Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Welcoming Spring with a Vegan Cookie Extravaganza...

Peppermint Oatmeal Carob Cookies

Spring is here! I suppose technically Spring’s been here since the 20th which was the equinox, and truthfully the weather has been very spring-like for most of the month, but this week in particular has felt very much like spring in a lot of ways. The weather has been very warm, a little breezy and we’ve had a few of the traditional spring showers. The sun is out and shining almost everyday, and it’s staying out longer. Everything is golden, and fresh and fragrant. The grass and foliage around here and in the parks has gone from brown and dreary to green and vibrant in only a week’s time. Flowers are opening and reaching for the sky, and my favorite sign of spring, the cherry blossom is in full bloom. Life has moved from inside to outside as children flock to the parks to play and more and more people meander out and about with their dogs. The Canadian Geese and the ducks that chose to migrate further south have returned to the lakes, where they’re preparing to mate. Butterflies have emerged, and birds sing gloriously in the trees while squirrels and bunnies romp in the weeds below.

Lavender Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Spring and Autumn are by far my favorite seasons, both for the beauty they impart on the world and for the feeling of peaceful contentment they instill inside me. Each year I like to do something special to ring in and honor the season, and this year I chose to bake a bunch of spring inspired goodies. This wasn’t the original plan, but as it happens my favorite used book store was having a sale last week, and I just so happened to come across four great vegan finds while perusing the shelves, two of them being vegan baking books. With so many new - to me - wonderfully creative, inspirational, and delicious sounding recipes under my arm this seemed the perfect opportunity to give them a whirl.

Monday morning I woke early, grabbed my books and headed straight for the kitchen, where I popped an audio book into the little portable cd player I keep by the window and set to work. I started with Kelly Peloza’s "The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur." a book I’d flipped through once or twice at my friend J’s without much interest. I think it was the photography that initially turned me off. Most of the photos are dark - too dark in my opinion - and I much prefer cook book photos to be shiny and bright. She does however include a photo with each recipe which I appreciate - dark or not - and I figured for $5 what would be the harm in picking it up? I’m really glad I did because there is some super creative, inspiring and amazing stuff hidden within these pages. There are so many cookie recipes I can’t wait to try out, in fact I was having such a hard time narrowing it down that I made three different recipes from this book.

Top Left - Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies. Top Right - Lemon Cornmeal Cookies.
Bottom - Pink Lemonade Cookies

Though it was tough to choose which recipes to start with I decided to keep with the theme of spring and went for three different lemon flavored cookies. You may think I went a little lemon crazy, but I absolutely love lemons! Especially in the spring and what better ingredient to use when the sun is shining and the world finally feels alive after the decay of winter?

Lemon Cornmeal Cookies

I began with the Lemon Cornmeal Cookies. I chose them because they were relatively quick to put together and because the picture - one of the few that actually isn’t too dark - was so bright, and happy. Just looking at all that magnificent yellow put a smile on my face, and lifted my spirits. Plus you have to admit that the addition of cornmeal in a cookie is just a little bit intriguing, no? I did make a few changes, one out of necessity - I didn’t have soy milk so I used flax instead, it worked perfect! - and the rest out of preference. I used a bit less sugar, a touch of lemon juice, and only rolled one side of each cookie in additional sugar. Trust me that was enough! The cookies baked up quick and were absolutely ‘melt in your mouth’ while still warm from the oven. I loved the lemon flavor of course and really enjoyed the subtle crunch of the cornmeal.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies

Next up were the Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies. This recipe is also accompanied by a relatively bright and happy picture, but it’s not the only thing that put a smile on my face. I mean, is there anyone out there who doesn’t think lemon and poppy seed are a perfect combination? They are truly a match made by the gods, and I am destined to love everything with this unique flavor combination. I adore lemon poppy seed muffins, cupcakes, loaves, rolls etc... but don’t recall ever having had a lemon poppy seed cookie until now. These were absolutely scrumptious! Like the lemon cornmeal cookies these baked up quick and were fast to throw together, which you wouldn’t think from their phenomenal flavor. Again I made a couple of alterations, flax milk instead of Soy, a little less sugar, a touch of lemon juice plus additional zest and I doubled - at least - the amount of poppy seeds.

Pink Lemonade Cookies

Lastly from Peloza I made the Pink Lemonade Cookies, the very sound of which is enough to make anyone smile. However I did not have pink food coloring, nor the ingredients to make my own, and so mine are just regular lemonade cookies I suppose. Still amazing though as the pink is used exclusively for aesthetic value. These cookies, while again simple enough upon first glance were a bit more work. I used flax again, decreased the sugar, added extra zest and a touch of lemon juice. However I found the dough to be kind of sticky, so it was hard to spread into a disk shape on my baking sheet. This may have been my own fault because of my alterations but in any case it was a bit of a process to get the dough to cooperate, and as it happens I was never able to get it to spread into perfect flat disks. Oh well the flavor was impeccable and in the end that’s all that really matters. The thing that makes these cookies so great, and it’s the reason you need them to be flatter rather then round is that you make a lemon butter cream frosting which you spread over half the cookies once they’ve been baked, then place a second cookie on top to make a sandwich cookie. Sort of like a lemon oreo but a thousand times better! The frosting was super simple - again I added extra zest - and squishing the cookies together was a breeze. I highly recommend making these, as well as the other two, especially if you like lemon. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I sure wasn’t, neither were the friends I chose to share these treats with.

For my next two batches I moved onto one of my other new books, Laura Matthias’s Extra Vegan Za. Though there are so many amazing sounding recipes in this book for everything from appetizers to dessert the first recipe I knew I had to try were the Peppermint Oatmeal Carob cookies. First of all who doesn’t love an oatmeal cookie? Secondly this combination just sounded to unique and cool not to try. I’m a huge fan of peppermint as I believe I’ve mentioned, and while I’ve had chocolate peppermint cookies before and peppermint chocolate I’ve never come across the combination of peppermint carob. Nor have I had peppermint in a cookie that wasn’t an all out chocolate cookie. Though I had my heart set on making this one, I was initially a little concerned that I wouldn’t like it. I was worried it might taste overly of peppermint or that the carob would be overwhelming but thankfully neither was the case. Even though I opted to leave out the vanilla extract in favor of extra peppermint extract. This truly was a perfect cookie. Laura says in the book that it’s her favorite and I can clearly see why, in fact it just might be my new favorite as well. Peppermint is a wonderful flavor to use in spring and summer because it’s so fresh and cooling. Mint of all types is extraordinary in salads, grain dishes, desserts, teas you name it and so I thought this cookie was a beautiful choice for a Spring bake-a-thon. What I like best about this cookie though is that you have three strong flavors, none of which overpower the others so you do get a real sense of all of them and they blend together so well. Absolutely amazing, and I never would have thought of it myself!

Lastly, also from Extra Vegan Za, I made the beautiful and delicate Lavender Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Lavender is a perfect choice for spring, it’s fragrant and floral and just the scent alone brings you peace of mind. I love it. Yet even though I almost always have dried culinary lavender on hand I rarely find an occasion to use it. The minute my eyes spied this recipe I knew it was meant to be. I just knew I had to try it out. Like with the peppermint oatmeal carob cookies I was excited yet unsure. I like the taste of lavender but not if it’s overwhelming. Too much lavender can be bitter and unpleasant and so I was hoping that would not be the case with these cookies. In fact Laura states in the book that for the lavender lover or the adventurous, use two tbsp of lavender, for someone less enthused by lavender use 1 tbsp. I started off with the 1 tbsp took a look at the dough and thought ‘what the hell’ and threw in the second tbsp with a little extra for good measure. Always ready for a culinary adventure I figured ‘why not take the plunge?’ I’m so glad I decided to throw caution to the wind because these cookies were magic! With just over 2 tbsp I didn’t find the lavender overwhelming at all, it was perfect, and it blended wonderfully with the chocolate chips. Actually I would go so far as to say that lavender is to chocolate what lemon is to poppy seed. The two go hand in hand, a match made by the infinite wisdom of the universe. Seriously I can’t keep my hands off these little gems and I highly recommend Extra Vegan Za on the basis of these two cookie recipes alone. I can’t wait to see what else Laura has in store!

So that concludes my culinary honoring of Spring. Although I did continue baking Tuesday when I tried my hand at Cinnamon Buns for the first time! An amazing experience that I was going to include in this post, but seeing as how it’s already quite long as it is I’ll save it for tomorrow. Plus I think cinnamon buns are entirely deserving of their very own post anyway.

Also stay tuned for some other exciting stuff I have coming up. I know I’ve been a bit neglectful of the blog this week, and I apologize. I’ve been rather busy and as such I haven’t had the leisure to experiment much with inventing my own recipes. Mostly I’ve been enjoying trying out the cook books I received for Christmas. However since this was originally intended to be a well rounded blog, with more on offer then just recipes I have some very interesting things to share that aren’t necessarily recipe related. Tomorrow we’ll have cinnamon buns, then look out for Friday’s post which will be related to woman’s health.

PS: Apologies also for the poor lighting in some of the photos. Though the sun was bright and shining outside it wasn’t exactly pouring through my kitchen windows at the time I chose to take these photos. And yes, I fully realize the irony of talking about Peloza’s dark photography, when my own in this post isn’t very well lit either. Ha ha... it seems these things happen to all of us from time to time.

*** Note - Also please keep in mind that if you are going to use Lavender in any food recipe, please, please make sure it’s culinary lavender, and not floral or aromatherapy lavender. There is indeed a difference and I assure you, you will not be happy if you get the wrong kind. Usually culinary lavender is easily found in spice shops, herbal shops, health food stores and even some grocery stores. It can also be found for sale as a whole plant that you can then plant in a pot or your garden, which is always fun!***


  1. Wow, you've been busy...your cookies look amazing, I can almost taste them! Ah a cup of coffee and a few of your chocolate mint or lavender cookies would be a nice treat! S.T.

  2. Maaaaannnn!!!! I forgot about all these cookies! I loved most of those cookies & want them all right now after reading this entry. The lemon ones turned out SO well! Good choices to make!