuck in her teeth like everyone else, and happy to be part of the sacred and delicious cookie tradition at Theatre Three.

The recipe that follows has undergone many changes, improvements since that first batch; here I offer it in its vegan AND non-vegan forms. Both are delicious, and the vegan version verges on healthy, even... if you ignore the cup-and-a-half of sugar. Every time I bite into one of these, especially when they're hot from the oven, I always hear a young voice saying, "God bless us, everyone!"

Kevin's Chocolate Spice Cookies

Whisk together in a medium bowl:
- 2 c. bread flour (or all-purpose; bread flour makes the inside chewier)
- 2½ tsp. ground ginger (or less if your ginger is particularly potent, as mine is)
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp. ground cloves
- ½ tsp. nutmeg
- 1 c. + 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt
Set aside. In a large bowl, beat together
- 1 c. unsweetened applesauce (or for non-vegans, ½ c. melted unsalted butter + ½ c. milk)
- 1 c. brown sugar
until the sugar is dissolved. Into that, mix well
- ½ c. molasses
Then add half the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Stir in
- 2 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 tbsp. boiling water
Then stir in the rest of the flour mixture until well combined. Cover and chill for at least one hour. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Pour into a shallow dish
- ½ c. white or raw sugar
Roll the chilled dough into balls about one inch in diameter. (Tip from my wife: dip your fingers in sugar before handling dough; it's sticky.) Roll the balls in sugar to coat, then place about two inches apart on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool on the sheet for a minute, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Makes 35-40 cookies.

The best part is, in either version, there aren't any eggs in the batter. So... lick the spoon!

Title inspiration: Um.... A Christmas Carol? Particularly, the adaptation by Jeffrey E. Sanzel, but there are dozens upon dozens out there.

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