The Canadian Cookie Monster

I grew up on some of these, my children grew up on more, now my grandchildren love them all. They are tasty treats without excess sweetness or fats, as healthy as a luxury snack can be so little cookie monsters don't get hyper or risk diabetes.

As a fifth generation dairy farmer, my mother used butter, whole milk, and eggs by the dozens, but she grew up in an era with outdoor work and no central heating. I now mostly use olive oil for nutrition and good taste combined. Canola oil has similar nutritional value (mono-unsaturated fats) and less taste, useful for recipes with delicate flavour. I now prefer cake flour for cookies; Monarch brand in particular has fewer additives than today's all-purpose. If you want your cookies to stay moist longer, add half a tsp cornstarch per cup of flour. (When modern manufacturers use this old trick, they say there's "pudding in the mix".)

A few notes:

  • Mixing in oil before water keeps ingredients from clumping.
  • Do as much mixing as possible before adding flour to keep cookies from getting tough.
  • Most doughs are easier to handle if they rest 5 minutes after mixing.
  • Flexible Teflon liners are perfect to keep cookies from sticking.
  • A handy gadget to spoon out batter is a small mashed potato scoop. (You find them at restaurant supply stores; they come in many sizes, institutions use them for portion control.)
  • Look for neat utensils to flatten dough on the sheet: forks, potato mashers, potato ricers, even drying racks leave different patterns on the surface. Dip them in a bowl of water to keep them moist so they don't stick. Besides appearance, raised ridges on the top of a cookie will bake more than a flat dough so they caramelize for a crunchy texture while still allowing the cookie center to be soft. Texture mats offer more elaborate designs, although I confess I prefer simpler methods.
  • Baking on double-layered sheets helps to keep the bottoms from getting over-baked; if you don't have them, keep the sheets well up in the oven.
  • Don't over-bake soft cookies, it makes them tough.
  • Most are best left to cool 10 minutes on the sheet before removing to the drying rack, to avoid breakage.

Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
white sugar1/4 cup Mix dry ingredients with oil, then water, then fold in flour. Spoon heaping tablespoons on sheet, bake 350°F until firm on top, about 12 min. These are cookies that even my Depression-era mom could make with a clear conscience. Today, dark, bittersweet, semisweet, milk and white chips are available for variety. With dark chocolate, a pinch of orange zest works well.
baking soda1/2 tsp
chocolate chips1/3 cup
olive oil1/3 cup
water3/4 cup
flour1-1/2 cup
Soft Peanut Butter Cookies
peanut butter6 oz A mainstay of my childhood. Cream together peanut butter, oil, sugar and soda, mix with water, fold in flour. Spoon heaping tablespoons on sheet, flatten, bake 350°F until crisp on the outside, 12-14 min. Be sure to use an all-peanuts butter. If these are baked a bit longer they ship well.
peanut oil3 Tbsp
brown sugar1/3 cup
baking soda1 tsp
water1/2 cup
flour1-1/2 cup
Oatmeal Cookies
brown sugar1/4 cup Another mainstay of my childhood. Mix dry ingredients with oil, stir in oats then flour. Spoon heaping tablespoons on sheet, bake 350°F until they just start to brown on the edges, about 12 min. They can be flattened and baked until crisp if you prefer. Increase cinnamon if you like it, or add a pinch of nutmeg, allspice or cloves for variety. Turbinado sugar (crystallized brown sugar) gives a nice crunchy texture.
cinnamon1/2 tsp
baking soda1/2 tsp
olive oil1/3 cup
water1/3 cup
rolled oats1-1/2 cup
flour3/4 cup
Soft Applesauce Cookies
white sugar1/4 cup Living surrounded by wild apple trees in the country, my children grew up on these. They turn out like bite-sized muffins. Mix dry ingredients with oil, then applesauce, then fold in flour. Omit sugar if the applesauce is pre-sweetened. Spoon heaping tablespoons on sheet, bake 350°F until brown 1/2 way up side, about 12 min.
cinnamon1/2 tsp
baking soda1 tsp
olive oil1/3 cup
applesauce1 cup
flour2 cup
Soft Ginger Cookies
brown sugar1/3 cup Mix dry ingredients with oil, then molasses and water, fold in flour. Spoon heaping tablespoons on sheet, flatten, bake 350°F 10 min. The insides should be soft coming from the oven, they will set as they cool.
baking soda1 tsp
ground ginger3 tsp
ground cinnamon1/2 tsp
canola oil1/3 cup
molasses2 Tbsp
water1/3 cup
flour1-1/2 cup
Coriander Cookies
orange zest1/2 tsp Mix dry ingredients with oil, beat in egg, mix in flour and water alternately. Spoon by teaspoons on sheet, bake 350°F 16 min until slightly browned. These are a bit crunchy when freshly baked and keep well.
baking soda1/4 tsp
ground coriander1 Tbsp
sugar2/3 cup
canola oil1/3 cup
egg1
water1/3 cup
flour1-1/2 cup
Gingerbread
sugar1/4 cup Mix dry ingredients with oil, then molasses, fold in flour. Add water a Tbsp at a time until the mix is just smooth. Dust a surface and rolling pin with flour. As my mother did, I use a cloth cover for rolling pin and counter that holds the flour evenly to eliminate sticking when rolling thin. Roll dough to 1/4" thick or a bit less, cut into shapes as desired. Bake 350°F 10 min.
baking soda1/4 tsp
ground ginger2 tsp
canola oil1/3 cup
molasses1/3 cup
flour2 cup
wateras needed
Cardamom Cookies
light brown sugar1/2 cup Another cookie my children grew up on. Combine first five ingredients, beat in egg, fold in flour. Use a mild-tasting oil; add just enough water to make the dough workable. Shape into 1 cm balls, flatten with a chopstick X, bake 350°F until just firm, about 11 min. If over-baked, the taste of caramelized sugar will overpower the delicate taste of cardamom. They keep and ship well airtight, but don't let them dry out or they get too hard. This is the way 'quick-baked' cookies used to taste a century ago. All leavening ingredients leave some sort of taste in the final product. The first 'double-acting' baking powders used sodium aluminum sulphate; many bakers disliked the taste of the aluminum and stuck to baking soda and cream of tartar as here. Modern baking powders use monocalcium phosphate or sodium pyrophosphate. Commercial bakeries inject gas directly to get rid of the taste of all these.
baking soda1 tsp
cream of tartar1 tsp
cardamom1/2 tsp
canola oil1/3 cup
egg1
water1-2 Tbsp
flour2 cup
Fig Pinwheels
butter2 oz Cream softened butter with sugar and soda, mix in the 1/4 cup water, fold in flour. Roll dough between waxed paper to at least a foot square, chill for 1/2 hour in frig to set the butter. Remove stems from figs, boil in the 3/4 cup water until soft, cream until smooth, let cool while dough is chilling. Spread filling on dough, roll up, chill another hour (or overnight). Slice with a sharp knife into 1/4 inch slices, bake at 350°F until lightly browned, about 12 minutes.
white sugar1/4 cup
baking soda1/2 tsp
water1/4 cup
flour1-1/2 cup
figs5 oz
water3/4 cup
Nutmeal Cookies
egg1 Beat egg with sugar until stiff, mix in nuts. Spoon heaping tablespoons on cookie sheet, flatten, bake 325°F 12 min. I grind broken pieces of locally collected nuts in a coffee grinder, but pecan meal is not too expensive when you can find it.
sugar2 Tbsp
nut meal1-1/4 cup
Chocolate Heavens
unsweetened chocolate2 oz These are for showing off your cookie-making prowess to guests, they are far too rich for everyday eating. Melt the unsweetened chocolate, the first cup of chips, butter and coffee together over low heat, let cool. Beat eggs with sugar until stiff (4 min), combine cooled chocolate mixture, fold in flour presifted with baking powder, then the second cup of chips. (Use semisweet if you can't find European-style bittersweet.) Spoon heaping tablespoons on cookie sheet, bake 350°F 11 min. The insides should be soft coming from the oven, they will set as they cool.
semisweet chips1 cup
butter2 oz
strong coffee2 Tbsp
egg2
white sugar1/2 cup
flour1/3 cup
baking powder1/2 tsp
bittersweet chips1 cup

John Sankey
other notes on food

1: The title long predates Sesame Street. My mother used it to describe me and my father in the 1940's, and I never heard her claim it was original then.
2: My favourite source for special cooking items not available locally is Golda's Kitchen.