Friday 6: Christmas Cookies

The tree is up, (most) of the presents are wrapped, and the cookies are baked. It's finally time to slow down and enjoy the holiday season with a cup of tea and some Christmas movies. 

Today's Friday 6 is all about cookies. Believe me, I thought of making 10 types of cookies for the sake of having an even Friday 10, but common sense got the better of me. 

Going dairy-free meant that I had to overhaul my Christmas cookie lineup this year. I thought it would be hard to find recipes that were as delicious as my favorites, but I'm learning that there are a lot of wonderful vegan recipes out there. The only downside to vegan baking is that the "raw" dough is edible since they don't use eggs, either. No I have no way of shaming myself into not eating it.  Let's just say that a lot of extremely tasty cookie dough was consumed over the past week. No regrets! 

Without further ado, my 2014 Christmas Cookies.


Click the headings for links to the recipes!

Vegan Nanaimo Bars 

These Nanaimos were the only troublemaker of the bunch--they were finicky to cut and the filling is a little goopier than I normally like it. I wasn't able to find Bird's Custard Powder, which is the gold standard here so I had to sub in a no-name versionI also can't blame the recipe since I went off track and played around with proportions and ingredients. 

They ended up being delicious anyway. Frankly, I would eat Nanaimos with a spoon if I had to. I love them that much. 

Here's what I changed:

For the base

  • I used 2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (think crushed Oreo cookies) and 1/2 cup of Earth Balance and 1/2 cup coconut oil.
  • I omitted the cocoa powder and nuts.
  • I used one 200 g bag of unsweetened shredded coconut. It was nowhere near the conversion of 3 1/2 cups in the recipe, which I think would be far, far too much.
  • My base turned out great, so I would do this again.

For the filling

  • I used 2/3 cup coconut oil and 1/3 cup Earth Balance.
  • I omitted the shortening.
  • I used 3 cups of icing sugar, 5 tbsp of vanilla custard powder, and 4 tips of unsweetened vanilla almond milk.
  • My filling is slightly softer than I usually like it to be, but it tastes great. I will be playing around it with this recipe, but a bit more icing sugar would probably help.

For the topping

  • I used 1 tbsp of coconut oil and 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

I think I will try this recipe again in a few months to see if I can get it the way I like it. It's so close and I think it would be nice to have my very own recipe to pass down. 

Ovenly's Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies  

I made my cookies smaller and more bite-sized, but otherwise didn't change a thing on this recipe. As far as I'm concerned, it's a pretty perfect chocolate chip cookie. 

Molasses Ginger Cookies

These ginger cookies are not for the faint of heart. They strong and spicy and warm, which is exactly how I like them. I didn't change the recipe at all, but I did use 1/2 cup of molasses, which was the max recommended. 

Peanut Butter Mousse Cups

These peanut butter cups are a nice break from the heavier cookies since the mousse lightens things up a bit. I've become a huge fan of Minimalist Baker over the past couple of months. Their recipes are easy, don't require a lot of ingredients, and have been consistently delicious (like this no-bake pumpkin pie and these 5 ingredient no-bake granola bars). 

Chocolate Mint Crinkle Cookies

A pretty little cookie made with my favourite flavour combination--cooling mint and decadent chocolate. Since no one else in my family likes mint and chocolate, so these are mine all mine! 

Walnut and Fig Biscotti

I make biscotti every year. Luckily, traditional Italian biscotti are made without dairy. I had leftover walnuts and figs in the fridge and thought that sounded like a good combination, so I did some googling, took some inspiration from a couple of recipes, and made something of my own. My version is adapted from Susan Russo's Traditional Almond Biscotti and Smitten Kitchen's Fig and Walnut Biscotti.


  • 1 c walnut pieces 
  • 1 c chopped dried Turkish figs (softened in some hot water for a few minutes, if necessary)  
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs (plus 1 to beat and brush on top of dough)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large orange, zested (mine yielded a little over 2 tbsp)


  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment, move your oven racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together walnuts, figs, sugars, spices, baking powder, and flour until everything is well-mixed.
  3. In a small bowl, beat eggs, vanilla, and orange zest together with a wisk until everything is well-blended.
  4. Fold the egg mixture into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to get sticky. Switch to your hands and work the dough gently until a ball starts to form. Divide the dough into 4 pieces.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll the balls of dough into loaves that are about 9 inches long and 1 inch high. I usually squeeze the ball of dough into a tube shape with floured hands. Then I put it on a lightly floured counter and press it down so it forms something like a flat loaf. 
  6. Transfer loaves to baking sheets (2 per sheet). Beat 1 large egg with a bit of water and brush the tops of the loaves. 
  7. Bake for 20 minutes. Check the pans, rotate them from upper to lower (and vice versa). Let them bake for another 10-20 minutes. The loaves should start to turn a nice golden brown color, but be sure to watch that the bottoms don't start to burn. Our oven runs hot, so mine only took about 30 minutes total. 
  8. When your logs are golden brown, but still a little soft, pull them out of the oven. Let them cool for 15-20 minutes. You want to loaves to cool enough that they won't crumble when you start to cut them, but you don't want them to get too hard or cold.
  9. Once the loaves have cooled enough to be cut, use a serrated knife to saw them into that famous biscotti shape. You can do this on an angle (which is how I do it) or vertically. 
  10. Arrange the biscotti back on the baking sheet, cut side down, and put the sheets back into the oven. Turn the heat off, keep the door closed, and let the the biscotti "bake" for another 30 - 60 minutes. They will get crunchier the longer they stay in in there, so pull them out based on your preference. 
  11. Remove pans from the oven, let the biscotti cool, and enjoy! These cookies are pretty long-lasting when stored in a good airtight container. I've seen suggestions of two weeks to a month, but they don't seem to last that long around these parts!

The true test of these cookies has been whether or not anyone guesses they are dairy-free. So far, so great. Not only do I love them, but everyone who has tried them raves about them. Even S, who is not a sweets person, has been eating the salted chocolate chip cookies at an impressive rate. I'll probably have to make another batch for our give-away tins. They are just that good!

That's it for this week and, maybe for the end of the year. I'm going to take some time to unwind, do a bit of behind the scenes work, and spend a lot of time with family. I will see you in the new year!

I hope you have a very happy holiday season and a happy, healthy, peaceful start to 2015. 

PS: I'd love to hear about your favourite Christmas cookies and traditions! 

My Take on Oreos (with Cognac Buttercream)

Happy Holidays! It looks like we might have a white Christmas here after all! The past few days have been full of Christmas baking and most of it is finally done. We have lots of traditional favorites: shortbread, chippy chewy bars, World Peace cookies, and nanimos.

I, however, noticed a small sub-theme this year: booze. First it was a flourless chocolate birthday cake with cognac, next Gramercy Tavern ginger cake with stout and, then . . .

One night while I was thinking about what to bake this year, a little voice in my head whispered: "Cognac buttercream."

"Yes! But on what?" I asked the voice.

And it whispered again, "Oreos."


Oreos, you see, are my favorite packaged cookie. I can resist just about every packaged cookie except Oreos, so it's one of my missions make a good replica.

I've tried a few recipes but nothing is ever thin, crispy, or chocolately enough for me. And the filling is always a bit gross to make. A pile of shortening and icing sugar is just not appetizing. To be fair, that is essentially what Oreo filling really is, but if I don't have to make it, then I can pretend it's not disgusting. Call it cookie cognitive dissonance, if you will.

So instead of trying out another "secret" recipe, I thought I'd go my own way. This is my grown-up, decadent version. I think they're pretty darn good, if I may say so myself.

The Cookie

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies

I posted about my love of World Peace Cookies before. Their sable texture deep chocolate flavor with just enough salt to make them interesting always struck me as something that might make a good Oreo-type cookie. If Oreos, you know, went to finishing school/evolved/reincarnated as a higher life form . . .I mean, um, cookie form? (Dear God I hope I'm not offending Pierre Hermé.)

These are, basically, thinner, smaller World Peace Cookies minus the chocolate chips.


  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 11 tablespoons butter (softened)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  1. Beat butter in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment on medium until creamy.
  2. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla. Continue to beat on medium until creamy, usually another 2 minutes or so.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, and baking soda.
  4. While mixer is off, add the dry ingredients to the sugar/butter mix. Dorie Greenspan recommends putting a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to keep the powder from flying out at you when you turn it on. This works. Trust me. After you've placed your towel over the mixer, pulse it about 5 times on low. Check to see if the dry mix is incorporated. If not, then pulse it a little more until the flour is just incorporated. The dough should be crumbly, so don't over process the dough.
  5. Pull out two sheets of cling wrap. Divide the dough in half, form into logs, and wrap the logs in the cling wrap. Mine were about 15 inches long and just over 1 inch in diameter, but feel free to make them a diameter you would like. Just remember that you will have to watch the cooking time closely later based on the size of your cookie.
  6. Refrigerate dough for 3 hours. (Sometimes I cheat and throw them into the freezer for 20-30 minutes when I don't have enough time.)
  7. When your 3 hours are up, preheat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the center. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  8. Pull your cookie logs out of the fridge. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/4 inch rounds. If they crumble and fall apart, just press them back together.
  9. Place cookies on baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake one sheet at a time for 11 minutes. When you pull them out, the cookies will still be quite soft, but they firm up as they cool. Either cool them on the baking sheet or, after a few minutes when the cookies have hardened a bit, transfer them to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

Cognac Buttercream

Adapted from Cupcake Project Vanilla Buttercream


  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar (more if needed for your desired texture)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Cognac, rum, brandy, or liquor of your choice to taste. 2 tablespoon was perfect for me.


  1. Mix butter and icing sugar on medium until creamy.
  2. Add vanilla and cognac to taste. Start with 1 tablespoon and add (to the buttercream--but feel free to take a nip or two for yourself if you want) until you're happy with the flavor.
  3. If you need to, tweak the icing sugar until like the texture.

For the cookies, you will need it to be stiff enough to not run when pressed between cookies, but soft enough to be piped.

Putting Them Together

When the cookies were cool and the buttercream was ready, I spooned the buttercream into a big freezer bag and snipped a small part of one corner off. You can use a pastry bag with a tip if you have one but there's no need to be fancy here.

From there, just pipe a dollop of buttercream onto one cookie, place another cookie on top and press down lightly. I recommend storing the final product  in the fridge to keep the buttercream firm.

I made another batch with rum buttercream, which are good, but there's something about the cognac that I love. I think it's the nice balance between the dark chocolate, the saltiness, and the sweetness that the complexity of the cognac really compliments.

These aren't Oreos, but I think I've found my "close enough" home-made version. In a way, they're better. I can play with buttercream flavors and the World Peace sables are just all around delicious.

I also highly recommend putting the cognac buttercream on top of Gramercy Tavern Ginger Cake. As much as I love it between the cookies, I think it tastes incredible on the ginger cake. Make sure to make the ginger cake and not the gingerbread. It's excellent for people who like their gingerbread dark, spicy, dense, and moist. I don't use a bundt pan because I think they're fiddly, but I have had success with cupcakes and shallow cake pans. I'm sure it would be great in a loaf pan as well. You just have to watch your baking time and keep an eye on it.

Now I just have one boozy dessert left, a Gateau Basque with brandied cherries for Christmas night.

I hope everyone who celebrates has a wonderful, warm, happy, lovely Christmas. And for everyone who doesn't celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a wonderful, happy, lovely, and warm weekend.

Macarons versus Me, Round 2: Romancing the Macaron

On Thursday I decided I wanted to try making macarons again. I thought I would do a trial to see if a new recipe would make a difference. It did! They turned out much prettier than my last batch. I didn't record the process this time. I was actually planning on doing that next week since I wanted to make a couple of batches for Easter, but I don't think I will have the time.

I did pull out my camera when I saw how nice they looked in the oven, so I have a few of the final product. I also have a some notes about what I've learned so far and what I need to work on. Originally, I wanted to make blueberry macarons using a recipe from Cathy Shambley at SlowFood Chef. The recipe is based on Helene Dujardin's Powdered Strawberry Macaron recipe at Tartlette. I actually found the recipe at Tartlette first and thought a blueberry/cream and strawberry/dark chocolate macarons would be perfect for Easter. Luckily, I googled some more and soon found out that Shambley had already tried the Dujardin's recipe with blueberries!

The recipes both call for drying the fruit in the oven at a low temperature for a few hours and processing it into a powder. Unfortunately, my blueberries were still too juicy after the suggested 2 hours, so I scrapped that and decided I would put them in a lemon curd. I will try the original strawberry version next because I love the idea.

Now, on to the shells and what I learned this time around.

The Good

  • My attitude. I decided the best way to conquer the macaron was to have some patience instead of rumbling with them in my kitchen.
  • I found almond meal at a nearby store, put it in the food processor, sifted it, and ensured it was very fine. It was much more like a flour this time, which made a huge difference in making the batter smooth.
  • I got a new pastry bag tip so I had better control over the batter.
  • I used a scale and measured everything precisely which added that extra level of accuracy.
  • The second batch looked like real macaron shells! I did a little dance when I saw that they were smooth on top and had feet. No cracks!

  • I found a vanilla buttercream recipe I like. I normally hate buttercream but the Cupcake Project's Vanilla Bean Buttercream is goo-oo-oood.
The Bad
  • I tested the timing again. One batch went into the oven with only 15 minutes of rest and the second batch had 30 minutes. I've definitely found my macarons crack if they don't sit at least 30 minutes.
  • I used a food coloring gel this time. Instead of adding the gel directly to the batter, I reserved some of the whipped egg whites and added it to them first. Then, as I started to fold the almond flour mix into the egg whites, I added the colored egg whites back into the whole mix. I was focusing so hard on not over-mixing that I forgot about the colored egg whites, so I added them in at the end. . .which caused me to over-mix a bit. Ha! I think this is part of the reason why my shells are flat.

  • I'm not fond of food coloring but I know that's the best way to get those gorgeous colors.
  • The blueberry lemon curd was delicious but a little too squishy. No one wants macaron filling squirting out at them.

What I'm Trying Next

  • Stacking my baking sheets. Apparently this helps insulate the top sheet and keeps the bottom of the macarons from baking too fast.
  • Not over-mixing!
  • Using an Italian meringue recipe. This uses a sugar syrup instead of granular sugar and seems to make fluffier looking macarons (Although, apparently the French meringue I've made is tastier. Hmm.) Pierre Hermé uses Italian meringue. What's good for Pierre Hermé is good for me.
  • Finding confectioners sugar that doesn't have cornstarch in it. I'm not sure this will happen, but I'll be on the lookout for it. Apparently the cornstarch only makes the macaron look duller, so it's not that big of a deal.

Overall, I think this was a huge step forward. I think the results are beautiful and they tasted great. I can't wait to try more!

I still have a lot to learn, but I know I'm getting closer to the right recipe and technique. I'm also having lots of fun!