These cookies have become a holiday favourite in my family. I love getting creative in the kitchen and making cookies that can be cut into different shapes and decorated. These vegan cookies have the perfect buttery consistency that is reminiscent of traditional shortbread cookies, without the use of any dairy or animal products. The star of this show, blackstrap molasses, sets these cookies apart from the traditional version of this recipe. Molasses also adds the health benefits of being rich in magnesium, vitamin B6, potassium, calcium and iron. These cookies are made dairy free by using organic unrefined virgin coconut oil in place of butter. Coconut oil, which in its most natural and unrefined form, is healing, boosts immunity and is one of the few oils that is safe to cook with at high temperatures.
To sweeten these cookies, coconut palm sugar is used, which is organic sugar made from the sap and nectar of coconut palm trees. It has a creamy, caramel-like flavour and can be substituted for refined sugar on a 1 to 1 ratio. The benefit of subbing in coconut sugar is that it has a glycemic rating of 35, meaning that it is slowly absorbed into the blood stream and will not cause a sugar spike. Low-glycemic index foods (less than 55) produce a gradual rise in blood sugar levels and this is easier on the body. In fact, foods that are low on the glycemic index appear to stave off heart disease, prevent type 2 diabetes, curb appetite and could even help raise energy levels. As a comparison, foods that have high-glycemic index numbers, meaning more than 70, make blood sugar levels as well as insulin levels spike fast. Foods like white bread, melba toast and lifesaver candies all rank at 70 on the index and table sugar (sucrose) ranks at 65 on the index as being a intermediate-glycemic index food.*
making these cookies gluten-free
This recipe works perfectly with gluten-free flour, however, you may choose to use regular flour for these cookies if that is what you have on hand. When selecting gluten-free flour my preference is to use 1-to-1 gluten-free baking flours as there is no guess-work involved. I always try to avoid gluten-free flour mixes that contain conventional potato and corn starch because I am wary about using non-organic potato and corn since these are often grown with pesticides and are commonly genetically modified. I have tested out a number of gluten-free flours over the years and I have found the best results with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour.
The beautiful cookies that I have photographed and included within this post were baked and decorated by my friend Stacey who is a talented vegan home chef. She has generously shared her recipe for the icing that she used and I have included the instructions in the last step of this recipe. It is super simple to make and the result is impressive.
And now for the recipe that will have your whole home smelling like freshly baked, delicious holiday cookies!
Yield: about 3 dozen cookies
2 + 1/2 cups gluten-free flour
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar, packed (or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/16 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda (aluminum free)
1/2 cup organic unrefined virgin coconut oil
3 tablespoon organic blackstrap molasses (un-sulphured)
1/4 cup filtered water
1 teaspoon vanilla
Optional icing: non-dairy milk & icing sugar
(Use organic ingredients)
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF and line 2 cookie sheets with unbleached, chlorine-free parchment paper.
2. Add flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and baking soda to the bowl of a stand mixer with a flat beater attachment and stir to combine. Alternatively, this can be done by hand in a large bowl, by mixing with a whisk or spatula to combine.
3. Add coconut oil and mix slowly until the mixture has turned to coarse crumbs.
4. Add molasses, water and vanilla to the crumb mixture. Mix until incorporated and dough forms into a ball. You may choose to add extra water (1 teaspoon at a time), if necessary, but be careful not to over do it, otherwise the dough will be too sticky and difficult to manage.
5. Turn dough out onto a piece of parchment paper and shape into a flat disk. Roll between two large pieces of parchment to ¼ inch thickness. Cut into approximately 2-inch square shapes using cookie cutters, pastry or pizza slicer or a knife and using a spatula transfer cookies to onto lined cookie sheets. These cookies will not spread much so 1 inch between will be sufficient.
Note: The dough is very forgiving, but be sure to you keep it at ¼ inch thickness so that the cookies don’t break when you move them to the cookie sheets for baking.
6. Bake 15 minutes, until slightly darkened around edges. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for at least 10 minutes. They will still be soft when you first take them out of the oven, but they will harden as they cool.
7. Once the cookies have cooled decorate with icing. This step is optional, but highly recommended. To make the icing mix 1 part non-dairy milk with 3 parts icing sugar. Pour icing into a piping bag, or make your own piping bag by filling a plastic bag with icing and then cut one of the bottom corners off. To make filling your piping easier, stand the bag up in a tall glass.
Store cookies in an airtight container and enjoy.
* McCord, Holly, RD. "Your Guide To The Glycemic Index." Prevention. N.p., 01 Nov. 2011. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.