If you’re not on a specialized diet yourself, you know someone who is. Just within my circle, there are vegetarians and vegans, folks who’ve gone gluten-free both by necessity and by choice, a few diabetics and one pre-diabetic.
It’s impossible to bake something that works for everyone, but I do try to satisfy several at a time. The cookies here are the result of that.
The almond-coconut cookies are both vegan and gluten-free. They started with a recipe I found online, but they weren’t dressy enough for a celebratory time of year. My first tester (my husband) said “they need something.” I came up with the various chocolate toppings and that indeed was the “something” lacking.
The raspberry pastry twists are not sweet, so they work for people watching their sugar intake. (They also work for breakfast.) They’re a different kind of filled cookie than you often see on holiday cookie plates.
And of course, you can make them sweeter with a sprinkle of sugar or – oh my – a dunk in that same chocolate topping I created for the almond cookies.
Chocolate-drizzled coconut almond cookies
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus 20 minutes chill time
Cook time: 12 to 15 minutes per batch
Makes about 30
Recipe adapted by Kathy Morrison for The Bee.
Note: To toast almonds, spread them on an ungreased baking sheet and toast in a 350-degree oven for about 8 minutes. (Don’t let them burn.) Allow to cool.
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup almond meal or ground almonds
1 1/4 cups gluten-free oat flour or ground gluten-free oats
1/4 cup coconut flour (or another 1/4 cup oat flour)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Chocolate topping (1st topping alternative):
1 generous tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened, such as Hershey’s)
1 cup whole almonds, optional, toasted
Cocoa sprinkling (2nd topping alternative):
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon organic granulated sugar
In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut, almond flour, oat flour, coconut flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl, combine the agave nectar or maple syrup, almond or coconut milk, coconut oil and almond extract.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix.
Put the batter in the refrigerator to chill for 20 to 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Using a 1 1/4-inch scoop or two spoons, form the cookies and arrange them on the baking sheet at least 1 inch apart. (These don’t spread or flatten, so flatten them slightly if desired.)
Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and cool completely.
For chocolate topping: Combine the coconut oil, vanilla and agave nectar in a small bowl. Using a sieve or sifter, add the cocoa powder. Stir together and keep stirring, with a fork or a small whisk, until the topping thickens and turns glossy. Drizzle the topping over the cooled cookies with a fork or bamboo skewer, or cap the cookies with topping using a spatula, and add one toasted almond to the topping before it hardens.
This makes enough topping to drizzle all the cookies or “cap” about two-thirds of them.
For cocoa sprinkling: Combine cocoa and granulated sugar and sprinkle over the cookies either before or after baking.
Testing and tasting
These gluten-free and vegan cookies are moist and coconuty. You can skip the chocolate topping if you want, but why would you?
▪ I had coconut flour, so substituted it for some of the oat flour. It ups the coconut flavor a little. That’s personal preference, as is the agave vs. the maple syrup and almond milk vs. coconut milk. They all seem to work fine.
▪ When I flattened some of the cookies, they seemed a little drier, so take a minute off the baking time if you do that.
▪ The chocolate topping is magical stuff: Keep stirring until an emulsion forms as the coconut oil stars to cool. The topping eventually will harden, but not quickly, so it’s easy to work with.
▪ The cookies keep well in a tin at room temperature, but you also can refrigerate them.
▪ Tasters liked all the variations, and most said the cookies didn’t taste vegan or gluten-free. One taster noted that she expected to prefer the drizzled ones, but liked the cocoa topping one the best: “The intensity of the powder does it for me.”
Raspberry pastry twists
Prep time: 1 hour plus overnight chill time and dough relax time
Cook time: 13 minutes per batch
Makes 4 dozen cookies
Solo brand’s raspberry filling can be found in supermarkets alongside the canned pie fillings. (Apricot also would be good.)
Recipe adapted by Kathy Morrison for The Bee from Taste of Home Cookies magazine (2011).
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
6 tablespoons raspberry pastry filling, such as Solo brand
Sugar for sprinkling, optional
In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the salt and the egg yolks. Gradually add the flour. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Remove dough from the refrigerator 1 hour before rolling.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Divide the dough in half. Roll one portion into an 8-inch-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread 3 tablespoons raspberry filling over one half of the rectangle longways. Fold the plain portion of the dough over the filling.
Using a sharp knife, cut the rectangle into 24 pieces, each 1/2-inch wide. Twist each piece three times, pinching the ends, and place on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other rectangle.
Note: If desired, before baking, brush cookies lightly with water and sprinkle on granulated sugar.
Bake for 13 minutes or until light golden brown. Immediately remove cookies from the pan to wire racks to cool.
Testing and tasting
▪ This is stretchy dough. But make sure it’s smooth before adding the filling – twisting exposes any cracks in the dough.
▪ Don’t add more than the suggested amount of filling because it squeezes out the sides when you twist it.
▪ I found it useful to have a damp paper towel nearby to clean my hands off between cookies.
▪ The original recipe said to use ungreased baking sheets, but the resulting cooked-on filling was too messy for me. When I switched to parchment paper, the cookies came off easier and the pan was much easier to clean.
▪ The taste is similar to pie dough. I found my cookies browning quicker than I expected, given the photo in the magazine (their cookies show hardly any brown at all). So be prepared to take them out sooner if you want the look of candy canes. I think browning the twists a bit more would make them crisper. Try a test pan to see which you prefer.
▪ These cookies went over well at dinner as well as among newsroom tasters. They are excellent with tea.