Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Two Bite Spice Drops

Gently spiced, these soft cookies are butterless and perfect for a morning cuppa.

Two-Bite Spice Drops

Spice cookies are the thing at the holidays. Unlike chocolate chippers, which are pretty season-neutral, there is really no better time to indulge in the sweet-spicy goodness of gingerbread or cardamom-laced cookies than the period between November 1 and December 31. Spice cookies are awesome this time of year because their flavour is generally not conducive to overindulging... at least not the cookies I like, which are more about the spice than the saccharine. Besides, spices like cinnamon are supposed to help with blood sugar regulation, so there's no reason you should be craving a second...third...fourth...

That said, it is the holidays and thus the season of overindulgence in everything, so with these cookies I employed cookie strategy #2: smaller cookie size. This way, you can have your two cookies and eat them too, without the guilt of polishing off a batch of shortbreads (wait, am I the only one who does that?). These cookies are also devoid of one of the season's greatest ingredients - butter. Instead, canola oil keeps them soft and moist while keeping it's flavour neutral, allowing the maple, cinnamon and allspice to shine through. The only adornment they need to take it from an "after school special" to "dessert platter worthy" is a dusting of sparkly sanding sugar - I actually used raw sugar for a more "natural" look, but for Christmas parties red and green might be nice too.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Rainbow Biscotti Bites #SundaySupper

Rainbow Biscotti Bites are kissed with hazelnut flavour, loaded with sprinkles and dunked in white chocolate for a festive finish.

Rainbow Biscotti Bites

I love making biscotti for the holidays because it is a combination of three things I look for in a cookie: its easy, it's variable, and it can be made well ahead of time without losing quality. Usually I go for the long, slim fingers of twice baked cookie, but when I found these rainbow cubes of crunchy biscotti dunked in luscious white chocolate on the Food Network site (courtesy of Izy Hossack) I knew they would be a hit in the Christmas gift baskets.

The original recipe calls for Amaretto and almond extract. I am personally not a fan of almond flavour (although I do like raw almonds on their own), but the notion of adding nuttiness to the cookies in some way appealed. I had a bottle of Frangelico and some hazelnut extract standing by, as well as naturally nutty tasting spelt flour, and the combination worked admirably! The only thing I will say about these cookies is that they do bake up quite hard and crunchy due to just egg whites in the dough, so they are best dunked - say into a cup of cocoa.

Rainbow Biscotti Bites

This week the #SundaySupper team is organizing a cookie exchange! Since I've been up to my eyeballs in holiday bakes these past few weeks, I couldn't wait to participate! See all the other treats below:

Traditional and Tasty Cookies to Share


Fun and Festive Cookie Alternatives

The Sunday Supper Movement is committed to bringing our readers delicious recipes that encourage them to gather and eat together around the family table. Search for your favorite ingredients on our Sunday Supper website. Also check out the Sunday Supper Pinterest boards for plenty more ideas and inspiration.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

"A Bit Better For You" Oatmeal Cookies

These oatmeal cookies are "a bit better for you" - low fat and full of fruity flavour from homemade fruit butter!

"A Bit Better For You" Oatmeal Cookies

While the break rooms in offices everywhere are teeming with sugary goodies this time of year (ours sure is), sometimes it's nice to just have a bit of a break from it all. I'm not talking giving up treats cold-turkey, mind you - it is the season of sugar and spice after all, but why not opt for a sweet, chewy, moreish cookie that doesn't weigh you down even while you're enjoying the indulgence?

I'll be the first to admit, these cookies are not lookers. Think of them as the hobbits of the cookie world - a little lumpy, brown and rustic. I promise you though, if you can get past the rather imperfect appearance and have a bite, you'll be rewarded with all the best parts of Christmas baking in a mouthful. Cinnamon and nutmeg are the punchy spices in the batter, while hints of sweetness from the fruit butter and raisins as well as butterscotchy Muscovado sugar and crunchy pumpkin seeds prevent things from getting too hot. Egg free mayonnaise replaces the eggs to keep things vegan, and everything is bound together with oats and half-whole grain flour. It sounds a little strange - and I agree, the description doesn't do the cookie justice. But since the original recipe came from esteemed baker Daphna Rabinovitch, I'm not going to question. I'd rather taste, anyways.

One thing I will emphasize about this, and any other oatmeal-containing cookie you may happen to make: resting the batter, even for an hour at room temperature, will make a better, more even textured cookie. It softens the oats just enough so they don't turn into glasslike shards with the heat of the oven, and the cookie stays together better because the starches and proteins in oats have a chance to mingle and bind. Many bakers will say chilling overnight is best, but I've learned through years of teaching Home Ec that 60 minutes works pretty darn well when you have a high-hydration batter like this.

Don't worry though - I haven't bailed on the Christmas cookie train completely. Stay tuned - I'm going to try and post as many of the recipes I baked this year as I can before Christmas!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

(Almost) Ovenly's Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Almost) Ovenly's Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies are a vegan classic turned up to 11. Chips and chunks of chocolate bring the goods, while kosher salt in the dough and on top push the sweet-savoury limit.

(Almost) Ovenly's Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

Most people would say they can't think of anyone who would turn down a chocolate chip cookie. It's true - the basic formula of butter, brown sugar an a heft dose of chocolate is enough to whet the appetite, even more so when the batter is ever so slightly on the salty side. I, on the other hand, seem to be surrounded by anti-chocolate chippers these days, and what's more surprising to me is that a portion of them are kids!

Well, I can't change the minds and palates of those who refuse to embrace the chewy, moist perfection that is a perfect chocolate chip cookie, but I can make a batch that tastes and feels just as good as the melted butter / egg yolk version I love while being completely vegan and low in saturated fat. While kids don't necessarily care about the sugar, flour and fat in a cookie (and really, it's a cookie), adults can have a more refined palate for things like that. Using Ovenly's recipe as a jumping-off point, I used spelt flour and bittersweet chocolate along with crunchy salt flakes, each layer adding to the sophistication of the cookies. You'll notice a few chilling times in the method too - these are not the wham-bam-thank you ma'am cookies from the back of the chocolate chips bag, but (to quote Alton Brown) your patience will be rewarded. Not only does the rest time allow the whole grain flour to hydrate, but the more solid dough prevents chocolate sinkage when it comes to bake time and the brown sugar lends a deep caramel note to the whole batch. The brief freeze immediately pre-baking is also paramount for the cookie's final shape - baking the dough from room temperature would cause way too much spread on the tray, since even cold they flatten a good bit.

Now as for the taste, it is definitely a connoiseur's cookie. Does it taste like the butter and egg laden ones, or the giant bakery creations, or even the classic Toll House recipe? Well, no. But they are delicious nonetheless, chewy and with that bittersweet / salty contrast that makes chocolate chip cookies just so addictive. Everyone who likes a chocolate chip cookie will like these, but those with a penchant for dark chocolate will love them. As a bonus, without the eggs and dairy to contend with it's relatively safe to put them out on a holiday dessert table, even if you left the label at home. You can even taste test the batter... you know, for quality control.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Allergy Friendly Gingerbread Biscotti

Time for a break? These gluten free, vegan gingerbread biscotti are crunchy, spicy and perfect with a cuppa.

Gluten Free Vegan Gingerbread Biscotti

It's officially biscotti season once again! Granted, I've never restricted my biscotti baking to the winter holidays, but it seems more socially acceptable now. Biscotti is one of the easiest (to me) recipes to customize, since there's no risk of the cookie being too dry if you bake it a bit longer, and in general a stiff dough holds together and doesn't spread as much as a batter cookie if you take away something like gluten or eggs. For gift giving, I regularly make eggless and nut-free biscotti because a) they go to mixed company who may have allergies I don't know and b) I never buy eggs.

For one recipient, I had to not only veganize but de-gluten and un-soy a biscotti recipe. I had pegged Susan's recipe a long time ago and since it was already vegan, it seemed like a good candidate. She had noted some issues with making the recipe gluten, fat and animal free, but when I saw she had used Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free baking mix as her flour I was willing to give it a go with my own flour blend instead. As much as I adore Bob's Red Mill, and I do, that product in particular is just not good. However, with my Artisanal Gluten Free Flour (adapted from Kelli and Pete Bronski), I had zero issues at all. For flavour and tenderness (and to neutralize any possible grittiness) I added pineapple juice and allowed the dough to rest 15 minutes before shaping. The first bake looked perfect - golden, with a hint of crunchy sugar on top, and when I went to slice it it went cleanly (unlike some of my more "traditional" biscotti). A second bake and cool down later and I had crisp, spicy cookies that held together in a cup of coffee but didn't break your teeth. This will definitely be a repeat performer!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Date-Nut Pinwheel Cookies

Date-Nut Pinwheel Cookies are infused head to toe with white wine and the decadent flavours of Baklava.

Date-Nut Pinwheel Cookies

There is something about pinwheel cookies that just screams "holiday". When else but the months leading up to Christmas can you find such a dedicated array of swirled treats? From simple two-tone sugar cookies to delicacies filled with caramel and almondsweet cinnamon or even peanuts and Nutella, there is something for everyone. Of course, being a lover of date squares, fig newtons and baklava myself, I didn't even think of hesitating when I came across a recipe in the LCBO magazine that had a rich, wine soaked date puree mixed with walnuts, honey and rosewater as a filling. The cookie itself is a relatively basic brown sugar dough, made with half butter half shortening in order to allow a little more plasticity during rolling.

Like most pinwheels, these swirls are perfectly at home in the freezer, especially when stored in paper towel rolls (which maintain the round shape). I made a batch a few months ago, froze it, and now am at liberty to bake just what I need for a cookie tray. In fact, while the recipe doesn't explicitly say it, if you have time freeze the filled roll for at least 30 minutes before slicing it so that it stays mostly round. If you cant wait... well, dental floss works better than a knife at that point.

BTW - You will have leftover filling. It's a fact of life. But a very tasty, very versatile fact of life. Smear it on hearty crispbread with some sharp cheese or even top a schmear on a bagel... you'll be glad you did.