Baking is one of my favorite things about vegan cooking. One a baking-challenged cook, somehow it all suddenly made sense when I took animal products out of the mix. I have no clue why (except maybe it relates to my life-long aversion to eggs). So imagine my giddiness at the prospect of an entire cookbook of vegan holiday cookies, Very Vegan Christmas Cookies: 125 Festive and Flavorful Treats by Ellen Brown.
After perusing this one, I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I like the variety of treats covered and the introductory explanation of baking sans dairy and honey. There are pictures on almost every other page in lovely color which pleases my inner five year old. Look at the red and white peppermint pinwheels! I’m having fun! The directions are well written and include start to finish time, substitution tips, and storing tips for those who might want to give the goodies as gifts. I especially appreciate the first two because I am that moron who doesn’t realize I’m in the middle of a 5 hours cooking project until I get to step three or ends up Googling “substitution for brown rice syrup” while my dough is getting stiff.
For some reason, I would venture to guess that Ms. Brown is not herself a vegan. There is something impersonal about her introduction to the book and the book chapters. I know that doesn’t actually matter in the long run, but I’m wary of a non-vegan telling me how to cook great vegan goodies. Again, not sure why.
My bigger concerns with the book lie in the ingredient lists. While I know the baking of Christmas cookies implies a certain lack of healthy ingredients, the majority of recipes calls for confectioner’s (powdered) sugar. I don’t own powdered sugar and I can’t really recall the last time I had some in the house. Certainly I could justify buying some just for holiday baking, but that stuff is so terrible and processed–I’m just not that into it.
A number of the recipes also rely heavily on egg replacer. Although I do own some, I’ve only used it like once. Most of the time I use more natural substitutes like apple sauce. To be fair, some of the recipes do use applesauce or bananas, but more rely on the egg replacer. No, vegan does not mean healthy; however, when a recipe specifies that you can’t use natural peanut butter and must use commercially processed (another thing I don’t own), I have concerns.
Also, perhaps my counting is slightly off, but while there are 127 pages in the book, there are only 48 recipes, not 125. Just because I don’t eat animals doesn’t mean I can’t count.
Now to the taste test. I decided to go with the Pine Nut Currant Cookies because I had almost all the ingredients on hand (remember I’m lazy about shopping). I made a few substitutions for ingredients as noted below. These were super quick to put together and my kids could help with the rolling aspect. The finished product was crazy good–it should be based on the butter alone. Cranberries made them a little tart to offset the butteriness and the pine nuts gave some nice crunch and salt.
I’m interested to try more recipes in the book and I like that many of them, like these cookies, can be whipped up anytime of year. It will especially appeal to my mom (who always has powdered sugar) as a way to put up with my crazy eating habits on her turf.
Pine Nut Currant Cookies by Ellen Brown
- Kid friendly
- Meat-eating husband and kids approved
3/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup (16 TBS) vegan butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour (I always use oat flour)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (Mexican vanilla)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried currants (I used dried cranberries)
- Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Toast pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. They should be just lightly browned. Set aside.
- Combine butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat on low until blended. Then turn the mixer to high and beat another 3 to 4 minutes. The mixture should be light and fluffy. Reduce the speed and add both flours, vanilla, and salt until just blended. Stir in the currants (cranberries).
- Take scant 1-TBS portions of dough, and roll them into balls. Flatten the balls slightly into discs and press the discs into the pine nuts.
- Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until light brown around the edges. Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a racks to cool.
Can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for up to five days. Cookies can be frozen for up to 2 months.
PS. Thanks to all of you who have liked the posts, followed in Twitter, and Liked on Facebook. I love the vegan community! More tomorrow!