Ben Hertel shares a cookie recipe on stage daily during the holiday season with audience members in Chicago.

Hertel portrays character Hugo in "The Nutcracker," presented by The House Theatre. The show is a non-dance version of the classic story and continues through Dec. 30 at The Chopin Theatre in Chicago. FYI:

The actor said the section of the play where he shares Martha's Famous Sugar Plum Cookies involves more than just reciting the recipe. "It's a whole story and number," he said about the cookie focus.

Many of the characters, he said, try "to help (character) Clara make the cookies."

"The actual recipe is in the play program," he explained.

Hertel said, though he's never made this particular cookie recipe, he's interested in baking. At some point, he will make a batch of the cookies.

The actor said another one of his favorite treats to create is a No-Bake Cookie that is a family favorite. "It's made with peanut butter and oats and you just mix everything and drop it on wax paper," he said.

Hertel said he enjoys making treats for others. "I like the idea of making something for someone else. It's a nice gesture," he said.

Hertel, who hails from Holland, Michigan, has performed in various productions at The House Theatre as well as at other Chicagoland venues.

The actor said he wouldn't consider himself a huge "foodie," but he does look for certain foods and settings when he goes out to eat.

"I look for restaurants dedicated to really good authentic food," Hertel said. "I look for the hole in the wall with authentic cuisine."

It's important for Hertel to share meals with others. "Food can be a very important element of community and family," he said.

The following is a recipe for the cookie which stars in "The Nutcracker."

Martha's Famous Sugar Plum Cookies

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

A pinch salt

3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chopped dried plums

DIRECTIONS: Whisk together sugar and liquids. Stir in flour, salt, spices and leavening. Fold in oats, nuts and fruit. Roll the dough into balls and bake for 11 minutes. Allow to rest a minute before gently moving to a rack to cool.


Features reporter

Eloise writes about food and entertainment for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight children in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.