Monday, December 13, 2010

Deviance and Deliciousness

Ever felt like you’re going full-tilt, in a gazillion places at once, and yet you just can’t seem to get anything done? That’s me this holiday season. I am honestly so behind on everything these days – writing, gift wrapping, even baking for gifts I’m giving out this holiday have all somehow become stuck in the proverbial mud. I’m of course going to blame the obvious time-suck for me these days – school – but I’m not alone in my heel-dragging this year. My mom and I, usually so “on the ball” when it comes to our holiday shortbreads, only made our first batch of the year this past weekend!

This year’s batch was also a bit worrisome for my mom in particular, since the only butter actually available at our grocery store was a different brand, and unsalted at that. You’d think that the unsalted butter would be a boon to our cookie batches, but for as long as we’ve been baking them (read: as long as I’ve been alive, and probably longer), we’ve always had one butter and one butter only: Neilson’s “salted” in the gold, 1-lb bricks. The “butter deviation” (thanks to Mom for that title) was a first for us, and even though salt is a simple thing to add to a recipe, it took a little hand-holding on my part and a little trust on hers to actually dive in and start. Mind you, it wasn’t all smooth sailing – the butter did cream with the salt a little differently, and was a little different in it’s initial texture. Then again, I doubt that’s the butter’s fault entirely – by my mom’s own admission she messed up the whole method of preparation when she creamed the butter with the icing sugar first instead of sifting it in with the flour following the vanilla/egg yolk addition. But, as with all good things, it all worked out in the end: once the flour did make its way into the bowl we got her signature, velvety-smooth dough. So while I’m not going to re-write her recipe here (since I’ve posted it every year), I can say that you really can’t mess up these cookies unless you do something completely off the wall, or try to halve the original recipe. If you do that, well... don’t hold me responsible!

Being me, though, I did make some rather interesting cookies for my classmates at IHN. Both of these batches were variants of a single recipe I found in the Flying Apron Bakery’s cookbook for “Stevia Wonders”. The first ones I churned out were gluten-free, sugar-free, nut-free and vegan cookies laced with carob and peppered with black sesame seeds. Essentially free of everything that would be a problem in the school population I figured they would be a nice treat for everyone. Since they also lacked anything commonly thought of as being integral elements in a cookie (Butter? Sugar? Eggs? I can hear my grandmother shrieking now), used a rather strong-tasting combination of flours and added the “wild card” of the slightly bitter, liquoricey stevia, I knew that if any group of people would be receptive to this sort of “deviant” Christma... I mean holiday dessert, it would be them.

Then, working off of what I learned from making those first few trays, I kept playing around. Basically, I messed with the original recipe (which I had already modified) so much that it looked nothing like it’s former self. For one, I broke out a few goodies I had in my arsenal: dried cherries and tart cherry juice concentrate from Michelle’s Miracle, and an incredibly decadent cherry syrup from Benjamin Twiggs. Like those shortbreads made by my mom, though, it is pretty hard to screw them up, and once you get the ingredient ratios and basic method down, it all turns out in the end!

Sugarless Carob Cookies with Sesame Seeds
Makes 24
8 oz chopped dates
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup millet flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup yellow corn flour (not cornstarch)
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp powdered stevia
3/4 cup carob powder
2/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup reserved date-soaking water
1/2 cup black sesame seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, line 2 baking sheets with parchment, SilPat or foil.
  2. Place dates in a deep bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit 15 minutes, then drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the water.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together all the flours, cinnamon, salt, stevia and carob powder. Set aside.
  4. Meanwhile in a larger bowl, whisk together oil and the reserved date water.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and stir well to combine (it will be very stiff), then add dates and sesame seeds and mix in thoroughly. Batter will loosen up as it works.
  6. Roll small balls from the dough and flatten slightly. Place on prepared sheets (they don't spread so you can place fairly close together).
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely on the sheets.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 151.9
Total Fat: 7.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 5.3 mg
Total Carbs: 23.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.6 g
Protein: 2.7 g

Pine-Cherry Coconut Cookies
Makes 25
¼ cup dried cherries
¼ cup quinoa flour
¼ cup sweet rice flour
¼ cup millet flour
¼ cup white rice flour
¼ cup yellow corn flour (not cornstarch)
¾ cup coconut flour
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp salt
1 tsp powdered stevia
2/3 cup canola oil
¼ cup cherry syrup or apple cider syrup
½ cup Michelle’s Miracle® Tart Cherry Concentrate
¼ cup ground pecans
1/3 cup diced candied cherries
¼ cup diced dried pineapple
2/3 cup shredded coconut

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, line 2 baking sheets with parchment, SilPat or foil.
  2. Place dried cherries in a deep bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit 15 minutes, then drain.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the flours, ginger, salt, and stevia.
  4. Add oil, syrup and cherry juice to the dry ingredients and stir well to combine (it will be very stiff).
  5. Add cherries, pecans, candied cherries, pineapple and coconut and mix in thoroughly. Batter will loosen up as it works.
  6. Roll small balls from the dough and flatten slightly. Place on prepared sheets (they don't spread so you can place fairly close together).
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely on the sheets.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 141.7
Total Fat: 8.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 6.7 mg
Total Carbs: 16.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.4 g
Protein: 1.4 g