Holiday Goodies to Share

(originally published December 2002, in Co-options, the newsletter of Sevanada Natural Foods Cooperative in Atlanta, GA. http://www.sevananda.coop)

It’s that time of year again – Baking Season. I have friends whose ovens are never lit any other time of year, but they suddenly become Betty Crockers over the holidays. Baking cookies to give to friends and send to loved ones around the globe helps us feel connected and brings back warm memories of family, hearth, and home. It’s also a great activity to do with children – either yours or some you’ve borrowed for the occasion.

There’s nothing nicer than getting a care package in the mail, but a lot of holiday cookies are too fragile to mail, or don’t hold up to our humid Decembers in the South. Bar cookies (like brownies and blondies) on the other hand, will stay fresh for days and don’t mind a little rough handling.

I’m going to give you a few bar cookie recipes with lots of variations, but if you have a favorite cookie recipe you’d like to convert into a vegan bar cookie, follow these basic rules:

1) Any drop cookie recipe can become a bar cookie. If the recipe makes about 4 dozen 2 inch drop cookies it will make a 9 x 13 pan of bar cookies.
2) Don’t try a recipe that contains more than 2 eggs. Substitute Ener-G egg replacer for eggs as directed on the package (1 1/2 teaspoons of powder + 2 tablespoons water per egg).
3) Use Earth Balance instead of butter. (This works well for drop and bar cookies, but doesn’t make crisp cookies. You’ll need a hard stick margarine like Tree of Life or Willow Run for crisp cookies.)
4) Most cookie recipes don’t contain milk, but if yours does, use full-fat soy milk instead.
5) Use unbleached sugar to replace white sugar, and Sucanat along with a bit of maple syrup (about 2 tablespoons per cup of sugar) to replace brown sugar.
6) Use unbleached pasty or all purpose flour instead of white flour, or use a 50-50 mix of unbleached flour and whole wheat pastry flour to add a little additional fiber to your cookies.

When they’re finished, here’s how to make your bar cookies look their nicest and stay their freshest:
1) Let the cookies cool thoroughly in their pans.
2) Cut the cookies carefully into your preferred shapes and sizes. An assortment of squares, rectangles, and triangles (each flavor cut a different shape) makes a nice looking package.
3) Wrap each bar snugly in plastic wrap. They look nicest if you put the cookie upside down on the wrap and then pull the excess to the back and fold it down neatly, leaving a smooth top to show off in your box.
4) Pack the wrapped cookies in a sturdy box or tin. A nice holiday tin looks pretty, but a cardboard box wrapped in holiday paper also works, and is nearly free! Set either into a slightly larger cardboard box for mailing.
5) If there is any space left in your box, you can fill the rest with plain popped corn (in plastic bags to reduce mess) or crumpled tissue paper to keep your cookies from bouncing around. The leftover popped corn can go outside as a present to the birds or get strung as a tree garland.
7) A copy of the cookie recipe(s) makes a nice additional and lasting present. Print it neatly on an index card you’ve decorated yourself. Make sure to include your name and the date.

Warm, Bright, Healthy, and Happy Holidays to you and yours and Happy Baking!

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Basic Vegan Bar Cookies (with variations)

Recipe By: Lisa T. Bennett
Serving Size: 12
Preparation Time: 1:00

8 ounces (1 cup or 1/2 tub) Earth Balance margarine
2 cups Sucanat
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon Ener-G egg replacer
1/4 cup water

2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour pastry
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 X 13 inch pan (for thick, chunky cookies) or a 10 x 15 inch jelly roll pan (for thin bite-size bars).
Cream together the Earth Balance and sugar or Sucanat. Beat in maple syrup, vanilla, and the Ener-G egg replacer mixed with water. Set aside.

Sift together dry ingredients. Mix in wet ingredients. Spread mixture into brownie pan, and sprinkle with toppings of choice (see variations below, or make up your own). Bake at 350 until set and just beginning to crack in center (20-25 minutes for thin bars or 30-35 minutes for thick bars). Don’t overbake! Let sit for 10 – 15 minutes before serving or cool completely to cut and wrap for giving.
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Variations:

Platinum Blondies – add 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts to batter and sprinkle an additional 1/2 cup over pan. Press nuts gently into batter before baking as directed.

Blondies – to Platinum Blondies, add 1/2 cup chocolate chips to batter and 1/2 cup on top of nuts. Press toppings down lightly into batter before baking as directed.

Mocha-Hazelnut Blondies (Dirty Blondies) – Substitute 1/4 cup strong brewed coffee for water in basic recipe, add 2 teaspoons coffee extract or 2 tablespoons Kahlua or other coffee liquer, add 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts to batter and sprinkle another half-cup of each over top of batter. Press down lightly into batter before baking as directed.

Chocolate-Cherry (or Apricot) Blondies – add 1/2 cup chopped dried cherries (or dried apricots) and 1/2 cup chocolate chips to batter. Top with 1/2 cup chocolate chips. (Optional – 1/2 cup chopped pecans in batter and anther 1/2 cup on top).

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Triple Chocolate Vegan Brownies (and Peanut Butter Brownies)

Recipe By: Jennifer Franklin, formerly of Sevananda
Serving Size: 12
Preparation Time: 1:00

8 ounces (1 cup or 1/2 tub) Earth Balance margarine
2 cups Sucanat
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon Ener-G egg replacer
1/4 cup water
1 cup non-dairy chocolate chips, melted
1 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour pastry
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips reserved

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 X 13 inch pan (for thick, chunky cookies) or a 10 x 15 inch jelly roll pan (for thin bite-size bars).

Cream together the Earth Balance and sugar or Sucanat. Beat in maple syrup, vanilla, and the Ener-G egg replacer mixed with water. Set aside.

Sift together dry ingredients. Mix in wet ingredients, alternately with melted chocolate. Spread mixture into brownie pan, and sprinkle with chips and walnuts. Bake at 350 until set and just beginning to crack in center (20-25 minutes for thin bars or 30-35 minutes for thick bars). Don’t overbake! Let sit for 10 – 15 minutes before serving.
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Notes: For Peanut Butter Brownies – omit walnuts. Spread batter with 1 cup natural peanut butter, and sprinkle top with 1/2 cup chopped peanuts. Bake as directed, cool brownies. Melt 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips and add 2 teaspoons canola oil to the chocolate. Mix thoroughly. Dip a fork in the melted chocolate and sling chocolate onto brownies in random patterns (or “active” patterns like Jackson Pollack). Set chocolate by placing brownies in refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes.

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Aloha Blondies
You can almost feel those warm tropical breezes when you bit into one of these!

Recipe By: Lisa T. Bennett, The Organic Goddess Vegan Bakery
Serving Size: 12
Preparation Time: 1:00

8 ounces margarine Earth Balance
2 cups unbleached sugar
1/2 cup crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
2 teaspoons coconut extract or flavor
1 tablespoon Ener-G egg replacer powder
2 cups unbleached pastry or all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour pastry
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup dried coconut, shredded
1 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dried coconut, shredded, reserved

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 X 13 inch pan with non-stick spray.

Cream Earth Balance and unbleached sugar together. Stir pineapple in juice and coconut extract into creamed mixture. Add Ener-G egg replacer powder to mix.

Sift flours, baking powder, and baking soda together. Add to creamed mixture. Stir in 1 cup coconut and macadamia nuts.

Spread batter into pan, and top with reserved 1/2 cup of coconut. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes, or until sides pull away from pan and center is firm.
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Notes: Aloha Blondies begin with a wetter batter and take longer to bake than the “basic” blondies. The pineapple juice reduces while the blondies are baking, and the coconut in the batter absorbs this pineapple syrup, while the coconut on top toasts to add another flavor dimension to these moist treats.

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Fudgy Brownies (Very Low Fat)
If you want a delicious chocolate brownie with very little fat, try this one. It’s not supersweet like most low fat desserts and is really satisfying.

Recipe By: FatFree Recipe Archive (www.fatfree.com)
Serving Size: 9
Preparation Time: 0:45

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached sugar
1 tablespoon Ener-G egg replacer
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup applesauce
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp Kahlua (or coffee extract)
1 Tbsp peanut butter

Spray 8X8 pan with non-stick spray. In a medium bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. (Measure ingredients before sifting.)

Combine peanut butter with Kahlua warmed in the microwave or on stovetop. The mixture will be gluey.

In a large bowl, mix peanut butter mixture with sugar. It will be crumbly and won’t mix entirely.

Whisk water into egg relacer powder, then whisk this mixture, the applesauce, and vanilla into sugar/peanut butter mixture. Mix dry ingredients into wet. Stir only until well combined. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes at 350 F. Do not overbake.

Variations: Replace 1/4 cup of flour with whole wheat flour.
Replace peanut butter with almond butter and Kahlua with Ameretto or almond extract.

It just doesn’t seem like the holiday season to me unless I make at least one batch of my family’s favorite pecan sands. I’m going to give you the recipe for those (don’t tell my Aunt Evelyn!), but here’s the caveat: they just aren’t any good made with Earth Balance. They don’t get crisp and dry enough unless you make them with a hydrogenated soy margarine like Tree of Life’s unsalted version. I don’t recommend hydrogenated fats (there are no safe levels of trans fats, which result from eating hydrogenated fats), but if you want to splurge, these are the cookies I’d do it with! They also travel well and make a nice compliment to the bar cookies in a gift box. Just make sure they’re packed separately – they don’t like moisture.

Pecan Sands

Recipe By: Lisa Bennett, The Organic Goddess Vegan Bakery
Serving Size: 48
Preparation Time: 1:00

2 cups flour unbleached pastry
5 tablespoons powder sugar unbleached
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 sticks unsalted margarine soy, melted
1 cup pecans chopped
2 cups powdered sugar to roll cookies in

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper if desired.

Stir together flour and sugar. Mix vanilla extract and water into melted margarine.

Stir wet ingredients into dry and add pecan pieces. The dough will be smooth and oily. Form 1/2 inch balls using a tiny (#40) melon baller or ice cream scoop. Bake cookies on *top rack of oven* for 15-20 minutes, or until bottoms just barely beginning to color. Don’t overbake (don’t let them brown), but bake them long enough to dry them thoroughly. Let cookies cool. (They will get drier and crisper as they cool.)

Sift unbleached powdered sugar or run it through a food processor until smooth. Place in reusable plastic bag (zip-top). Put cooled cookies in bag and coat with unbleached sugar. Serve, or store in an air-tight container for up to one month