holiday cookies, 2015

past holiday cookies:

ginger turmeric sugar cookies | | basic sugar cookies | | cardamom shortbread | | salted, spiced double chocolate cookies | | chocolate chip cookies | | cardamom molasses cookies | | black tea butter cookies

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Christmas is just around the corner, which means cookies galore. I like to do a cookie round-up every December, featuring some new holiday cookie recipes and bringing back some old ones. Perhaps someday I’ll have enough to write a book dedicated to holiday cookies (and by “perhaps,” I mean “certainly.”) It’s the time of year for spicy chocolate, rich ginger and molasses, decorate-able sugar cookies, and exploring all manner of exotic recipes, ancient recipes, and European recipes.

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Last year, I went on a spicy cookie binge, introducing salted and spiced double chocolate cookies and cardamom molasses cookies. Over the past year, though, I’ve been trying my hand at some vegan and gluten-free pastries (vegan banana nut muffins, gluten-free brownies, gluten-free muffins), so our special 2015 guests are of the vegan variety.

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I spent a month trying to come up with a “healthy” vegan cookie, with whole wheat, oatmeal, apples, and more, so that I could have my cake and gain a six-pack, too. I don’t normally diet, and in fact I hate the word, but I’m thinking it’s time to become more aware of my health and what I’m eating (my tummy will go away but chocolate chip cookies are forever.) Long story short, those cookies were disastrous and disgusting, consistently. They were mushy and soggy, even when I dried out the apple bits in the oven before adding them to the batter, and they tasted less than pleasant. My grandiose idea of The Healthy Vegan Apple Oatmeal Cookie would have to say hello to the trashcan for good. I figured I could try scones instead, but I still wanted some cookies for Saint Nick (I am Saint Nick. I wanted the cookies for my own mouth.) The scones will have to wait until 2016 (but expect a load of vegan and GF scone recipes next year.)

A friend of mine suggested that I do peanut butter cookies. They’re essentially only three ingredients: peanut butter, flour, and sugar. However, as I discovered through a lot of trial and error, three ingredients just doesn’t cut it. Adding some oil and liquid helps.

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When thinking of what types of cookies I could make vegan, and what types of cookies I didn’t already have on the blog, the obvious top choice was snickerdoodles, named after me (actually, as you can read in the about me, my parents called me snickerdoodle when I was younger…meaning until last week.)

So here we have it: our 2015 holiday cookies are vegan snickerdoodles and vegan peanut butter!

With the snickerdoodles, I found it’s really important to have a combination of apple sauce, vegetable oil, and maple syrup. No maple syrup and the cookies won’t be very sweet. Too much apple sauce and they taste metallic (apple sauce has ascorbic acid, and the most important ingredient in snickerdoodles is tartaric acid, so in all it’s just too much acid.) The apple sauce helps the texture: it makes the cookies puff up more and end up softer when they cool. Otherwise, you end up with snickerdoodle chips. The maple syrup helps sweeten the cookies and thin out the dough a little bit. If the dough is too dry, the coating doesn’t stick and it’s harder to work with.

vegan snickerdoodles

makes 2 dozen small (2 teaspoons) or 1 dozen medium (4 tsp)

sugar coating

10 g granulated sugar

1/4 tsp cinnamon

dash of salt

cookies

60 g canola oil*

25 g unsweetened apple sauce

60 g maple syrup*

110 g granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

185 g all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cream of tartar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small shallow bowl, or on a plate, mix the coating ingredients. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and cream of tartar.

In a larger mixing bowl, beat the wet ingredients (oil, apple sauce, syrup, sugar, and vanilla), then beat in dry mixture until fully combined. The dough might be dry and crumbly, but it should clump together when you squeeze it.

Form small balls about 2 centimeters across, use a small (2-teaspoon) cookie scoop, or a regular spoon. Lightly press dough spheres into the bowl/plate of cinnamon sugar, to coat one side and form a small disc, then arrange the cookies (sugared side up) on the baking sheet.

Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, until the tops are crispy and crackle-y. Remove, cool, and enjoy.

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I made the peanut butter cookies a few different ways: as simple as possible (no added liquids), with a little bit of added liquid (soy milk), with a ton of apple sauce for volume, and then with a mix of oil and milk. The last way ended up being the best all around: they thinned out and puffed up, retained the peanut butter taste but weren’t too dense, and were easy to work with. Too much soy milk and the flavor gets diluted. Too little and the cookies are dense. I ended up not even needing apple sauce. You’re welcome to add some, but I found it didn’t make a difference, and because I like to simplify my recipes as much as possible, if I don’t need it, I don’t use it. I also took out the vanilla extract because the flavor comes from the peanut butter and the sweetness from the sugars.

I tried these with factory peanut butter (Skippy) and organic (Justin’s), and they turned out the same either way. The non-factory peanut butter is thicker and less sweet, though there’s plenty of oil in it, but the cookies are still amazing. If you think the dough is too thick or dry, mix in some oil or milk.

NOTE: Because these cookies use canola oil as the fat (as opposed to something that would be solid at room temperature, like butter or coconut oil), they won’t melt down or spread at all. The snickerdoodles do spread because of the apple sauce (and perhaps the syrup), but for the peanut butter cookies, you’ll need to flatten them yourself. You can make them really really flat and thin, or a little bit flat like a hockey puck, or you could even just make vegan peanut butter cookie balls. Every option is equally scrumptious.

vegan peanut butter cookies

makes two dozen small (2 tsp, OXO scoop size 60) or one dozen medium (4 tsp/1.5 Tbsp, OXO scoop size 40) cookies

160 g peanut butter

80 g granulated sugar

80 g brown sugar

32 g canola oil

32 g soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)

95 g all-purpose flour

dash of salt

1 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 F/ C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat the wet ingredients (peanut butter, sugars, milk, and oil) and in a separate small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.

Beat ingredients together until the dough is fully mixed.

Using a small ice cream scoop (~2 teaspoons or one spoonful), scoop dough onto the baking sheet and press down with a fork.

Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until the cookies start to darken slightly around the edges. Remove and cool.

Happy holidays, y’all

Nick P.

Categories: alternative diet, cookies, Vegan