Food & Recipes

This Twist on a Classic Cookie Recipe Might Be Your New Favorite Holiday Treat

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What’s your favorite holiday cookie? While you may be partial to gingerbread or frosted sugar cookies, I’ve always been a fan of classic peanut butter blossoms. Nothing beats the blend of peanut butter and chocolate — and squishing those Hershey kisses into the warm cookies is so satisfying! If you’re looking for a healthier twist, however, we’ve got the perfect recipe: Manuka honey blossoms.  

According to Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, best-selling author and recipe creator, these cookies are the best of both worlds – healthy and delicious. To reduce the amount of trans fat and cholesterol and increase fiber, she uses non-dairy ingredients and wheat flour, making these cookies vegan-friendly and dairy-free. “I love this recipe because it has all the tastes and feels of the original holiday cookie,” she says. “It’s just much better for you.”  

Frances Largeman-Roth

The Health Benefits of Using Manuka Honey in Baking 

“I adore manuka honey, and my favorite brand is Comvita, from New Zealand,” says Largeman-Roth. “Manuka is a special ingredient because it provides antibiotic benefits and brings a depth of flavor to recipes. I’m always amazed by how just a little manuka bumps up the flavor of anything I add it to. And a spoonful is always nice in a cup of tea.”  

Frances uses Comvita’s UMF 5+ Manuka Honey (buy from Comvita, $23.99) in her cookies for its silky-smooth texture. As noted by the company, “UMF 5+” indicates that the honey is certified by the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) Honey Association, proving that the honey comes only from manuka flowers in New Zealand.  

Wondering about the health benefits? A study published in AIMS Microbiology in 2018 found that certified manuka honey has medicinal properties and is highly effective at fighting a wide range of pathogens (bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that cause disease). What better time of year to give your immunity a boost?  

Testing Frances’ Recipe for Manuka Honey Blossoms 

When I saw how Frances’ manuka honey blossoms turned out, I knew I had to give them a try. Her original recipe calls for: 

  • 1 stick plant butter, softened 
  • 1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter 
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons Comvita Manuka Honey 
  • egg replacer equivalent of 1 egg, such as Bob’s Red Mill (Buy from Amazon, $4.39
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 1/2 cup sugar, for rolling 
  • 15 kisses or large vegan chocolate chips 

Here are her instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  1. Using an electric hand mixer, cream the butter in a medium bowl. Add in the peanut butter, brown sugar, manuka honey, egg replacer, and vanilla extract, using the mixer.  
  1. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine.  
  1. Gather the dough, form it onto a ball, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes, until firm enough to roll into balls. 
  1. Place the 1/2 cup of sugar into a small bowl. Use a small ice cream scoop to scoop about 1 tablespoon of the dough. Form each scoop into a ball and roll in the sugar. Place on a Silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet. 
  1. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes, until cracked on top. Remove from oven and press kisses or chips into the middle of the cookie.  

As an amateur baker, I was pleased to see how simple the recipe was. However, I didn’t have many of the ingredients that it calls for, so it became substitution city! Figuring that traditional dairy ingredients would work just as well, I used real butter and egg. I also used chunky peanut butter because it was all I had, and Comvita’s UMF 10+ Manuka Honey (buy from Comvita, $34.99) instead of the UMF 5+.  

I mixed everything in a stand mixer, which made things easy. The manuka honey and peanut butter combined to make the kitchen incredibly fragrant. (And the UMF 10+ was just as smooth, and worked well in the recipe.) By the time I pulled the cookies out of the oven, family members were popping in and out of the kitchen asking when they could try one.  

As I didn’t have Hershey kisses, I improvised yet again with a few chunks of a Ghirardelli chocolate bar. My cookies may not have looked as aesthetically pleasing as Largeman-Roth’s, but they were soft and delicious. 

My favorite part about this recipe was its simplicity. If I made it again, I would plan on using smooth peanut butter to create a more cohesive dough. I would probably stick to traditional dairy ingredients, however, because I don’t mind splurging on a cookie. Still, it’s wonderful to know that I have options if a guest comes over who prefers a healthier, dairy-free dessert. I’m so happy to have a new holiday treat in my cookbook!  

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