sweets

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.

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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.

Ingredients 

  • 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)

Instructions

  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! 

Holiday Gift Guide

Instead of the usual Friday 10 today is a Friday 15 full of gifts ideas. In the spirit of the site, there are simple luxuries and fancy splurges alike for food lovers, readers, and travellers. 

What I did not add, however, is one of my favourite gifts: an experience. This can be something as simple as a lunch with a loved one, a pass to their favourite place (a park? a museum?), or a weekend getaway. Sometimes making memories is far better than collecting things. 

histoiretravelgiftguide2014
  1. My Paris Kitchen Recipes and Stories by David Lebovitz ($25.71 CAD hardcover) | A collection of beautiful recipes, stories, and photos from David Lebovitz's Paris. 
  2. Blood Orange Oolong by Sloane Teas ($17.00 CAD for 100g of loose tea) | Flavourful, fancy and festive tea packed in a tin that's pretty enough to display. I love their Heavenly Cream, too! 
  3. Twelve Assorted Macaron Happy Holidays Travel Box from Nadège Patisserie ($27.50 CAD) | Indulgent flavours perfect for celebrating the holidays: candy cane, whisky chocolate, champagne, chocolate, salted caramel, blackberry chocolate, cherry chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, cotton candy, cappucino, and matcha green tea. 
  4. Cashmere Blend Reading Socks from Indigo ($39.50 CAD) | Warm and cozy socks to make winter reading that much more indulgent. Would pair perfectly with a great book or a tea and mug. 
  5. Personalized Passport Holder by Tagsmith ($60 USD) | I love the natural leather color and the subtle initial stamping. If monogramming isn't your thing, they have a plain one as well. Also available in Bridle and Dark Brown.
  6. Terrain Mug glazed in Alabaster by Sam Nichols Pottery ($32.00 USD) | A classic hand thrown mug thats perfect for coffee or tea any time of day and any time of year.
  7. RazorPlus from myCharge ($49.99 USD) |  A thin, lightweight portable smartphone charger with USB port. Great for travel since it can give you up to 13 hours of talk time.
  8. National Park Blanket (shown in Rocky Mountain) from Pendleton ($199 - $239 USD) | Heirloom quality, beautiful historical patterns, and perfect for the outdoorsy among us. 
  9. iPad Mini Leather and Wool Case by cinnamon cocoon ($45.00 USD) | A blend of function and beauty. I bought one of these for my dad last year. Not only did he love it, but my mom loved it so much that she bought herself a laptop case. Lovely sellers and quick shipping (although it took awhile to make it halfway around the world) when I dealt with them. 
  10. Monarch Desk Calendar by Rifle Paper Co.  ($16.00 USD) | I used the 2014 Cities version this year and fell in love with it. I snapped up the 2015 Monarch version up as quickly as I could. The illustrations are so lovely and whimsical that it always brightens my day.
  11. GorillaPod Hybrid from Joby ($38.00 CAD) | A small go anywhere, wrap around anything flexible tripod. Grab the GripTight Mount (18.00 CAD) to use with iPhone and Android smartphones, too. 
  12. Kobo Aura H2O from Kobo ($179.99 CAD) | The first waterproof* and dustproof eReader. No need to "seal" your reader in two big ziplock bags at the beach or during a bath. (Everyone does that right?) *Up to 30 min in 1M of water with the port closed (Who is even reading underwater at all, let alone for 30 minutes?)
  13. Kenyatta Shaving Case from WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie ($295) | A definite splurge. But it’s so elegant—I would be happy to own one!—and it has a removable interior lining that makes clean-up easy. 
  14. Emile Henry Artisan Ruffled Pie Dish by Emile Henry ($49.95) | Perfect for the baker in your life. Not only is it hand-glazed, but each piece is cast, inspected and signed by hand. Plus, it's the prettiest pie plate I’ve ever seen.
  15. Fujifilm X-TI from Fujifilm ($1598.95 USD) | A major upgrade from the typical point-and-shoot. This mirrorless camera has the image quality but not the bulk of a DSLR. The most expensive gift, by far, but it's fantastic for amateur photographers and travellers who are serious about taking their photos to a new level. Want other recommendations in different price ranges? Check out the Wirecutter’s reviews of digital cameras

As always, have a happy weekend! 

Friday 10: Pies, Poison, a Podcast, and Passes

This week has flown by! I had my birthday on Tuesday and pretty much ate my way through it. Then on Wednesday, S and I went to a Toronto Maple Leafs game. I think it was my first game at the Air Canada Centre and we had a great time. The Leafs destroyed the Bruins. We paid approximately 1 zillion dollars for me to have a collectors cup full of Coke Zero. I drank it all. I don’t think I ever want to drink Coke Zero again. We stayed up way past my bedtime and I think I’m still paying the price. I am old now, what can I say?

So figured it was a good week for a link roundup! There’s some Ham, some Histoire, and some Travel. 

The Ham

#1  We received a huge pile of carrots in our CSA box this week. Melissa Joulwan’s recipe for Cumin Roasted Carrots came highly recommended to me. It seemed perfect for the season, so I’m giving it a try tonight. 

#2  On the less healthy side, Serious Eats’s list of 11 Must-Try Pies Across America seems like a good reason to go on a road-trip, right? Not to be biased, but I’d probably start in DC for the Baltimore Bomb which is described by Dangerously Delicious Pies as “loaded with Berger Cookies (a Baltimore specialty) that melt down and swirl into a sweet vanilla chess filling.” Sign me up!

#3  Italian master barista Ettore Diana gives coffee at McDonald’s and Starbucks a thumbs up. Take that coffee snobs!

The Histoire

#4  My favorite video and link of the week. Vince Speranza, a WWII vet, tells the story of returning to the French town of Bastogne 65 years later and finding out he’s a legend. It’s a must-see! You’ll probably want to check this out after you watch, too. 

#5  A look at the strange, fascinating history of poisonous Victorian clothing (link via Stuff You Missed in History Class). The exhibition that inspired the article, Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Centuryis on at Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum until June 30th, 2016. 

The Travel

#6  I’m daydreaming of staying in the Ufogel (€120/night), a Tyrollean house and "spatial wonder." I can just imagine cozying up with hot drinks to watch the snow fall on that beautiful landscape after a long day of attempting to ski.

via  Apartments for Sale Paris  and Paris Perfect |  Saint Aubin

via Apartments for Sale Paris and Paris Perfect | Saint Aubin

#7  I’m also daydreaming of buying this fully-furnished Paris apartment. It’s located in the 7th arrondissement and has an Eiffel Tower view. I’m not sure if €915,000 (approximately $1.2 million) is a deal or not, but it seems like it after seeing what Toronto prices have been doing lately. 

#8  I have been looking into the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France a lot  lately and this lovely post about the seaside town of Collioure from Girl in Florence has only sparked my wanderlust more. 

#9  Are those museum passes worth the money? I generally skip them because we don’t hop from museum to museum fast enough. The New York Times takes a look at Amsterdam, Madrid, Florence and Paris to see what kind of bang for your buck you are actually getting. 

The Wildcard

#10 And, finally, I’ve been completely mesmerized by a podcast called Serial. This season (I say that in hopes that there will be more) is all about the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a young high school student in Baltimore. If you are one of the few who has not heard of it, give it a listen.

That's it for this week! The flurries were flying as I wrote this. I think I'll go settle down with some tea, a book, and a down throw!

I hope you have a happy and warm weekend.