BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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The Ultimate Ice-Breaker

You may not yet find the VegNews July/August 2012 issue on newsstands or in your mailbox, but because advance issues are now available online, I see that as free rein to start talking about it. Honestly, I can’t help myself- The summer edition is always a joy to work on, now that fresh fruits and vegetables are flooding back into stores, and every recipe sounds equally compelling. Best of all, it means I can bust out the frozen and chilled treats like there’s no tomorrow, better suited to tempering the summer sun than any blast of artificial air conditioning. Returning triumphantly with my thrice annual column, this sweet idea is one grand finale that will beat the pants off of picnic fruit salads and watery popsicles.

Key Lime Icebox Cake, complete with dozens of crunchy macadamia-flecked cookies and a tropical coconut and citrus creme. A single towering cake feeds a crowd with ease, and is best after sitting in the chill chest for at least a day, so advance prep makes it an ideal party guest. It’s the dessert that friends and family will be talking about long after the crowds go home and the summer sun goes back into hibernation. Yes, it’s that good.

It shouldn’t be long now before the issue officially lands, so you may as well start clearing space for this cake in your fridge right now!


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A Recipe is a Terrible Thing to Waste

New cookbooks are born every day and the internet is flooded in a sea of recipes, free and for profit, good and bad, garnering raves and rants alike. Still, it seems that the hunger for more can never be satisfied, and the quest to continue creating is never ending. For as many recipes as I make, some get lost in the shuffle, or forgotten in the archives like that lone jar of mustard pushed to the back of the fridge. Luckily, in this case at least, these things don’t go bad. No matter when they’re rediscovered, they taste as fresh as the day they were made. When it comes time to clean out the shelves, or the digital file cabinet, there can be all sort of delightful surprises.

However, I might argue that these dead-easy cookie bars are better than finding a half-used jar of old mustard. Both creamy and crunchy, sweet and salty, and chocolatey all over, the combination of these few ingredients tastes something like a cross between peanut butter cups and party mix. Invented on one cold day in the college dorms when few ingredients could be scrounged up, these humble pantry staples were all I had to work with, but did they ever exceed expectations. Sliced into generous chunks and left on the kitchen table to share, not a crumb remained by nightfall. I like to think that these crowd-pleasing treats won me a couple more friends that day.

Rediscovered and revamped to better suit my current baking style, this seemed like the perfect time to bring these sweet squares back to life and into the public eye. What might have spurred on their overdue reveal? Why, the Earth Balance Spring to Life Contest! Made with their creamy peanut butter, I can’t imagine a more rich, nutty topping to crown these jewels. Though the competition is already underway, the entry period for desserts will be opening on Monday, April 30th, and now I’m ready to join the fray with this stunningly simple recipe. Bake up a storm this weekend and join me- Of course I’d love to win, but moreover, I want new winning recipes to add to my collection!

Peanut Butter Fudge Pretzel Bars

Pretzel Crust:

3/4 Cup White Whole Wheat or All Purpose Flour
3/4 Cup Coarsely Ground Pretzels
1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/2 Cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread
2 – 4 Tablespoons Water

Peanut Butter Fudge Topping:

12 Ounces (2 Cups) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips or Chunks
1/4 Cup Light Agave Nectar
1 Cup Earth Balance Creamy Peanut Butter
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Roughly Crushed Pretzel Twists

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 8 x 8 inch square baking pan.

Mix together the flour, ground pretzels, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Using a pastry cutter or a fork, cut in the margarine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle in the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the crumbs come together into a cohesive dough. Transfer to your prepared pan, and press the dough firmly and evenly into the bottom. Bake for 20 – 24 minutes until golden brown all over. Allow to cool for at least ten minutes before proceeding.

Place the chocolate pieces and agave in a microwave-safe container. Heat on full power for one minute. Stir vigorously, and add the peanut butter. Heat once more for about 30 seconds and stir again thoroughly, until completely smooth. If the chocolate hasn’t all melted yet, continue heating in 30-second increments on half power until the mixture is perfectly smooth. Mix in the vanilla, and quickly pour over the cooled crust. Sprinkle the crushed pretzels evenly over the top, and be generous! It may seem like a lot, but you want to almost completely cover the fudge layer. Use the palms of your hands to gently press the pieces in so that they adhere.

Refrigerate for about 1 hour, until firm. Slice into bars or squares, and let come back up to room temperature before serving. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature, in one layer. Though the fudge is firm enough, stacking squares is a bad idea because they’re likely to smear and become extremely messy.

Makes 12 – 16 Bar Cookies

Printable Recipe


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In [Lemon] Mint Condition

Years ago, back when a trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house really was a trek through the woods, and quite a few miles, I would spend the long car ride anticipating all of the goodies to come. Nothing less than the perfect grandparents, they kept their home stocked with the foods that my young, underdeveloped palate adored, and often was denied in most circumstances. It was as if they went grocery shopping with just us kids in mind. Cabinets stacked high with dried pasta, we could have chosen a new shape each visit and still have never run out of new whimsical noodles to try. Candy dishes decorated every spare flat surface, and I recall on more than one occasion slipping away to “play piano” in order to get dibs on the mint chocolates stashed on the glossy wooden lid.

Best of all, though, was the spare fridge in the basement. That’s where the real treasure was hidden: the cookies.

Perhaps they had a penchant for buying in bulk, but it seemed as though there were never fewer than a half-dozen open packages to pick at. Eaten right away, with the refrigerator’s cool breath still clinging to them, chilling each morsel to the core, it was a unique experience that made even mundane, store-bought baked goods seem somehow special. My absolute favorites were the big, crisp cookies covered in so much powdered sugar that you couldn’t help but spray some of the white sweetness all over your clothes, and the surrounding furniture, as you ate. I never learned the name of those cookies and haven’t seen the exact ones since, but they sound a whole lot like the discontinued lemon coolers, a classic Girl Scouts offering.

With the annual Girl Scouts’ harassment in full-swing, these sweets immediately came to mind, and I couldn’t resist a little trip down memory lane. A bit more grown up than those original cookies, my version adds a bright splash of peppermint to the party, replicating that cooling sensation I enjoyed so much. For the full experience, you’ve simply got to store them in the fridge… Although considering how easy they are to eat, I can’t promise that will allow them to last any longer!

Lemon-Mint Cooler Cookies

1/2 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
Zest of 1 Lemon
2 – 4 Drops Peppermint Oil, or 1/4 – 1/2 Teaspoons Peppermint Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla

1/2 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, thoroughly cream together the margarine and granulated sugar using the paddle attachment. Pause periodically to scrape down the side of the bowl as necessary. Once the mixture is homogeneous and fluffy, add in the lemon zest, peppermint, and salt, and mix to combine. Introduce the flour and baking soda next, starting the mixer on a slow speed until the flour is mostly incorporated, to prevent the dry goods from flying out and re-decorating the kitchen. Finally, add the lemon juice and vanilla. It may seem as though the mixture is too dry to come together, but be patient and keep mixing; it will eventually form cohesive dough. Resist the urge to add more liquid!

Scoop out walnut-sized balls and roll them between your palms to achieve smooth spheres. Place them at least 1-inch apart on your prepared baking sheets, and flatten them out slightly. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, or until the bottom edges just begin to brown. Carefully pull the cookie-topped silpats or baking sheets off of the hot sheet pans, and let rest for 5 minutes before tossing them in the confectioner’s sugar. Let cool completely before enjoying. Better yet, store them in the fridge for an even more cooling treat!

Makes 2 Dozen Cookies

Printable Recipe


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Winter Wonders

First impressions are of critical importance, or so it’s said when it comes to business and relationships. Subconsciously, we tend to place great significance on the beginnings of new experiences, taking every noteworthy detail as a sign. That’s why I knew that our trip to Germany, however brief, would be a good one even before we had exited the plane.

Gawking out the window as the ground grew rapidly closer, rushing upwards to meet the extended and waiting landing gear, I marveled at just how close the wilderness lay to the man-made monstrosity of the airport. Only a fence separated the two, the distance spanning less than a few steps otherwise. Thick layers of evergreen trees obscured much of the landscape beyond the tarmac, but there, right at the miniscule clearing between greenery and barbed wire fence, was the sight of something incredible. A family of deer and fawns, with one single white deer in the center of the pack.

I would have done a double take if we hadn’t hit the ground with a jolt that very second, rushing past the group at warp speed. I had heard of white squirrels, rare as they are, but never white deer. For such a common creature, this one looked incredibly majestic; magical, even. That was the convincing factor that a vacation was the right choice, that I was in the right place. Only more wonders could await. Serendipitously stumbling upon dainty little fawn cookie cutters at one of the Christmas markets that same day, I took that as my second sign. These cookies were meant to be.

And honestly, it just wouldn’t be the holidays without gingerbread! This particular formula is one that I’ve been making for years, a tried-and-true recipe that I originally made with gingerbread houses in mind. Thus, it makes for ultra-snappy, crisp, and sturdy cookies that retain their shape when baked, travel well, and make a solid foundation for edible buildings. A delicate and fragile shape like the fawns are impossible with almost any sort of standard dough, but this simple method hasn’t failed me yet. As an added bonus, there’s not even any chilling time to take into account. Though I wouldn’t recommend getting started on your holiday baking quite so late in the game, this does provide an excellent last-minute option.

Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies

Chai Gingerbread Cookies:

3 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Cardamom
1 Teaspoons Ground Allspice
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
Pinch Ground Black Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Molasses
1 Tablespoon Plain Non-Dairy Milk

Blondie Gingerbread Cookies:

3 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 1/2 – 3 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Allspice
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
Pinch Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Light Corn Syrup*
1 Tablespoon Plain Non-Dairy Milk

Royal Icing:

2 Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Light Agave Nectar or Light Corn Syrup*
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla (or Peppermint, or Almond, or Lemon…) Extract
Water, as Needed and Used Sparingly

*Be sure to hunt down corn syrup that has no high-fructose corn syrup added. You can substitute light agave if you’d prefer, but the dough will brown more as a result.

Preheat your oven to 300.

The procedure is the same for either flavor of cookie, and if you want to make both, simply repeat the steps for the separate doughs. In either a large metal bowl or a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt. While you can certainly bring this dough together by hand, it will require some vigorous stirring, so I would advice bringing out the heavy artillery if you have it!

Meanwhile, combine the margarine, sugar, and molasses or corn syrup in a small saucepan and heat gently. Cook the mixture and stir gently, just until the margarine has melted and the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour the hot liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients, immediately followed by the non-dairy milk, and mix well. It will be very thick and somewhat difficult to mix, but give it all you’ve got and don’t waste time- It will become harder as it cools.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface, press it into a ball, and roll it out to about an 1/8th of an inch in thickness. Cut it into your desired shapes with cookie cutters and transfer the cookies over to a silpat. Bake until the edges of your cookies are just barely browned; 13-20 minutes, depending on the size of your shapes. Let the cookies sit for a minute on the baking sheet before moving them over to a wire rack to cool.

For the royal icing, simply combine the confectioner’s sugar, cornstarch, agave, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add in water, one teaspoon at a time, stirring thoroughly after each addition, until it reaches a pipe-able consistency. Be sure to take this process slowly, as just one drop too much liquid can make the icing runny. Allow a full 24 hours for the icing to completely harden.

Yield varies based on the cookie cutter

Printable Recipe


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Sweet Souvenirs

Most people seek out symbolic or iconic knickknacks to commemorate their travels, but as one might expect, I’m not like most people. Rather, I go out in search of memorable edibles. A trip to the farmer’s market just a few blocks down the street, glowing from a bright but brittle winter sunlight, still has a shocking array of exotic, ripe, gorgeous produce, the likes of which can’t even be found in mainstream markets at home. For the first time in my life, I understood the hype around persimmons, which I wouldn’t have even bothered with if not for the generous samples offered by smiling vendors. Clearly, they know what the good stuff is, so you should take and eat whatever odd fruit they hand you.

Blisteringly hot chestnuts, cracked open with thinly gloved hands in nighttime Christmas markets are likewise an uncommonly good treat. Standing around with locals drinking gluhwein and laughing freely, tossing shells into the combination trashcans/tables, you can’t help but feel a bit of holiday cheer. Even that misshapen glass, filled with mint tea that’s approximately half sugar by weight, provides comfort when said gloves prove too thin to lock out the sub-freezing temperatures. Add in some willing and patient cohorts for company, and those will forever be some of my favorite moments in Germany.

That’s not to say that all of my souvenirs are of the intangible sort. Far from it- This compulsive impulse-shopper was in vegan heaven upon visiting the nearby bio (organic) market, immaculate but well-stocked with exotic natural treats. A poorly packed jar of shiitake streich just barely missed the plane, sadly being tossed after discovery, but less liquid goods like two carefully covered packs of stroopwafles made it through. A treat first introduced to me in the Netherlands over a year ago, it’s not a native German delicacy, but they have a damn good selection of accidentally vegan options. Packages that reassure “ohne milch” and “ohne ei” (without milk, without eggs) are a good place to start, but also be on the lookout for “honig” (honey) which is a common flavoring.

Still, questionably smuggled, accidentally vegan snack packs of 6 wafels only last so long around me, and I didn’t wait long before scheming up how to fill the void when all that remains are those empty wrappers.

Made on a pizzelle maker, the biggest road block in this recipe is simply acquiring the proper equipment. After that, the cookie batter is just a pour-and-stir affair, ready to turn into crisp wafels with just a minute or two on the hot iron. The very same recipe could just as easily be used to make ice cream cones, too; immediately roll up the hot but still pliable wafers around a cone-shaped form, and let cool to a firm, crunchy consistency.

It’s all about the stroop, or syrup, for the finished cookie sandwich, though. A chewy, sticky filling of buttery caramel is what glues the whole treat together, and makes it so utterly irresistible. Once cool, it will set up into a soft but still malleable texture, creating an addictive contrast between easily shattering cookie exterior and toothsome, sweet interior. One bite, and you’ll understand why it’s worthwhile to smuggle them across borders should you ever come across those illustrious vegan versions.



Stroopwafels

Wafer Cookies:

2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Tablespoon Whole Flax Seeds, Ground
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
Pinch Ground Cinnamon
6 Tablespoons Margarine, Melted
2/3 Cup Water
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Caramel Stroop:

3/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
3 Tablespoons Golden Syrup or Maple Syrup
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

Begin heating you your pizzelle maker first, because the batter comes together very fast. Set out a wire rack to accommodate the finished wafers while you’re at it.

Sift together the flour, sugar, ground flax, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl, whisking lightly to combine. Mix the margarine, water, and vanilla briefly in a second container before pouring into the dry ingredients. Stir just enough to bring the batter together without any lumps.

Very lightly grease each side of the pizzelle iron. I like to use a small cookie scoop to ensure even sizes of all of my wafer cookies, but you can also just measure out about 2 – 3 teaspoons of batter per wafel. Try placing it slightly off-center on the iron, just above the middle, because the action of smushing the top iron down tends to spread it outwards. After securing the lid (usually there’s a latch, which I recommend employing for the thinnest, most even wafers) bake for about 30 – 60 seconds, until golden brown. Quickly pry the cookies loose with a thin metal spatula and transfer to your wire rack. Though floppy at first, they will continue to crisp up as they cool. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Once you have all of the cookies ready and waiting, you can move on to the filling. In a saucepan, stir together and boil the brown sugar, margarine, syrup, and cinnamon, until them mixture reaches the soft ball stage (234-240 degrees.) Immediately remove from the heat and waste no time in filling your wafers.

To assemble, spread 1 – 2 teaspoons of the warm caramel syrup over one of the crisp wafer cookies, and top with a second. Be somewhat sparing, as a little bit covers much more than you’d expect, and it tends to squish out the sides if you over-fill. Let cool completely before enjoying.

Makes Approximately 20 – 24 Wafers; 10 – 12 Finished Stroopwafels

Printable Recipe


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A Cookie in Every Oven

If ever there was an ideal time to bake cookies, it would be now. At this very moment, cookie swaps are happening across the nation, and gifts of cookie platters and cookie baskets are being piled high. Rainbows of doughs are rolling out on kitchen counters, a world of flavored batters are being dropped onto baking sheets, and scores of every shape a cookie cutter can create are cooling on wire racks. Just imagine what it would look like if we could take a peek at the combined efforts of all those holiday bakers, hard at work. The scent of sugar rising into the brisk air and cookbook pages encrusted in flour, it just wouldn’t be Chanukah or Christmas without a full menu of cookies planned for hungry friends and family to devour.

As much as I may crave the classics, the desire to create something new and exciting always take the reins when assembling ingredients, and no two cookie trays ever end up alike. Simple, straight-forward bakery-style chocolate chip cookies are easily my most requested variety, a rare recipe that I do actually follow without variation… Most of the time.

Using the holidays as my license to experiment, I wanted to give the basic idea a bit of a savory, salty twist, to balance out the sweeter items sure to follow. An unexpected hint of herbaceous rosemary adds an unexpected but entirely welcome change of pace, further enhanced by the natural nuttiness of crunchy toasted pecans. Inspired by the addictive party snack of spiced rosemary nuts, I couldn’t help but keep the theme going and tossing in a generous dose of spice here as well. Lending a bright kick just as the taste of chocolate and pecans begin to fade, it’s the element that makes you go back for just one more bite, trying to pinpoint what that enchanting flavor was.

It’s certainly not your grandma’s or your mom’s chocolate chip cookie, but that’s probably a good thing, too. With so many options already available around this time of year, why not take the opportunity to try something a bit different?

Spiced Rosemary Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine, Melted
1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
3/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 Tablespoon Fresh Rosemary (or 1 Teaspoon Dried), Finely Chopped or Ground
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup Toasted and Chopped Pecans
1/2 Cup (3 Ounces) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips or Chunks

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, blend together the melted margarine, both sugars, maple syrup, and vanilla until smooth and fully combined.

Sift the flour into a separate bowl, and add in all of the spices, rosemary, baking soda, and salt. Lightly toss both the pecan pieces and chocolate chips in, to coat with the flour.

Add the dry goods into the stand mixer in two additions, being careful not to overwork the dough but mix it just enough to bring everything together, without any pockets of flour lurking at the bottom. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl between additions so that everything gets incorporated.

Scoop out dough with a medium-sized cookie scoop, or two large spoons in about 3 – 4 tablespoon portions. Give the cookies plenty of space on your prepared baking sheets, leaving at least and inch between blobs. I usually bake only 9 per sheet, to ensure that none of them spread and collide. Flatten the raw cookie dough out lightly with the palm of your hand, so that they’re nice and round, and about 1/2 inch in thickness.

Bake for 12 – 16 minutes, watching closely to make sure that they are just barely golden brown around the edges when you pull the from the oven. They should still look fairly under-baked in the center, to ensure a soft and chewy texture.

Let cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, and then move them off to a wire rack. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to a week, if they last that long.

Makes 12 – 18 Large Cookies

Printable Recipe


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Dreaming of a Sweet Christmas

No amount of planning ever seems to leave me properly prepared for the holidays, despite mustering all the enthusiasm possible and diligently keeping an eye on the calendar. Days mysteriously grow shorter, schedules fuller, and to further complicate matters, those originally simple plans of mine curiously evolve to become more and more complicated. Getting a head start usually means laying out a detailed list of presents to make, recipes to try, and fun activities to participate in… Which is lost or completely disregarded by the time December actually rolls around. After spending one too many of the last mailing days before Christmas stuck in line at the post office, fighting off the other hordes of procrastinators frantic to make the final cut off, it became clear that my approach wasn’t working.

This year, the plan is to plan less. Stick to simple but nice holiday cards, rather than elaborate gifts with complicated shipping requirements and deadlines. Make whatever recipes strike my fancy, whenever that might happen. Enjoy the holidays whenever they allow, without forcing artificial merriment at every turn. “Low-key” is the mantra of the season- No pressure, no anxiety, no self-flagellation when things don’t work out perfectly. Sounds like a much more enjoyable way to pass the next few weeks, don’t you think?

And just like that, I find myself almost on top of the key points that constantly evaded my grasp the previous year. Greeting cards are done and printing, and the first set of festive sweets has already sprung forth from the oven, seemingly without effort. It may be a push to fit that pending manuscript into the festivities, but at least it doesn’t seem like such a great burden to squeeze into the jam-packed holiday game plan.

It needn’t be a grand holiday, or one to remember above others, even. It just needs to be less than torturous, and adding in a bit of sweetness and good company would be a nice touch, too.

Pistachio Praline Linzer Cookies

Pistachio Praline Paste:

1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/4 Cup Water
2 Cups Shelled, Skinned and Toasted Pistachios
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Allow the sugar to cook until it caramelizes to a deep amber color; about 10 – 15 minutes. Quickly add in the pistachios, stir to coat with the hot sugar, and immediately transfer everything out to a silpat or piece of parchment paper. Let cool completely before breaking it into chunks, and tossing the pieces into your food processor, along with the salt and oil. Pulse to break down the brittle to a coarse consistency, and then let the motor run until very smooth. It may take as long as 10 minutes, so be patient. Let cool before using, or store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Linzer Cookies:

1 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Almond Meal
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
Zest of 1 Orange
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/3 Cup Plain Vegan Greek-Style “Yogurt” or “Sour Cream”
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line three baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper. Set aside.

Cream together the margarine and both sugars until homogeneous and fluffy pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour, almond meal, baking powder, salt, zest, and ginger, starting the mixer slowly to prevent the dry goods from flying out. Mix briefly before introducing the “yogurt” and vanilla as well. Mix just until a cohesive, smooth dough is formed, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Press the dough into an even round and roll it out to 1/8th of an inch in thickness.

Use a 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter to cut out the shapes. Cut out the centers of half of the rounds with a smaller shape of your choice. Transfer the cookies to your prepared sheets, and chill them for 15 minutes before moving them right into the oven. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until just barely golden around the edges. Let cool.

Assemble the linzer cookies by spreading 1 teaspoon of the praline paste on a whole cookie, and topping it with a cut-out cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies, and enjoy.

Makes 52 – 60 Cookies; 26 – 30 Sandwiches

Printable Recipe

Bonus! For a gift that keeps on giving, nothing beats a delicious, tried-and-true recipe from a friend. To share this recipe with someone you love, snatch up the free printable recipe card below. Just set your printer to “scale to fit” your paper, trim the excess as needed, fold down the center, and doodle something on the cover, or paste a photo if you prefer.


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To Post or Not to Post?

Perfection is an unrealistic goal, and yet so many blogs attempt to achieve just that. Guilty of that precise crime, it’s difficult to decide what should make the cut when it comes time to make the next post. Should an unreliable recipe go live, potentially frustrating curious readers? Never; that would be an unpardonable offense. But what about the blurry line separating good from great? Should a nice recipe be dumped just because it isn’t quite “perfect”?

Life is quite messy itself, so it only seems fitting to allow a few messier creations in as well. Take for example, cookies that baked up like a dream, with a fantastic chewy texture and sophisticated bitter cocoa flavor, sandwiched together with blueberry creme acting as the luminous violet glue. Summery yet not incapable of bridging the seasonal gap, crowd-pleasing, and an all around delight. The problem? They suffer a bit from ugly duckling syndrome.

You see, it’s mostly the filling that I take issue with. It looks grainy, even curdled in photos, despite tasting silky-smooth on the tongue. Should such a blemish be allowed to go live, presented as the desired outcome? Does one small imperfection ruin a whole recipe? At the end of the day, would you blog about it?

I think my response goes without saying.

Black and Blueberry Sandwich Cookies

Black Cocoa Cookies:

10 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
2 Tablespoon Flax Seeds, Ground
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Black Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
2 Tablespoons Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Blueberry Creme Filling:

4 Ounces Vegan White Chocolate Chips
3/4 Cup Blueberries, Fresh or Frozen and Thawed
1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1/2 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer or food processor, cream together the margarine and sugar thoroughly, until homogeneous and fluffy. Add the ground flax seeds, flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and mix until mostly incorporated. The dough will be too dry to fully come together, so add in the “milk” and vanilla, and mix once more to combine and create a smooth, cohesive batter.

Scoop out 3 tablespoons or so of dough per cookie, and flatten them just slightly on the baking sheet. Be sure to space them 1 1/2 – 2 inches apart, because they really spread as they bake; arrange no more than 9 cookies per sheet.

Bake for 10 – 13 minutes, until the edges are set and the cookies look barely puffy in the middle. Remove from the oven and let cool on the sheets for 10 more minutes before sliding the silpat or sheet of parchment onto a cooler surface. Allow them to fully cool before applying the filling.

To make the blueberry creme, first melt the while chocolate, either in a double boiler or in the microwave. If microwaving, heat at 30 second intervals, stirring well in between, to ensure that it doesn’t burn. White chocolate can be very temperamental, so keep a close eye on it.

Toss the berries into your blender or food processor, and completely puree. Strain the juice directly into the melted white chocolate and discard the pulp and seeds remaining. Stir thoroughly, reheating gently as necessary if the chocolate beings to solidify or seize. Once smooth, chill the mixture for at least an hour, until cold to the touch and thickened.

Beat the margarine and confectioner’s sugar together in your stand mixer before adding the chilled blueberry mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is getting incorporated, and whip on high speed for about 5 minutes, until there are no remaining chunks of margarine and the filling only appears to be vaguely grainy. Apply the filling to one cookie, and top it off with a second. Repeat with remaining cookies.

The sandwich cookies keep well at room temperature, covered in plastic wrap, for approximately four days, or in the fridge for seven to eight. Better yet, for this summer heat, stash them in the freezer for up to a month, and you can snack on them while they’re still a bit frosty!

Makes About 14 Large Cookies; 7 Large Sandwich Cookies

Printable Recipe


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Why Not?

Food in general and sweet treats in particular can become so closely correlated to certain special occasions, that it can suddenly seem as though one can not exist without the other. While I would agree that no, it is absolutely not Hannukah without latkes, or Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie, what can be said for the other side of the coin? What about the non-holiday, any-old-day, random need for latkes or pumpkin pie? Would it throw the Earth off its very axis to indulge that impulse every now and then? Is it selfish? Unnecessary?

One of the many reasons why I love holidays, all holidays, is because they give us a reason to pause and simply celebrate. Much of the time, I couldn’t care less about what the actual significance is, where it came from, or why we remember it, but the mere opportunity to do something fun and special is all I need. Thus, I present to you an any-old-day treat, with no particular import, meaning, or curious back story. They’re just good cookies, and they’d be good today, tomorrow, Mother’s Day if you truly need a good excuse, or whenever. Because really, why not?

Happy Friday- Go ahead, celebrate the weekend!

Fudge-Mallow Cookies

1 Cup Non-Dairy Margarine
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons Molasses
2 Cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, or White Whole Wheat Flour (or All Purpose, if You Fancy)
1/2 Cup Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
5 Ounces Vegan Marshmallows, Chopped to About Raisin-Sized Pieces
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Preheat your oven to 375 and line two baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.

In your stand mixer, cream together the margarine and sugar, beating thoroughly until fluffy. Add the molasses and mix until fully combined, scraping down the sides halfway through processing as it tends to stubbornly hide in lumps away from the beater.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Toss in the chocolate chips and chopped marshmallows, making sure that everything is coated in flour so that the mix-ins don’t just clump together.

Add the flour mixture into your mixer, and slowly turn the motor back on so that the dry goods don’t go flying. Pour in the vanilla, and turn up the speed to medium-low, mixing until everything is combined. It may take a minute or two because this is a very stiff dough, but be patient and resist the urge to add liquid!

Scoop out about 3 tablespoons worth of dough per cookie, either with two spoons or an ice cream/cookie scoop, and drop them onto your prepared baking sheets, allowing plenty of room for them to spread- No more than 9 per sheet. Trust me, these things end up expanding like crazy. Flatten the tops lightly with the palm of your hand, and bake for 8 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are no longer shiny and firm around the edges. Remove them from the baking sheet immediately and allow them to cool.

Makes About 2 Dozen Cookies

Printable Recipe


20 Comments

Trading Milk for Cookies

Bloggers are easily the most generous people on the planet. Perhaps it’s a shared gene that includes the desire to write and confide one’s intimate thoughts to complete strangers on the internet, but for whatever reason, I’ve found that those with blogs seem to go above and beyond to share the things they love with the world. All it took was a passing a mention of my jealousy for Marika‘s new found soy creamer, only available in Canada, and I found myself with a parcel containing just that a few weeks later, with a few single serve soymilks thrown in for good measure. I’m still floored by such unhesitating kindness.

Despite her protests that she needed nothing in return, no good deed can go unpunished, so I set to work scheming up an appropriate ‘thank you’ present. Trying to settle on a special treat that would still hold up to shipping across the border, it quickly became clear that the only option would be to trade cookies for milk.

Turning yet again to my Bakery-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies as printed in Go Dairy Free, I built an entirely new framework with the help of that solid foundation. Have I given myself away by now? I simply love that darn cookie, any way you slice it (or more accurately, any way you scoop and flatten it.)

This time, seeking to spice things up a bit and liven up the same-old, same-old, I created what I lovingly named Lively Lemon Cookies. Zesty citrus meets spicy galangal, essentially the southeast Asian version of ginger root, for a hot and sweet union. White chips add pops of cooling sweetness, but I can imagine that the bitter contrast of dark chocolate could make for an equally addictive treat. Spiciness is highly subjective, so I erred on the side of caution, dialing it back a bit, but now I feel that I might actually have done better to double the dose. Thus, I’m providing a range so you can suit your own taste buds.

Starting with the aforementioned chocolate chip cookie recipe, use all granulated sugar, add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground galangal (or ginger), the zest of 1 lemon, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch cayenne pepper. Finally, switch out the semi-sweet chocolate chips for white chocolate chips, or if unavailable, roughly chopped macadamia nuts.

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