Holiday Baking

Making cookies with...

How cute is this sign, seriously?

When I was growing up, my grandmother unfailingly made a certain type of cookie for the holidays, a 1950s classic. I loved them with the whole-hearted enthusiasm of a child, and it was only when I became a young adult that I realized the name had something faintly off-putting about it, something that kept other people from being as excited about them as I was. Of course, at that time, they were not called snowflake cookies. They were called “Hairy Apes.”

A dusting of coconut looks like "snow" on these cookies

A search for “Hairy Apes” on the Internet reveals no results for cookies, and there’s probably a good reason for that. Nevertheless, in my heart I still call them “Hairy Apes,” even though I have had to rebrand them for holiday baking classes as “Snowflake Cookies.” (I do mean that tongue-in-cheek.)

They taste something like a cross between pecan pie and the filling for German chocolate cake, which makes sense because you essentially make a custard that you mix nuts and - oh, yes – rice crispies into.

I suppose they belong to a whole genre of no-bake date cookies, which I discovered when I received my 2008 copy of Eating Well magazine and a similar cookie was entered in and won first prize in a baking contest. The contestant had the good sense to call them “Angel Delights.”

Besides the nostalgia they evoke, I love that they take 10 minutes to make and another 10 to roll into balls, and that they can be made with almost all ingredients from the Bulk section. Like local maple syrup.

Bulk maple syrup, ready for your holiday baking needs...

Chill them for at least an hour before serving. They are as good for dessert as they are as an hors d’oeuvre alongside mixed toasted nuts and an aged Vermont cheese, such as Vermont Ayr.

“Hairy Apes” /"Snowflake Cookies”
1 cup chopped, pitted dates (I use Medjool)
½ cup maple syrup (the original recipe called for ¾ cup sugar)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
2 cups rice crispies
1 1/3 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

Heat dates, maple syrup, and eggs in a medium-size heavy-bottomed pot. Stirring frequently, heat until the mixture froths and bubbles and the color changes to a light gold. Immediately turn off the heat. Stir in vanilla, chopped nuts, and rice crispies. Allow to cool. Wet your hands and the shape into small ¾-1” balls. Roll in coconut. (You may have to rinse your hands partway through.) Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.