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.
Me, Mom, Jessica
Mom, Michael and Anna, Jessica
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 😉
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.
I’m not actually a huge fan of traditional sugar cookies. I find that they have a weird taste to them, like they’re missing something. It’s not just that I make them with margarine instead of butter, either, as I didn’t really like them before I went vegan. I always felt that was a bit of a shame, as I really do like how pretty sugar cookies can be, iced and decorated.
However, these cookies are different, as they contain a magical ingredient: cocoa.
Cocoa makes the cookies dark and chocolate-flavoured, which not only provides a beautiful backdrop for both coloured and crisp white icing, but provides a slightly bitter contrast to the one-note sweetness of royal icing. I got the cookie recipe from Baking a Moment, and veganized it.
First batch on the left, second on the right. Sorry about poor photo quality – I had fried the camera battery on vacation and for the last month only took pictures on my phone.
I’ve included our vegan royal icing recipe here too, as we first started experimenting with vegan royal icing a few years ago at our annual gingerbread house party. I can say that this recipe works well as construction-grade cement, but when thinned out works nicely for piping on and flooding cookies. The consistency of the icing is varied by how much water is added, so start on the lower and and add a few drops at a time to get the texture you’d like. Keep in mind that wetter icing can take longer to dry – my first attempt at flooded icing took several days to not be soft under the top “crust” of the icing.
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
EDIT: I corrected the volume for corn starch. I hope it didn’t cause anyone a headache!!
Makes 3 dozen 2-inch cutouts
- 1/2 cup Earth Balance or other baking margarine
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 tsp psyllium powder – I use an unflavored version of Metamucil powder
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Cream margarine in a a stand mixer, then add canola oil and sugar and stir until combined, but not fluffy (see the original recipe for more details on why – basically so that it doesn’t spread).
- In a cup, gradually add water to psyllium husk, and whisk until it starts to thicken. Add in vanilla and salt.
- Add liquid mixture to margarine mixture, scraping all of the liquid out of the cup.
- Stir on medium speed until combined.
- Add in cornstarch and cocoa and stir a few seconds.
- Add in all the flour and mix until dough is homogeneous.
- Take 1/4 of the dough and place it on a shed of parchment paper. Place another on top, and roll until dough is 1/4-inch thick.
- Remove top sheet of paper, and cut out shapes. Use a paring knife to pick the scraps out from between the cutouts.
- Place paper full of cutouts on a baking sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes, until firm at the edges and soft in the middle.
- Remove cookie sheet from oven, and wait 1 minute before transferring cookies to a wire rack.
- If using the cookie sheet immediately, wave it around the kitchen like a goof for a minute to cool it off.
- The dough scraps can be re-rolled again a few times until it’s all used up.
- Let cookies cool fully (at least an hour) before decorating with icing.
Vegan Royal Icing
An original recipe from Agent Minty
Makes about 1 1/4 cups of royal icing (enough for 3 or 4 dozen cookies)
- 2 1/4 cups icing sugar
- 1/2 tsp Xantham gum (available in gluten-free sections of the grocery store)
- 1 Tbsp corn starch
- 2 1/2 to 3 Tbsp water, divided
- 1/8 tsp vanilla extract (white extract is best but usually found at baking supply stores)
- Whisk together sugar, Xantham gum, and corn starch in a large bowl.
- Start hand mixer or whisk attachment of your stand mixer. I find a hand mixer with the two beaters works better here unless I’m doubling or tripling a batch.
- Slowly add 2 Tbsp of the water, followed by vanilla extract. Continue beating until all of the sugar is mostly mixed in.
- Stop to scrape down sides of bowl, and mix for a few more seconds.
- Assess the consistency of the icing – do you really want it thinner?
- Add more water in small amounts until icing is the consistency you desire.
- Colour if you would like, and immediately cover up any portions you’re not going to use.
- If you don’t have someone to help you fill a piping bag (if you’re going to use one), I’d highly recommend the plastic wrap trick.
Wow, it’s been hot around here. Sleeping with no sheets and wet hair to cool down, going through a litre of water on bike rides, running through the garden hose’s spray like a little kid kind of days.
You know how they say not to grocery shop hungry? Well, you also shouldn’t bike home on a hot day past an Oreo McFlurry billboard. Two days in a row. Or you’ll start getting ideas. This delicious monster came about from my fantasizing while finishing my ride home.
The ice cream base is your classic nostalgia white vanilla cream, but the three cookie types – oreos, peanut butter cookie dough, and spekuloos – balance it nicely and add enough crunch and chew to it. The spekuloos do double duty by also adding a mild bit of nutmeg-ish spice. Spekuloos are a Dutch crunchy store-bought cookie, also called windmill, Lotus, or Biscoff cookies. If you can’t find any, use store-bought gingersnaps. It’s important to use ones that are a bit “greasy”, as a low-fat or digestive cookie would go soggy in the ice cream.
Unlike my previous recipe, this ice cream is not instantaneous – the cooked mixture needs to cool completely before freezing, and then the churned mixture should be frozen for several hours before scooping. However, it scoops beautifully straight out of the freezer, and has a wonderfully soft texture. It’s well worth the wait.
Triple Cookie-Splosion Ice Cream
An original recipe by Agent Minty
Ice cream base:
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup + 1/2 cup almond milk, divided
- 3 Tbsp corn starch
- 3 Tbsp of alcohol (I chose half vodka and half amaretto)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 large spekuloos cookies
- 4 oreo cookies
- 2 Tbsp margarine
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp white sugar
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 Tbsp almond milk
- 2 Tbsp peanut butter
- pinch of salt, two pinches if peanut butter is unsalted.
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 1/2 Tbsp chopped-up chocolate chips
Make ice cream base:
- Whisk together sugar, salt, coconut milk, and 1 1/2 cup almond milk in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Once sugar has dissolved, bring to a medium simmer.
- Meanwhile, whisk together corn starch and 1/4 cup almond milk in a small cup.
- Pour corn starch mixture into simmering base, while whisking continuously.
- Rinse cup with remaining 1/2 cup of almond milk and pour into the base.
- Whisk continuously while bringing back to a simmer.
- Cook while whisking for two more minutes.
- Remove from heat and cool at boom temperature for 15-30 minutes.
- Stir in alcohol and vanilla.
- Transfer to a bowl or similar and cover surface of cream directly with plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate overnight or for at least three hours until completely cold.
- Transfer to your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.
- Chop up cookies into small bite-sized pieces (about 1 cm across) and place in the freezer to chill for a few minutes while preparing other ingredients.
- Cream together all remaining ingredients except flour and chocolate chips. I used a soup spoon in a small bowl.
- Stir in flour and then chocolate chips.
- Form cookie dough into finger-thick logs and place in refrigerator to chill while ice cream is mixing.
- Once ice cream base is frozen, plop approximately 1/5 of it into your storage container, and sprinkle with 1/5 of the chopped cookies. Tear off four or five short pieces of cookie dough and add on top.
- Continue filling container by alternating ice cream and cookies, gently mixing a few times with a butter knife to ensure filling is more randomly distributed here. I found I only used half of the cookie dough, but you may use more based on your preferences.
- Freeze for at least three hours before serving.
As the stores are already littered with Valentine’s Day displays, memories come to mind of my childhood ideas about what “romance” meant. Flowers, dinners in fancy restaurants, and, for some bizarre reason, having a date who would appreciate it when I wore pantyhose (I think I associated it with being grown up). And of course the mysterious lover would be attractive, sweet, think I was funny.
I did and up marrying someone I love, who is sweet, beautiful, and has a sense of humour. Sure, flowers and fancy dinners happen sometimes, but the love and romance stems from more than that. Coming home during a stressful week and her playing an album on the stereo that I told her I’ve been thinking of for a while. Picking up her favourite candy when I’m out running errands. Taking the time to learn about and become interested in each others’ hobbies. After nearly a decade, love still isn’t boring. Making cookies for each other helps, too.
These cookies could be described as a cross between chocolate shortbread and a trail mix cookie, with lots of chocolate flavour. Share them with whomever you love.
Double-Chocolate Dream Date Cookies – An original recipe by Agent Minty
- 2/3 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup white flour
- 2 Tbsp finely grated coconut
- 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup soft margarine
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp white sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp egg replacer + 2.5 Tbsp water, mixed well
- 1/2 cup chopped dates (cheap ones are fine)
- 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Process rolled oats in a blender or food processor until they are a coarse, uniform flour (think bran flake size).
- Combine oat flour in a bowl with salt, flour, coconut, cocoa, and baking powder.
- Cream together margarine, brown sugar, and white sugar.
- Add in vanilla and “egg” and beat until fluffy.
- Mix in dry ingredients.
- Stir in chopped dates and chocolate chips.
- Drop in 2-Tbsp piles on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
- Bake for 12 minutes in the middle of the oven, rotating sheets halfway through.
- For best texture, cool completely before eating.
I announce that I’m back to blogging, and then what happens?
I have a string of kitchen failures: VegNews’ vegan eclairs, after two tries, still end up mediocre; tortillas that stick and burn to the pan; mock chicken noodle soup that looks unmentionably unappetizing (but tasty).
I catch a raging cold/pinkeye from my wife and am out of commission for nearly two weeks.
But I’m mostly on the mend, and nothing makes me feel better than making something in the kitchen. As it is a long weekend, I have lots of time to play. I don’t feel like inventing something new, so I’m just sharing some old favourites. Today I made cookies invented by my wife with our nephew a while back. We had little of any particular baking ingredient left, so they combined them all to make something delicious. We actually refer to these as “_____’s cookies”, but since this nephew is now a pre-teen who spends way too much time online, we’ll keep him anonymous. Anyway, these are great with a mug of tea on an autumn afternoon, or shared with young chocolate-loving relatives.
Makes 2 dozen cookies.
If using powdered egg replacer, take the time to really beat the mixture until frothy.
If you prefer thin, chewy cookies, use the higher amount of margarine, if you prefer softer, puffy cookies, use the lower amount.
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup vegan margarine or butter
- 1/2 cup firmly backed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 “egg”
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup +2 Tbsp flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- pinch salt
- 1 tsp grates nutmeg
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup blanched, salted peanuts
- 1/3 cup whole almonds
- 2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter
- about 1/4 cup dark chocolate melting wafers
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Cream together butter and both sugars.
- Whisk egg well and add to butter mixture, along with vanilla. Mix well.
- Add in flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Mix well.
- Stir in chocolate chips, peanuts, and almonds.
- Drop in 2-inch mounds on a greased cookie sheet. Press a melting wafer into the centre of each cookie.
- Bake for 14 minutes, rotating cookie sheets halfway through.
- Allow cookies to firm up for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.