It’s November 26, a full 29 days before Christmas. Yet decorations have been up in stores for weeks, there has been a radio station playing Christmas music since the 15th, and some of my neighbours already have their lights up and turned on! Things usually start “too early” for most people, me being one of those people who likes to save Christmas stuff for December, please.
That said, I took a departure from reality and had a wonderful girls’ weekend at Jasper Park Lodge three weeks ago. My mom took my sister and I to their Christmas in November event. We spent four days sampling holiday drinks, learning festive recipes, making some crafts, and having a good time with the rest of the attendees. My mom and sister are big fans of Anna Olson, host of Sugar, cookbook writer, and all-around nice person. We enjoyed the presentation she gave with her husband Michael, although the recipes provided more inspiration than temptation – food from all the presenters was definitely not vegan-friendly, but I left with lots of ideas.
This is the first recipe from that event that I have veganized so far: Anna Olson’s Empire cookies. They’re based on a basic sablé shortbread recipe, which is crumbly when you bite into them but not as fragile as some North American shortbreads. She used a cooked egg yolk in the dough, to enrich it without adding moisture. Instead, I removed the skins from a few canned chickpeas and mashed them very finely. Works perfectly!
Now, to the cookies themselves. I shared them first as they are a really great recipe to put out when you have holiday visitors. They’re pretty, and look like they took a lot of effort, but are actually easier to make attractive than something like a traditional cut and iced sugar cookie. I chose red strawberry jam and green candied cherries to make them look festive. They’re delicious to have with a mug of tea, or to wrap up and give as gifts to your neighbours. You know, the ones with the Christmas lights up already 😉
Veganized from Anna Olson
Makes 2 dozen sandwich cookies
- 14 canned chickpeas (11 grams/1 heaping Tbsp)
- 1/2 tsp psyllium husk powder
- 5 tsp water
- 1/2 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp Earth Balance or other baking margarine
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp icing sugar
- 1 3/4 cups pastry flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- approximately 1/3 cup thick jam (cheap is good here-it won’t make things soggy)
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 1-2 tbsp water
- 1//4 tsp almond extract
- 8-12 candied/glacé cherries, cut into halves or smaller
- Pinch skin off chickpeas and discard. Mash very thoroughly on a plate with a fork until completely smooth.
- Combine psyllium husk powder with water and stir well. Add in olive oil, vanilla, and mashed chickpeas. Set aside.
- Cream margarine with icing sugar until smooth.
- Add “egg” mixture to the mixing bowl and stir until completely mixed in.
- Whisk or sift flour and salt together and add to mixer, and stir until well combined.
- Transfer dough to plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours.
- Preheat oven to 325F.
- Roll out dough to approximately 1/4-inch thick, and cut out 2-inch circles. Transfer to parchment-lined cookie sheets.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool cookies directly on cookie sheets for at least one hour.
- Spread 1-2 tsp of jam on the bottom of half of the cookies, and top each with another cookie to make a sandwich.
- Stir together icing sugar, almond extract, and 1 Tbsp of water, adding a few drops more of water at a time until the glaze is smooth and slightly runny (think very runny pancake batter).
- Spread glaze on top of each cookie and top with a piece of cherry.
- Allow to dry for several hours before storing in a sealed container. Assembled cookies keep for about three days at room temperature.