I am a sucker for old cookbooks. Well not just cookbooks, also old gardening, house, picture, or etiquette books too; any book that contains old knowledge. Anytime I go to a garage or estate sale I always make a b-line to the shelves.
I picked up The French Chef in Private American Families by Xavier Raskin, published in 1922, in a used book store a couple years ago for $10 and I am so happy I did. The version I have is the actual 1922 original version, though in researching this blog post I realized you can buy a more recently published version on Amazon (though I don’t know what “remains as true to the original work as possible” means…) or read it online for free as it is old enough to be in the public domain.
It is like a little time capsule. There are recipes to cook things over fire in a hanging pot, he never gives oven temperatures just ranges (at medium heat), he also doesn’t always give cook times just desired result (until golden brown on the bottom), and there are so many recipes I have never heard of!
It has always been my goal to accept the challenge this book offers and try to recreate some of the recipes in modern terms. With the holiday season in full force I decided a fun way to start would be cookies; something which still exist today in many recipes and forms.
At first I thought I would try and modernize them by going the “awesome” decorating route. I have always wanted to recreate cookies similar to those Pillsbury Shape cookies. You know the ones that come in a tube and already have a design down the middle? This was not as easy to replicate as I thought it would be…these are supposed to be Christmas trees…CAN’T YOU TELL???? Sigh.
I haven’t given up quite yet. I have some more ideas. But I was running out of time and I needed cookies that were “blog worthy”. I had already picked my recipe and had worked with it so many times (the attempt above was not the only failure…I’ll spare you the repetition) that I didn’t want to just scrap it. Then it hit me, this recipe could be great if made vegan (Is veganized a word? Who cares we are making it one!).
These cookies are so freaking easy and take relatively little hands on time. If you don’t make fun holiday designs they take even less. The key to this recipe is to start with everything room temperature but then keep everything as cool as possible. These make GREAT keep in the freezer and slice when you need them cookies too! The coconut oil makes these super crispy and crunchy, which I prefer in my cookies. UPDATE: If kept in a well sealed container these maintain their crispy for pretty much ever. We left on holiday travel and came back 2 weeks later and they are still freaking delicious. Yes I ate two week old cookies and enjoyed them. What about it??? Also they are perfect hiking snacks.
Veganized Holiday Nutmeg Cookies
Recipe modified from Nutmeg Cookies in The French Chef in Private American Families
Makes 24 small cookies. Also can be known as Vegan Coconut Nutmeg Cookies.
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) coconut oil, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup coconut milk, room temperature*
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup flour
- Combine coconut oil and sugar in a mixer. Beat until creamed. This does not take very long with the coconut oil, I only cream about 2 minutes on medium in my Kitchen Aide Stand Mixer. A hand mixer works equally well. (If you want a lesson on why you need to make sure you don’t over cream see my Sourdough Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe).
- Turn off mixer and add in coconut milk, nutmeg, and salt. Turn mixer on the lowest setting and slightly mix (30 seconds).
- Sift in flour and baking soda. Mix until just incorporated. The dough should stick well together but be a little oily.
- Place dough on plastic wrap. If you are keeping it one color then wrap up the dough in a 7-inch cylinder. Roll it with your hands to make it as smooth as possible and place in the fridge. Go to step 10.
- If you are making the swirl design, place dough on scale and remove 1/3 of the weight. The recipe comes out to a little more than 300 grams, so remove about 100 grams.
- Place the 100 grams back in the mixer and add food coloring. I added about 4 drops of green but add as much as you want in whatever color you want. Mix until fully incorporated. Remove and place on plastic wrap and roll colored dough into 7-inch long cylinder. Wrap up the plastic wrap, rolling slightly to smooth out then place dough in the fridge.
- Leave the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This chill is to make it easier to work with the sticky dough. Remove and roll both colors of dough out in the long direct until both are about 5×7 inch rectangles. The colored dough (100g) will roll out much thinner.
- Place the colored dough rectangle on top of the white dough rectangle then take one of the 7 inch ends and slowly roll the dough back into a cylinder. Wrap the plastic wrap back around the dough and roll to smooth out edges. Place dough in the fridge.
- Turn the oven to 350° F and preheat. Turn it on as early as you need to for it to hit temperature. Mine can take up to an hour. Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.
- After the dough has chilled for an hour, remove from the fridge. Roll slightly to make back into circle (one side might flatten a bit in the fridge. If you look closely at the picture below you can see one side is still flat 😂). Take a knife and cut ¼ to 1/3 of an inch slices. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet.
- Bake cookies for 10 minutes until sides begin to turn golden. Remove and allow to cool for 5 minutes on sheet then move to rack. Eat whenever desired!
*You can use any milk substitute you want here. Keep in mind however that these cookies have a very light flavor on their own. This means that your milk choice will most likely dominate the flavor profile over the nutmeg. I use coconut because I love coconut flavored foods and it goes well with nutmeg. Nut milks will work if you like the specific nut flavor. I don’t now if I would use rice or soy milk personally.
I have stored the dough for over a week and made cookies from it and it still works well. These seem to be the perfect freeze, slice and bake later cookies! Make sure you keep them in a cylinder form for easy slicing.