Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Italian Anisette Christmas Cookies - Vegan, Gluten-Free

Cookie season continues.

Among the blizzard of vegan Christmas cookie recipes that are blanketing the internet, I couldn't find one Anisette Cookie recipe. I can only assume (sadly) that there are not enough vegan Italians out there. Because I know I'm not the only vegan anise fanatic.

The Anisette is a soft, cakelike cookie with a touch of anise and sometimes lemon. Sprinkles are necessary to provide the contrasting tiny crunch.
Traditionally, the cookies are iced too. I have yet to find a white cookie glaze that does not use powdered sugar, so I opted to forgo the icing and just top with sprinkles before baking.

I used two brands of sprinkles, one a generic holiday nonpareil mix and the other a vegan, naturally colored jimmy mix. 

Yes, the scents of candy cane and fresh evergreen will always carry that holiday spirit, but it can be easily overdone. Change it up by making your home smell warm like an Italian bakery on Christmas Eve.

Gluten-Free Vegan Italian Anisette Christmas Cookies
Yields about 20 cookies

Gluten-Free flour blend:
  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/2 cup sweet rice flour
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot
  • 2 teaspoons xanthan gum
OR 3 cups white wheat flour (for non-gluten-free)

1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3/4 cup baking oil (I used light olive oil)
2/3 cup light agave nectar
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon anise extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Heat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour blend (or white wheat flour), baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the oil, agave, applesauce, anise extract, and lemon extract. Add dry ingredients into wet and mix well until an even dough/batter is formed. Using a round tablespoon, drop cookies onto baking sheet. (Cookies will not spread, so they can fit in close together.) Pour sprinkles on top. (If they do not stick, dip a finger in water and wet the top of cookies before pouring on sprinkles.) Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until cookie bottoms are slightly golden. Remove from sheet and let cool.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Vegan Gingersnap Cookies

'Tis  the season
Without a doubt the best foods are the seasonal ones. They add variety to your diet and are a great way to live in the moment. And when it comes to Christmas cookies (which are indisputably the best cookies), all raise your nog to the Gingersnap.

A satisfying crunch, a warm burst of spice, and a sparkly, crinkled top perfect for the holidays. I am always drawn to the words "chai" and "spiced", and this is their time to shine. Because thinking about molasses, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves at the beach just makes me uncomfortable.

Normally when I have a recipe that I've made repeatedly, I have a bunch of hand-written notes along side to what I've changed each time and how it turns out. Well, with Isa's recipes, there are no notes. I have made this recipe several times since October (when cookie season starts) and have never felt even a slight desire to change a thing about it.* So unfortunately, I cannot pass them out claiming to be my own original recipe. Fortunately,  I have no problem giving her all of the credit.

* I have used whole wheat flour in place of white, and have used brown, turbinado, and demerrara sugars in place of white. Evidently, I do not like any white in my cookies.

In Vegan With a Vengeance, Isa Chandra Moskowitz calls them Sparkled Ginger Cookies, I call them Gingersnaps. Tomayto, tomahto, right?
Yields 2 dozen cookies

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup baking oil (I used extra-light olive oil)
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup nondairy milk (I used vanilla unsweetened almondmilk)
1 cup brown sugar (Use demerrara sugar, finely ground in the food processor, if you want a crispy cookie)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Demerrara (or any coarse-crystal sugar) in a bowl for dipping dough

Heat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, or use a Silpat liner.

In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat oil, molasses, nondairy milk, sugar, and vanilla extract. When well mixed, add dry ingredients in and mix with a large spoon. Scoop out a tablespoon of dough, roll into a ball with your palms, and flatten a bit as you dip it into the bowl of demerrara sugar for a nice crystal-y top coating. Separate an inch apart on baking sheet, as they will spread. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until bottoms are slightly browned. Let cool on tray for a few minutes before transferring off onto wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vegan Pumpkin Donuts with Dark Chocolate Glaze

 Halloween? Treat Yo'Self

There is no better time to bake than when the weather outside is frightful. As if having slushy snow during October wasn't scary enough, the heavy weight of the snow on the leaves of the trees caused so many branches to fall down, leaving many  roads closed and neighborhoods without electricity, phones, internet, and TV. So what better way to balance this trick with a treat?

The first hour of the snowfall seemed so innocent, maybe even cute?

My "treats" might not be sugary confections in squeaky wrappers, but I assure you there are other foods that can fit this category - homemade baked goods, homemade caramels and candies, hot cider, pumpkin beers, autumn ales, anything seasonal indulgence that would be inappropriate to pass out to kids ringing your doorbell. They won't appreciate it anyway; keep it all for yourself.

These Pumpkin Donuts are The Perfect Fall Treat. To the skeptics who find it hard to believe this title could be given to a vegan donut with no refined flours or refined sweeteners or artificial coloring, I respect that you stand your ground and aren't easily persuaded by bandwagon propaganda and loaded words. But everyone else is treating themselves to these delicious, incredible, sexy donuts.
Retta treats herself, shouldn't you?

Pumpkin Donuts
Yields 9

1 cup pumpkin puree
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup baking oil (grapeseed, canola, safflower etc)
1/3 cup applesauce
1/4 cup almond milk
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 350F. Grease donut baking trays. (You can also use cupcake trays if you prefer.)

In a large bowl whisk pumpkin, syrup, oil, applesauce, almond milk, vinegar, and vanilla. In a small bowl sift flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt, and stir. Pour dry ingredients into wet mix and stir until just mixed. Batter should be thicker than pancake batter but thinner than cookie dough.

Using a tablespoon, drop batter into donut tray to fill each section. Smooth out top of batter with the back of your spoon. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, until firm to the touch and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool for a minute before turning trays upside-down to remove donuts. If they cannot fall out on their own, use a rubber spatula to pry off. Top with Dark Chocolate Glaze.

Dark Chocolate Glaze

1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix everything together in a small bowl. If too thick, add more almond milk. If too thin, add more cocoa. Glaze should have a thick but pourable consistency. To glaze donuts, simply dip smooth side down in the glaze and carefully lift up to remove. Garnish with pecan pieces if desired.