I first posted this story exactly three years ago. In the interim? I’ve had another dozen letters from Madison Guerrilla Cookie fans asking me to repost it. So! here you go. Enjoy.
I just had a great conversation with Monica Eng of WBEZ about how people’s recollections of recipes they loved, but lost, can sometimes eclipse their experience of the actual recipe : ) I once spent weeks tracking down a recipe from a long-closed-restaurant for a mushroom barley soup that ran in the Tribune more than 30 years ago and didn’t exist in searchable archives. I was thrilled when I finally found the thing, complete with the actual dated clipping. I typed it up, e-mailed the recipe to the guy who requested it and in short order, got a reply stating that the recipe was the wrong one. “The soup I remember,” said barley-soup lover, “had much more bacon in it.” Ha HAH! And so it goes. Recipes are fluid things, as are our memories of them. Not always entirely accurate. Or could it be that the cook the night barley-soup-lover had the dish, went “off recipe” and was extra generous with the bacon?
Well, relatedly, the recipe for the Madison guerrilla cookie is of that ilk. First created by Mary MacDowell (UW MA ’67) riffing on ingredients from 1960s Tigers Milk protein bars, MacDowell shared the recipe with ’64 UW graduate Ted Odell, who tweaked the ingredients and baked them for the Quercus Alba Bakery. Hearty and filling, the cookies were sold in six- and twelve-pack sleeves through the Mifflin Street Co-op and other University of Wisconsin shops and became a student staple. I should say, a MUCH beloved student staple. But the cookies fizzled out sometime in the ‘80s. Bakeries stopped making them. Odell took the recipe with him to a remote part of Wisconsin, and kept it close, saying he was politically opposed to sharing it. And so, that was that. But in the hiatus, nostalgia for the cookie revived, fueling all sorts of recipe re-creation attempts among UW alums. Most of them have been written about at Karen McKim’s (UW MA ‘77) blog, dedicated entirely to cracking the guerrilla cookie code.
A few years ago, my own attempt to find the “real” guerrilla cookie recipe in response to a reader request, brought me to baker Glen Chism, who used to work at the Mifflin Street Co-op. Chism–who has received letters about the cookie from Odell–had a version of the recipe MacDowell gave him. Chism said he sold the cookie for a while, but stopped. He said all of the hoopla and constant critique over how close his cookies came to peoples’ memories of the ’70s version got to be too much. But he was willing to share his recipe with me. Loaded with honey & molasses, wheat germ, nuts, raisins, seeds and a little brewers yeast, this recipe, said Chism, best emulates Odell’s.
More recently, Carl Korz, dining services director for UW’s Wisconsin Union, served up a version of the cookie based on ingredients listed on one of the original cookie packages. That list included soy flour, and semi-raw sugar—two ingredients not found below. I’ve yet to swap in soy flour, or sugar, but that might be worth a try, for those of you who are up for the challenge.
In the meantime, this recipe yields a cookie that guerrilla-cookie lovers say they’re happy with. Use it as a guideline, for your own experiments, but please note: Recipe results will vary depending on which of the “OR” options you choose. Using sorghum instead of molasses makes a sweeter slightly less pliable cookie. The variety of honey you choose changes the flavor. Adding extra flour to make the dough easier to work with yields a cakier/drier cookie. Using vegetable oil instead of melted butter alters the flavor and texture a bit, and using whey protein instead of dry milk will, too. Good luck!
- First 10 Ingredients
- 3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
- 1/2 cup Thompson seedless raisins
- 1/2 cup honey
- 3 Tbsp barley malt syrup
- 3 Tbsp molasses OR sorghum
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil OR melted unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 Tbsp fresh-ground peanut butter
- 1/4 cup unsalted toasted sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 2 large eggs
- Next 7 Ingredients
- 1/3 cup dry milk powder OR whey powder
- 1/3 cup wheat germ
- 2 Tbsp millet seeds
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. brewers yeast
- 1/3 cup, plus up to ½ cup more, whole wheat flour
- Combine first 10 ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse on and off for a minute until you’ve chopped the raisins, nuts, seeds and oatmeal a bit. Whisk the eggs in a bowl and combine with the previous ingredients.
- Mix next seven ingredients; add to the first 10 you just combined with the eggs.
- Stir in whole wheat flour to produce a wettish cookie dough. (You may add more whole wheat flour if the dough is too wet.) Refrigerate the dough for 1 to 2 hours to firm it up well.
- Preheat oven to 375. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop portions of dough a little smaller than a golf ball. Place balls on the parchment lined pan, press each down to flatten it a bit. Bake 17-18 minutes.
- Recipe results will vary depending on which of the “OR” options you choose. Using sorghum instead of molasses makes a sweeter slightly less pliable cookie. The variety of honey you choose changes the flavor. Adding extra flour to make the dough easier to work with yields a cakier/drier cookie. Using vegetable oil instead of melted butter alters the flavor and texture a bit, and using whey protein instead of dry milk will, too. Good luck!