A Quartet of Snack Bites: Cinnamon Raisin Bagel, Cranberry Raspberry, Chocolate Blueberry Chipotle, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

from left: chocolate blueberry chipotle, cranberry raspberry, chocolate chip cookie dough, cinnamon raisin bagel

Protein bars have become a ubiquitous part of snack time, handy for whenever blood sugar takes a dip. I like to eat them when my tummy begins to rumble, but they are too big to be considered a snack. Instead of eating a partial bar and tucking the rest away for the future (yes, I do this), I decided to make a smaller version that I call “snack bites.”

To come up with my one-bite nibbles, I thought about the basic formula for a whole food protein bar. They usually contain dried fruit, nuts, nut or seed butter, and spices or other flavorings. There are many choices in each category with substitutions galore, such as using sunflower seed butter in place of almond butter or cardamom instead of cinnamon. The possibilities are endless with an appeal for a variety of tastes.

Working with this template I made four combinations to suit any craving — there’s chocolate, sweet, tart, and spicy alongside a variety of fruit and nuts. So, grab whatever you have in the cupboard to mix and match for this quartet of tasty bites.

Cinnamon Raisin Bagel Snack Bites

2 dates
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons creamy almond butter
1 tablespoon maple sugar
for rolling in:
1 tablespoon vegan sugar
1/2 teaspoon powdered cinnamon

Soak the dates in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain but save the soaking water to add later if the mixture is too dry. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the rolled oats in a food processor fitted with the S-blade and pulse to make a coarse flour. Add the drained dates, raisins, almond butter, and maple sugar to the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until the mixture just starts to clump together and holds together when squeezed between your fingers. If the mixture is too dry then add a bit of date soaking water. If it is too wet, add more oats.

Combine the vegan sugar and cinnamon in a shallow bowl and put it next to the lined baking sheet. Scoop a tablespoon of mixture into your hands and roll it into a ball. Place the balls on the lined baking sheet as they are formed. When all the balls are formed, roll 2 or 3 at a time in the shallow bowl until each is coated with cinnamon sugar. Place them back on the lined baking sheet as you work.

Snack bites can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for 2 – 3 months. Makes 10 – 12 bite-sized snacks.

Cranberry Raspberry Snack Bites

1/8 cup dates
1/8 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnut pieces
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon tahini
1/4 teaspoon ground flaxseed
1/8 cup almond meal
for garnish:
1/8 cup ground freeze dried raspberries

Soak the dates in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain but save the soaking water to add later if the mixture is too dry. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the drained dates, dried cranberries, walnuts, orange zest, tahini, ground flaxseed, and almond meal in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Pulse until the mixture just starts to clump together and holds together when squeezed between your fingers. If the mixture is too dry then add a bit of date soaking water. If it is too wet, add more almond meal.

Scatter a bit of almond meal on a cutting board and put it next to the lined baking sheet. Place the ground freeze dried raspberries in a shallow bowl and put it near the lined baking sheet. Remove the mixture from the food processor and place it on the cutting board. Scatter a bit more almond meal on top of the mixture and roll it out to 1/4-inch thick. Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to portion the dough (my cutter made 12 hearts). Dip one side of a cut-out heart into the shallow bowl with the dried raspberry powder and place it on the lined baking sheet as you work to dip all of the hearts.

Snack bites can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for 2 – 3 months.

Chocolate Blueberry Chipotle Snack Bites

1/4 cup dates
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup raw, unsalted almonds
1/8 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon almond butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
generous pinch chipotle powder
for rolling in:
1/4 cup ground freeze dried blueberries

Soak the dates in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain but save the soaking water to add later if the mixture is too dry. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the drained dates, dried blueberries, almonds, cocoa powder, almond butter, vanilla, and chipotle powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Pulse until the mixture just starts to clump together and holds together when squeezed between your fingers. If the mixture is too dry then add a bit of date soaking water. If it is too wet, add more cocoa powder.

Put the ground freeze dried blueberries in a shallow bowl and put it next to the lined baking sheet. Scoop a tablespoon of mixture into your hands and roll it into a ball. Place the balls on the lined baking sheet as they are formed. When all the balls are formed, roll 2 or 3 at a time in the shallow bowl until each is coated with the blueberry powder. Place them back on the lined baking sheet as you work.

Snack bites can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for 2 – 3 months. Makes 10 – 12 bite-sized snacks.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Snack Bites

1 graham cracker sheet
1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
4 teaspoons date paste or caramel
1 teaspoon chocolate tahini (I used Soom Chocolate Tahini) or chocolate syrup
1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Place the graham cracker in a food processor fitted with the S-blade and pulse to make small crumbs. Add the cashews, date paste, and chocolate tahini. Pulse until the mixture just starts to clump together and holds together when squeezed between your fingers. If the mixture is too dry then add a bit of chocolate tahini. If it is too wet, add more graham cracker crumbs.

Put the mixture in a bowl and stir in the mini chocolate chips. Scoop a tablespoon of mixture into your hands and roll it into a ball. Place the balls on the lined baking sheet as they are formed.

Snack bites can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or the freezer for 2 – 3 months. Makes 10 bite-sized snacks.

Until next time, happy non-baking!

Sweet Heart Chocolate Cupcakes for My Sweetheart

sweet heart chocolate cupcakes with strawberry filling
sweet heart chocolate cupcakes with strawberry filling

Ah, Valentine’s Day … a time when everything is made into the shape of a heart. I couldn’t resist the trend after watching a trick for making heart-shaped cupcakes without a special pan. All that is required is a muffin tin, paper liners, and a bit of foil.

Prepare your cupcake batter, such as the version of my favorite chocolate cupcakes below. Before you portion the batter into the lined muffin tin, take strips of foil and form them into small balls. Take one foil ball, place it in a cavity on the outside of a liner, then crease the liner against it to form a heart shape. Repeat to make 12 cute heart-shaped cupcakes!

My heart cupcakes were made using my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe, although this time I tried a new plant milk from sesame seeds. Because the milk is a bit thicker, it made a more dense batter that I easily remedied by adding more liquid. On the upside, the thicker milk did make the frosting creamy and more luxurious.

To make a Valentine-themed cupcake, I added strawberry jam to the filling because chocolate loves strawberry. Next I accented the heart shape with pink frosting then gave the sweet heart to my sweetheart.

Sweet Heart Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Filling

For the cupcakes
1 cup + 4 teaspoons Hope & Sesame Organic Sesamemilk
1.5 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup organic sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch-process cacao powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
for the frosting
1/4 cup vegan shortening
3/4 cup Miyoko’s Creamery Cultured Vegan Butter, salted
3 1/2 cups organic powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 cup Hope & Sesame Organic Sesamemilk
for the filling
2 tablespoons strawberry preserves
decorations (optional)
red food coloring
red decorative sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12 muffin pan with paper liners and set aside. Whisk together the 1 cup + 4 teaspoons milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add sugar, oil, and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla to the milk mixture and beat until foamy.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to the wet ingredients and beat just until no large lumps remain. Place foil balls (described in post above) into the muffin pan alongside the paper liners. Pour batter into the liners, filling three-quarters of the way.

sweet heart cupcakes with foil in tin
baked sweet heart cupcakes with foil in muffin pan

Bake for 18-19 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then tip the cupcakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting and filling. Place the shortening and vegan butter in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle blade. Beat until just combined. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla to the bowl and beat again. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, adding the milk when the mixture get too dry. Once all frosting ingredients have been added, let the stand mixer run for several minutes until the frosting is light and creamy.

For the filling, place 1 cup of frosting in a bowl and mix it with the strawberry preserves. Using a knife or cupcake corer, remove a small portion of the center of each cooled cupcake. Using a spoon, add the filling to the holes. Don’t worry if it’s slightly messy as you will be frosting the tops of the cupcakes.

Divide the rest of the frosting as you wish, tinting some of it with red food coloring or leaving it all white. Decorate the tops of the frosted cupcakes with red sugar, if desired.

Until next time, happy Valentine’s Day and happy baking!

Ginger Maple Shortbread — vegan and gluten-free

ginger maple shortbread
ginger maple shortbread

Something odd is going on. Gluten-free recipes are catching my eye and not scaring me. Usually I grimace when someone asks me if I make no-gluten treats as part of my high altitude and vegan baking repertoire. Making too many changes can ruin a baked good, but I must be adapting because this is my second recipe of that style in just a few weeks.

What intrigued me about this shortbread-type recipe was that it called for coconut or palm oil. The cookbook I found it in was from 2009 and so many new vegan butter substitutes have become available since then. It seemed like a good opportunity to test out the recipe with a newer product.

Shortbread cookies have so few ingredients that each one needs to shine. Fortunately I had Miyoko’s Cultured Vegan Butter in my fridge, so that became the base of my bar. With no leavening in the cookie, high altitude wasn’t much of an issue. But I did add ginger because maple syrup and ginger are a match made in heaven.

Ginger Maple Shortbread based on Maple “Butter” Bars

2.75 cups brown rice flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 cup unsalted Miyoko’s Cultured Vegan Butter, at room temp
1 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 10 x 10” (or similar-sized) pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Add the rice flour, salt, and ginger to a bowl and whisk together. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the vegan butter, maple syrup, and vanilla. (This may take several minutes.) Slowly add the flour mixture a half cup at a time, and mix until well combined.

Spread the batter into the lined pan, then smooth the top. Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until the edges are firm. Place the pan onto a heat-safe surface and immediately score the dough into 16 equal portions. (Hubby cut the bars or they wouldn’t look so even; see the picture below.)

scored ginger maple shortbread
scored ginger maple shortbread

Place the pan on a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, the bars can be fully broken apart and removed from the pan. They can be drizzled with chocolate syrup to keep hubby happy 😉

Until next time, happy baking!

Lavender Earl Grey Tea Bread

lavender earl grey tea bread
lavender earl grey tea bread

It’s January so the celebration for National Hot Tea Month is in full swing. Although, if you ask me, we should have a hot tea season that would span several months. I love drinking hot tea, especially when it keeps me warm.

What goes well with a cup of hot tea? Tea bread, of course. And the perfect tea bread contains an infusion of tea to permeate the baked good.

To come up with a complementary treat for my cuppa, I found a recipe for a tea cake with Earl Grey tea in it. The classic Earl Grey is black tea flavored with orange-scented bergamot. A new twist has the addition of lavender buds which rounds out the tea nicely, so I knew I wanted to include the floral profile.

I first altered the recipe by including the lavender flowers. Next, I changed it from gluten free to using all purpose flour because that’s what I had on hand. Feel free to use a gluten free flour blend instead.

Then I reduced the recipe so it would make four small loaves that would bake better at high altitude. For altitude I also switched it up to include a combination of baking soda and baking powder. There was no need for vegan changes because the recipe was already vegan.

The resulting mini breads were moist and extremely flavorful, reminiscent of honey cakes. With a hint of lavender when warmed and depth from the maple syrup, they are fantastic alongside a robust tea as well as an herbal blend. I froze a few loaves so I can savor them this month, and also enjoy them on a future tea drinking day.

Lavender Earl Grey Tea Bread adapted from Earl Grey Tea Cake

1.5 cups boiling water
3.5 teaspoons Earl Grey loose leaf tea
1/2 teaspoon culinary lavender flowers
1/3 cup dried currants
3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Grease the sections of a mini bread tin (mine makes four breads measuring 5 x 2.5” each) and set aside. Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine the water, Earl Grey tea, and lavender in a heat-proof container. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain and discard the leaves. Add 1/2 cup of tea back to the container, saving the other 1 cup of tea for later. Place dried currants in the 1/2 cup of tea, cover, and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add the oil and maple syrup to a medium bowl and whisk together. Add the vanilla and 1 cup of tea to the oil-syrup mixture. Whisk until combined, then stir in the tea with the currants.

Add the liquid mixture to the ingredients in the dry bowl and stir until combined and no longer lumpy. Distribute the batter evenly into the sections of the tin. Bake for 34-38 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a bread comes away clean or with a few small crumbs.

Let the breads fully cool in the tin placed on a wire rack. Run a knife along the outside edges of each bread to loosen, then tip the loaves out.

Until next time, happy baking!

Apple Blueberry Streusel Pie — vegan and gluten-free

apple blueberry streusel pie
apple blueberry streusel pie

If you are working your way through Veganuary and it seems difficult, don’t worry. You’re half the way there (congratulations!). If you are unfamiliar with the term, it refers to a challenge to try vegan throughout the month of January.

Eating vegan can be tough for some, especially when it comes to dessert. Many pastries include eggs and butter and can appear impossibly hard to make at high altitude. But, today I offer you sweet encouragement.

I wanted a recipe that wasn’t too complicated, so I decided to use a pre-made pie shell. Never having baked one, it was an experiment for me. In the vein of experimentation I decided to go with a gluten-free version as well. The results were surprisingly delicious.

The dessert recipe I found was vegan once I used the pre-made crust. No changes were needed for high altitude, but I did have to adjust filling quantities for the smaller ready-made shell.

After ingredient amounts were altered, I added blueberries because you can always use extra antioxidants, right? I then removed the nuts to make it very allergy-friendly. May this decadent treat get you through the rest of the month, and beyond.

Apple Blueberry Streusel Pie adapted from Apple Crumble Pie

for the pie
4 apples, cored, peeled, and sliced into 1/8” slices
1/2 cup fresh blueberries, washed and patted dry
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup gluten free flour
1.75 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup vegan sugar
1 store bought pie shell (I used a gluten free one by Wholly Gluten Free)
for the streusel topping
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup gluten free flour
1/3 cup unsalted vegan butter, melted and cooled slightly

Add the apples, blueberries, lemon juice, vanilla, and 1/4 cup flour to a large bowl. Stir carefully with a spatula to coat the fruit. Place 1.75 teaspoons cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and sugar in small bowl. Stir to combine, then sprinkle over the fruit. Stir carefully with a spatula until the fruit is evenly coated with the spices. Set aside while the oven preheats.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Take the pie shell out of the freezer to defrost per manufacturer’s instructions. Meanwhile, make the streusel topping.

Put the brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 3/4 cup flour in a medium bowl. Stir in the melted butter with a spatula. Break it up into small clumps using the spatula or your fingers. When the pie shell is defrosted, pile the fruit into it. Then sprinkle the topping over the fruit.

Place the filled pie shell onto a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Leaving the pie in the oven, carefully place a pie crust shield over the crust. Close the oven door and reduce the heat to 375F. Bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Place the pie with the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for 3 hours. Cover leftovers tightly with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

Until next time, happy baking!

Vanilla Chocolate Chip Cake Bites

vanilla chocolate chip cake bites
vanilla chocolate chip cake bites

It’s been one snowstorm after another where I live. With the cold, blustery days I just want to cozy up to a hot cup of tea and a sweet snack. The thing is I’m a little burnt out on cookies (see all of the cookie posts I did last month).

Making a cake seems like too much effort, and a bigger treat that I have in mind. What I need is a two-bite snack. Perhaps a cake bite?

My recipe search uncovered an easy, smaller cake that I could convert into mini cakes without much effort. I have a pan that makes individual brownies, which is a life-saver for high altitude bakers, and I realized it was ideal for my cakelets. So, I had the basics covered.

To adapt the recipe for high altitude, I decreased the baking powder and completely omitted the baking soda. The original recipe was for a cake and smaller versions often need quite a bit less leavening. I also added a smidge more liquid to account for dryness at altitude, and reduced baking time for the smaller pastries.

The final change was to add brown sugar. Seeing as I was no longer making a cake but veering into blondie territory, this ingredient was added for a slightly chewier texture. The result was a moist, delectable, and perfectly-sized nibble to chase away winter’s chill.

Vanilla Chocolate Chip Cake Bites inspired by Vegan Choc Chip Loaded Cake

1 cup non-dairy milk (I used Take Two Original Barley Milk)
1 tablespoon applesauce
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup canola oil
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1.25 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the cups of a brownie pan. Alternatively, use a cupcake pan with paper liners.

Place the non-dairy milk, applesauce, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Place the flour, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar in a medium bowl and whisk together. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Portion the batter into the sections of the prepared brownie pan (or into muffin liners). Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a cake bite comes out clean. Note: It will take a few more minutes to bake cupcakes.

Move the baking pan to a wire rack and allow the bites to cool completely. Remove cake bites from the pan. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes 12 cake bites.

Until next time, happy baking!

Spritz Style Butter Cookies

spritz style butter cookies
spritz style butter cookies

It’s still cookie season in my kitchen. Just in case you are also baking up a storm in your home, I have one more holiday cookie recipe for you.

Butter cookies have a classic nostalgia surrounding them, and I have fond memories of making them with a cookie press. I no longer own a cookie press, but wanted to keep the tradition alive so I discovered a baking trick — you can use a piping bag with a star tip to recreate the look. So, my last recipe of the year is a spritz-style butter cookie.

There are no shortage of butter cookie recipes available, but I found one that was easy to make vegan. I used vegan counterparts for butter and milk, and I replaced the egg with aquafaba. There were no leaveners to adapt so all I needed to do was add a little extra liquid to account for high altitude dryness. The last change was to make use of the piping bag trick. And, even without fancy baking tools, the tradition endured. But don’t forget another tradition … leave a few cookies for Santa.

Spritz Style Butter Cookies adapted from Butter Cookies

1/2 cup vegan unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/8 cup organic sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.5 teaspoons aquafaba
1 cup + 3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1.5-2 Tablespoon non-dairy milk
1 cup chocolate chips, for dipping

Prepare a large piping bag with a large star tip. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper and ensure you have enough room in your fridge for them. Set these items aside.

Add the vegan butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle blade. Beat together on medium-high until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla and aquafaba, and beat on high until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Sift the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl of the stand mixer. Beat on low until just combined, then turn the mixer off and add the remaining flour mixture. Beat on low until combined.

Beat in 1.5 Tablespoons of milk on medium speed. You want a dough that’s thick but also creamy enough to be able to be piped through a large pastry tip. Add more milk if needed.

Once the dough is of piping consistency, add it to the prepared piping bag. Pipe the dough in 1-2” swirls placed several inches apart on a baking sheet. Chill the shaped cookies on the baking sheets for 20-30 minutes, then preheat the oven to 350F.

Bake the chilled cookies for 18 -19 minutes, or until lightly browned on the sides. Place the cookie-laden baking sheets on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cookies cool, set a few inches of water to boil in the bottom of a double boiler. Put the chocolate chips in the top of the double boiler and heat them until they are smooth.

Dip the cookies in the melted chocolate and top with sprinkles. Place the cookies in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to allow the chocolate to set completely.

Dipped cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week. Makes 1 dozen dipped cookies.

Until next time, happy holidays and happy baking!

Spicy Chocolate Chunk Cookies

spicy chocolate chunk cookies
spicy chocolate chunk cookies

I’ve been bitten by the cookie baking bug! (See yesterday’s blog post). Cookies are being created by the dozens in my kitchen in the name of holiday spirit. So, also in the name of holiday cheer, I offer you a bonus post this weekend. Here’s an additional recipe to add to your festive cookie arsenal.

My recipe is a vegan version of Dorie Greenspan’s famous World Peace Cookies. She updated them recently with additional add-ins, but I kept mostly to the original. The vegan substitutions were simple — using vegan unsalted butter for the dairy type, and making sure that all sugars were vegan. Then I added a bit of milk to help with the dryness at altitude. And, because I like the addition of spice in her newest version, I went with a spiced chocolate idea. Here’s to World Peace and chocolate; not necessarily in that order.

Spicy Chocolate Chunk Cookies adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies

1 cup + 7 tablespoons (173g) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (28g) Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
11 tablespoons (155g) room temperature unsalted vegan butter, cut into chunks
2/3 cup (142g) organic light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50g) vegan granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder (depending on preference)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon non-dairy milk
5 ounces (142g) vegan semisweet chocolate chunks, chopped if the chunks are large

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda together into a bowl. Set aside.

Place the butter and sugars into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a flat blade. Beat together on medium speed until smooth. Add the salt, chili powder, vanilla, and milk and beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the mixer turned off, add the dry ingredients and blend at low speed until just incorporated. Add the chocolate chunks and stir in with a spoon.

Turn the dough out onto a cutting board and knead it a bit to bring it together. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a log that is 1 ½” in diameter (the length will be between 7” and 8”). Wrap the logs with two layers of plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 2 hours, or in the refrigerator for 3 hours up to overnight.

When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325F. Take the dough out of the refrigerator or freezer and let it stand at room temperature for 5-15 minutes (depending on where you kept it cool). Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a sharp, thin knife, slice the dough logs into 1/2″-thick rounds. Arrange the rounds on the lined baking sheets, leaving 2” between the cookies. Bake for 12-13 minutes. They won’t look fully baked and they won’t be firm. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack and let the cookies cool until just warm or at room temperature.

Packed in an airtight container, the cookies will keep for five days at room temperature or for up to two months in the freezer. Makes 28-32 cookies.

Until next time, happy baking!

A Duet of Vegan Holiday Cookies

chocolate peppermint cookies and oat thumbprint cookies
chocolate peppermint cookies and oat thumbprint cookies

Ah, holiday cookie baking. The sweet scents that emanate from the kitchen this time of year are drool-worthy. They make you want to bake every cookie recipe you see.

Recently I got inspired by a friend who was madly baking like some Keebler elf, so I joined in the frenzy. The flour was flying and baking sheets were in heavy rotation. I thought that others would also begin their boisterous baking, so I have not one recipe for you, but two.

I wanted a classic Thumbprint cookie to start, and I found a recipe that was healthy and tasty. But, variety is crucial in a cookie tray, along with a bit of chocolate, so I have a chocolate cookie kissed with peppermint and slathered in vanilla frosting. The Thumbprints were already vegan; I merely changed the cooking technique to allow the dough to rest and absorb fluids to combat dryness found at altitude. The chocolate cookie was veganized by using non-dairy milk, and adjusted for altitude with the addition of liquid. I hope you are as excited for holiday cookies as I am!

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies with Vanilla Frosting inspired by NutraMilk

for the cookies
3 Tablespoons almond butter
1 Tablespoon non-dairy milk
1 Tablespoon applesauce
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons almond flour (not almond meal)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
for the frosting
1/2 cup vegan butter
1.75 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted if clumpy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 cup almond milk

Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the almond butter, milk, applesauce, maple syrup, and peppermint extract in a bowl and whisk together. Combine the almond flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a bowl and whisk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry bowl and stir until a dough forms. Roll the dough into 12 balls and place each ball on a baking tray, flattening each slightly. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until the cookies are firm.

Remove the tray from the oven and place on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove cookies from the tray and put on a wire rack to cool completely. Make the frosting: add the ingredients to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle blade. Start beating slowly and work up to medium speed. Beat until the frosting is light and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. When the cookies are fully cooled, add the frosting and decorative sugar.

Oatmeal Thumbprint Cookies with Jam adapted from Vegan Jam Thumbprint Cookies

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fruit jam, seedless

Place the oats, flour, and walnuts in a bowl and stir to combine. Whisk together the oil, maple syrup, orange juice, and vanilla, then add to the dry ingredients. Stir to combine everything. Place the bowl of dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the dry ingredients to absorb the liquids. It will become sticky.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets. Use the back of the scoop to create an indent on top of each ball. Fill the indents with jam. Bake for 14-16 minutes until the bottoms are golden. Remove the trays from the oven and place on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove cookies from the trays and put on a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 32 – 34 cookies.

Until next time, happy Holiday baking!

Cinnamon vs. Cassia: different types for a range of flavors

cinnamon chips and chai
cinnamon chips and chai

Did you know there are over 250 types of cinnamon? I didn’t until I researched it after having a rousing discussion on the topic of cinnamon with my favorite taster, my hubby. That’s when my deep dive into cinnamon began.

He mentioned that he thought the cinnamon we had was old because the flavor was weak. I knew that I had recently purchased that particular cinnamon because I buy in bulk due to our intense love of the sweet spice. When I buy bulk cinnamon I choose the Ceylon variety because I have noted that I like the flavor. The company I get cinnamon from was out of it for awhile so I had to break down and get a jar from the market.

The one from the grocery store noted that it was pure Cassia Cinnamon. An article from Bon Appetit explained that “there are three specific types of cassia cinnamon—Indonesian, Chinese, and Saigon—all with different levels of flavor.”

The magazine’s post also mentioned that “Ceylon cinnamon, a variety sometimes referred to (as) ’true cinnamon’ … (has a) flavor and aroma (that) are extremely mild and delicate—it definitely reads as ‘cinnamon,’ but with subtle, almost floral notes.”

This could explain how hubby saw the fresh cinnamon as stale. The recent batch of cinnamon wasn’t stale but it did have a more mild scent. This was due to its variety, being the Ceylon type, and not its freshness. So, in comparison, the Cassia cinnamon we had before was perceived as fresher because it had a stronger smell. He was looking for the scent of Red Hots cinnamon candies.

Now I was onto something. I realized that not only did the flavors of the cinnamons change from mild to robust, but the aromas of the cinnamon varieties could be seen to range from subtle to powerful.

Okay, I know this is a baking blog, but this is important in baking. The type of cinnamon you purchase can have an effect on the outcome of the baked dish. The taste will still be essentially of cinnamon, but it may be more floral than in-your-face depending on the cinnamon you pick.

cinnamon vs cassia
cinnamon vs cassia

The recommendation from the Cinnamon Vogue spice shop says, “For fine desserts Ceylon Cinnamon is an absolute must because it is subtle, smells very mild and is slightly sweeter in taste. It never takes center stage in the recipe but adds a very complex flavor.”

Admittedly, I agree with these cinnamon purveyors, although they may be biased because that is the variety they specialize in. But I know that if you want pungency, then you should look to the Cassia varieties of Indonesian, Chinese, and Saigon.

Furthermore, it dawned on me that when one of my recipes lists “1 teaspoon cinnamon” in the ingredients, that your experience may differ if you use the more robust Cassia. You should test the amount and see what works for you with your spice brand and selection.

Then there’s the matter of taste preference. I’ll keep my complex Ceylon and leave the hot Cassias to my hubby. Whew! All this talk of cinnamon has made me thirsty, so I’m headed to the kitchen to make a sweet spiced chai. And then maybe some cinnamon muffins.