Saturday, August 11, 2012

Grad Student Waybread

In the morning, as they were beginning to pack their slender goods, Elves that could speak their tongue came to them and brought them many gifts of food and clothing for the journey. The food was mostly in the form of very thin cakes, made of meal that was baked a light brown on the outside, and inside was the colour of cream. Gimli took up one of the cakes and looked at it with a doubtful eye.

'Cram,' he said under his breath, as he broke off a crisp corner and nibbled at it. His expression quickly changed, and he ate all the rest of the cake with relish. 

'No more, no more!' cried the Elves laughing. 'You have eaten enough already for a long day's march.' 

'I thought it was only a kind of cram, such as the Dalemen made for journeys into the wild,' said the Dwarf.

'So it is,' they answered, 'But we call it lembas or way bread, and it is more strengthening than any food made by Men, and it is more pleasant than cram, by all accounts.' 

J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

I'm baking today.

Not as in 'It's super hot outside,' although gosh sakes, is it ever. Baking as in 'making cookies.' Now when I say 'making cookies,' you might conjure up images of cute little chocolate chip pastries and a cold glass of milk, possibly with the addition of a frilly apron. The image of frosting may have crossed your mind. In this, you would be sorely mistaken.

These cookies are called Biscuits Voyageurs. This is the most common parlance. I've also heard them referred to by the following names:

Voyageur Monster Cookies
Les Big Bad Biscuits
Concordia Lembas
Canoeing Cookies
Zombie Apocalypse Bars

I will admit that I made the last one up. I was listening to a zombie-related radio play while baking.

I was introduced to these fist-sized blasts of pure energy when I was a camper in Les Voyageurs, a Concordia language program that focuses on and re-creates the life of the French Canadian fur traders that explored and named half of Canada. This program involves a lot, but a LOT, of canoeing. Like fourteen-year-old kids paddling seven hours a day. And it was in such a canoe, on a Minnesota lake, that someone untied a double-bagged collection of biscuits voyageurs. I ate one and paddled for another two hours.

Seriously, you can go forever on these things. Each on contains some or all of the following: raisins, cranberries, oats, granola, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, chocolate chips, flax seeds, sesame seeds, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, eggs, butter, and awesomeness. These are serious belly-fillers, and they'll keep forever. Perfect food to have ready for the zombie outbreak. I stole the recipe this summer (and when I say 'stole,' I mean 'I asked nicely and Laurent printed me out a copy'), and have just completed my first batch. My master plan is to have these ready to go in my freezer, so I can grab one as I run out the door any day this semester. And since I'm planning on holding a full-time job, a part-time job, and a half-time school schedule, fast and balanced energy will be a precious commodity.

I've discovered a few things: first, these cookies are WORK. I decided to make a double batch, and all that dough was heavy, thick, and solid. Mixing in every one of that dozen of mix-ins was an intense upper-body workout. No wonder these cookies are the exclusive domain of les Voyageurs. They're the only ones with the muscles to make them.

Second: yield. The recipe said fifty cookies. Fifty cookies, my foot. Try eighty-five. (Except I ate one. So eighty-four.) My counter is covered in magnificent cookie awesomeness. As soon as they cool, I'm tossing them into freezer bags, and I will be ready for that zombie apocalypse. Or grad school, whichever comes first.

Oh, did I mention that they're delicious? Yummiest zombie apocalypse ever.