[26] Rum Raisin Cookies

Cover of The Complete Book of Cookies, edited by Deborah Gray

I made these cookies for a friend who had been having a rough time recently. I figured it’d be fun to joke about having some rum without actually having some rum (so she could have a cookie and then still do other things, like teach). Though, I have to admit, I mailed them to her, so I don’t know that she joked about rum before class. I hope she did.

It was also nice because I had almost all the ingredients on-hand. I had to run out and get some raisins, but that was quick and painless.

I don’t know how the recipient felt the cookies tasted. I thought they needed the rum flavor to come out more. Bill felt they were super tasty, and has already requested a second batch. I haven’t managed to make a batch of them yet, but I will when I get back to Chicago from New Mexico.

Why am I going to New Mexico? Because my sister is getting married in under a week! Joy!

Ingredients

1 c butter
0.75 c superfine sugar (I used regular granulated sugar. This is fine, & works 1:1 for superfine sugar.)
0.75 c packed light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten (I used a large egg, which is the norm for baking. If a recipe doesn’t specify egg size, use a large one.)
3 tbsp rum (I used “Kraken”: )
2.25 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt (No, we haven’t gotten normal salt yet.)
1 tsp baking powder
1.33 c seedless raisins

Instructions

Beat together sugars & butter until soft & creamy. Slowly add the egg and rum1. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder, then mix to combine. Stir in the raisins, then cover and chill at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350F and grease two large cookie sheets. Roll tablespoonfuls of batter into balls, then place 3″ apart on the cookie sheets. Flatten slightly with a spoon, then bake for 15 to 17 minutes (look for golden brown). Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Cooking and Consumption Notes

Cooking

One of the major failings of this recipe is that it doesn’t specify what kind of rum to use. There are three major types of rum (at least that I’m aware of): light/white, dark and spiced rums. I think technically spiced rum can further be split into light/white spiced rums and dark spiced rums.

Now, I used a dark spiced rum because that’s what I had on hand and open. I suspect that I lucked out and it was the right choice, even if I’d had to go out and buy one of those miniature bottles to make this recipe, but I don’t know. My suspicion is based on three things. First, rum extract (which is what is normally called for in rum flavored recipes) much more closely resemble dark rums than light rums. Secondly, the color of the rum is based in large part on the molasses content of the rum, with paler rums having had more molasses removed during processing. This gives, I’m told, the lighter rums an interesting and more complex flavor profile, but also reduces the strength of the flavor2. Since I was baking out a lot of the volatile compounds in the form of the evaporating alcohol, I would have purchased a dark rum anyway for the presumed intensity of flavor. Finally, I would have chosen a spiced dark rum if I were purchasing rum for this recipe because I would presume the lack of specification indicated the author/editor expected the baker to pick something common. Everyone knows Captain Morgan, which is a spiced (though I think light) rum, so I am guessing that something along the lines of Captain Morgan was the author’s intent. Otherwise, I’d have expected a more heavy spice requirement in the recipe itself.

Moving past my rum choice, this recipe made a number of cookies. I believe it said it made on the order of 4 dozen, but I probably made (rather, could have made) about 5 dozen. Both Bill and I are incorrigible dough snitchers, and we live on our own. Thus, even if we were corrigable, there was no one there to corriage us. Of course, it’s unfair to say Bill had any of THIS dough (though his snitching tendencies are fairly represented here), since I made all these cookies while he was at work. Mostly. He may have gotten a dough ball or two, given the refrigeration requirement.

As for actual baking, these cookies barely spread at all, so do not feel the need to leave gobs of space between them on the cookie sheets. Even with the flattening, I would say they didn’t grow more than about a millimeter or two in diameter. This does mean, however, that it can be a challenge to be sure they are cooked through. Flattening them is not required, but it helps to avoid the horrid problem of blackened cookie bottoms under a doughy center.

Consumption

It’s interesting to me how much difference of opinion two people can have on a single recipe. In short, Bill loved these cookies and requested I make them again quickly (since I mailed the vast majority of them away), and I thought they were surprisingly dull. For me, this was exceptionally disappointing because the dough was quite nice.

I don’t know how the recipient felt about the cookies, though I know she got them. Jen, if you’re reading this, I will not be offended if you post and say the cookies sucked (but I will preen if you say they were great). It’s very important to get as many honest opinions as possible!

To my mind, the raisins added a very nice flavor punch, and a fun chewy “pop” to the texture, but I found the rum flavor utterly lacking. I will be the first to admit that I tend to like my sweets fairly sweet, so I also found them a bit boring in the sweetness department. I suspect, though, that it’s not a matter of needing more sugar for this recipe, but more rummy “omph”. In the future (possibly in the next week, depending on a variety of factors back in New Mexico), I would try to punch up the flavor of the rum. I would either try adding more salt, adding rum extract or more rum.

Salt is exceptionally good at bringing out other flavors, so that’s probably the method I would try first. There is, of course, the risk of making “salt cookies”, but I contend it is a low one if I’m cautious. This also has the benefit of changing the baking chemistry the least, making it the method by which I am least likely to come into a kitchen of catastrophic baking failure.

Rum extract would be the second least likely to result in catastrophic baking failure, because it’s highly concentrated. Thus, I can use less of it to achieve the same “rum” flavor. However, I’ve never worked with rum extract, so I don’t know anything about the flavor. I suppose that, to be completely fair about it, I should go drink some of it to get a sense of the flavor. That doesn’t sound terribly appealing, I have to say. Also, if I drink some extract, do I need to drink some light, dark, light spiced and dark spiced rums too? That sounds appealing until I think about the fact that I am a lightweight. In other words, I imagine rum extract is the way I am least likely to try, despite it not changing the chemistry as much as “more rum”.

More rum is the most fun way to change the recipe, and I think it would best result in a more consistent “rum” flavor profile, because if I used rum + rum extract, I wonder if I’d get dueling rum flavors (this results in me drinking rum extract again, doesn’t it?). However, because it’s not concentrated at all, I might have to up the liquid amount rather dramatically. Now, despite what everyone tells you, most baking recipes can survive tweaks here and there to the liquid & dry ratios. However, I don’t think I can “tweak” the rum amount to a good flavor. Thus, using more rum, while more fun in concept, is the most likely route to cause catastrophic baking failures.

Luckily, I am not afraid of catastrophic baking failure.

1 The cookbook says the mixture might look like it is curdling, but not to worry about that. I didn’t see any evidence of this.

2 I don’t actually know a great deal about rums, since my hard alcohol snobbery of choice is tequila, and I’m still pretty new at that. A lot of the information I have about rum comes from A History of the World in Six Glasses and Imbibe Magazine. If you’re a rum expert, and I’m wrong in any way, please let me know in the comments! I love tequila, but I really love learning more about basically all things consumable.