Vegan peanut butter and chocolate chip biscuits

Joe (she added the ‘E’ because that’s how she rolled) was beautiful, sweet, wise, brave, funny, passionate, a letter writer, smart as a whip, suffered from a chronic illness but never complained. An absolutely devoted wife, her equally devoted husband is bereft without his soul mate. Beloved baby sister of the Yak, a loving daughter, a committed vegan, animal lover and mother to two very fine cats. An amazing Aunt, sender of wonderful Christmas packages to our boys, the best of sister-in-laws and a true friend to many.

We are lost, The Yak is undone. She died far too young. As I write this it’s raining, like some cliched Hallmark movie. Except that real grief is not like a Hallmark movie. It’s hard, cold and shit.

The Yak made it to her bedside in the UK hours before she died, he went thinking he would be keeping her company in hospital. He came home for a short time then flew back again for her funeral. The tryanny of distance. The lads and I are preparing to leave on our pre-planned trip to the UK to meet up with The Yak. The original purpose was to visit with our Joe.

I have not had the heart to bake, write or blog. But it had been in my mind for the longest time to do a vegan post just for her. So here it is. Vegan peanut butter chocolate biscuits, I hope Joe would have loved them. Just like we loved her.

VEGAN PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE CHIP BISCUITS

WHAT YOU NEED
1/2 cup unsalted natural peanut butter
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white caster sugar (see cooking note below)
1/4 cup almond milk
1 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder or 1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp ground flaxseed (this can be omitted if you don’t have it, it assists in binding the ingredients a little more)
1 cup vegan dark chocolate chips

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
Place the peanut butter, grapeseed oil, sugars and almond milk into a large bowl. (If you are using vanilla essence add it here.) Beat well until the ingredients are well combined. (I used an electric hand beater.)
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and vanilla bean powder into the bowl with the peanut butter mixture. Add the ground flaxseed and stir well.
Mix in the chocolate chips.
Roll heaped teaspoons full of the dough into round balls and place on the baking tray allowing room for spreading.
Bake at 180 for 12-15 minutes until light golden brown.
Let cool on the tray slightly then remove to a wire rack to complete cooling.
This made about 22 biscuits.

Cooking Note: it appears that in some parts of the world, some white sugar is processed using bone char. Ewww. That appears not to be the case in Australia but to be safe, I imagine vegans would check it out before they used a particular brand of sugar.

Recipe adapted from the Vegan Yoga Life blog. Link follows photos.

Original recipe:

Vegan Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Gluten free chocolate fudge biscuits and bringing glad back

Yes, it may be a bit Pollyanna of me (for those of you who remember the book and movie) but I am single-handedly bringing back the word ‘glad’.

Somewhere along the way, the word ‘grateful’ has become incredibly popular. Leaving it’s less glamorous cousin ‘glad’ sitting sadly against the wall, not unlike an unwanted wallflower at a school dance.

Considering myself a champion for the unpopular, daggy and less than glamorous; I have popped ‘glad ‘ into my handbag of current and favourite words. It somehow speaks of a more refined time. It is not effusive, nor is it ‘in yo face’.

Intrinsically, both words have similar dictionary meanings.

glad: feeling pleasure or happiness, grateful, willing
grateful: thankful, feeling or showing appreciation

To be grateful or show gratitude is a little bit Hollywood. To be glad sounds more London Westend musical. The understated vibe of the word ‘glad’ brings to mind adorable pastel coloured 1950’s hats adorned with fake flowers. It harks back to a time when lads and lasses dressed impeccably in pinstriped boating attire and daintily nibbled on teensy weensy cucumber sandwiches. I will leave ‘grateful’ to the gushing vocabulary of actors swathed in sequinned gowns and pretending to chow down on miniature sushi handrolls topped with beluga caviar.

All in all, I am glad that I found this lovely biscuit recipe on the web. (Not a spiders web but the world wide version.) It didn’t turn out as I had thought. In my minds eye, I envisaged that these cookies would be crunchy but then I went and changed the recipe. (Only because I lacked some of the necessary ingredients.) Ordinarily, I would not post a recipe that could be deemed a failure but to us they were chewy, richly chocolate and unctuous. Less biscuit, more like a brownie or cake.

Strangely enough, our cornflake biscuit eschewing lads, adored these. Go figure.

GLUTEN FREE CHOCOLATE FUDGE BISCUITS

WHAT YOU NEED
2 tbl grapeseed oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean powder and added it in with the dry ingredients.)
2 tbl golden syrup
1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/4 cup plus 1 tbl Cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
3 tbl cornflour
A pinch of salt
1 tbl milk

HOW YOU DO IT
Place all the wet ingredients except for the milk into a food processor or blender and mix until combined.
Add in all the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
Add the milk and pulse until mixed through.
Place the mixture into a bowl and place into the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes. (Mine was in there for 2 hours.)
Preheat the oven to 170C/350F and line two trays with baking paper.
Place large tablespoons of the mixture onto the trays leaving a gap of at least 3 cm /1 inch as they will spread. Place the trays back in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Remove the trays and place in the oven for 16-18 minutes, they will be slightly cracked on top. (Just like me…)
Cool on the tray for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack for cooling. They will harden up a little as they cool.
Made 19 biscuits.

Very lightly adapted from a recipe from the Mummy Made blog. The link to the original recipe is provided after the photos.

http://mummymade.it/2014/01/chocolate-ripple-bisuits.html


Spelt Anzac Biscuits

With Easter a not so distant chocolatey memory, those of us in Australia and New Zealand, turn our attention to Anzac Day this coming Friday. Anzac stands for ‘Australia and New Zealand Army Corp’ and this important national holiday marks the anniversary of the first military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces in World War I.

Anzac Day has become a day to commemorate those brave soldiers who fought in the battle of Gallipoli in 1915 and also serves as a way of remembering all of our soldiers who lost their lives in World Wars I, II and and all military operations since then.

This brief description fails to convey the intangible ‘spirit of Anzac’ that is ingrained in the psyche of both our nations. It speaks of courage, humility, humour, mateship, understatement and facing unbeatable odds. The humble Anzac biscuit imbues this spirit and is a much loved biscuit, especially on Anzac Day.

A little bit of Anzac bikkie history, according to Alexa Johnston’s ‘Ladies: a Plate’. This biscuit wasn’t actually sent to New Zealand soldiers at Gallipolli as popular legend has it, at least, not under this name. Professor Helen Leach of Otago University researched the history of this biscuit and discovered that is wasn’t named until the year after World War I ended.

My adapted version is a little more like the recipe published in the 1933 Ideal Cookery Book, published by the Plunket Society. A Mrs Wyvern Wilson (strangely my mothers maiden name but no relation, I think!) used a well known formula of wholemeal flour and walnuts without oats. She also used much less sugar than today’s regular recipes. I do use oats and avoid nuts so they can be sent to school. If you have no spelt flour, it is just as good using wholemeal plain flour.

Not overly sweet, these biscuits have caramel undertones. The initial bite is crunchy but morphs into a delicious chewiness as you munch your way through it. The smell of them baking cries ‘childhood’ and ‘eat me now!’

Even though I consider myself somewhat of a pacifist, I am thankful for the sacrifices these brave men made to ensure the freedom of many. There exists a photograph of my maternal grandfather from World War II. He is on a horse, in Egypt. A young, handsome New Zealand soldier version of Lawrence Olivier. My other Pop worked on the railways back in New Zealand as he was unable to enlist due to health reasons.

Both of these men contributed to the war effort, as did all those left at home who assisted in other meaningful and valued ways. How lucky we were that our Pop came back. (Well, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here and that would really suck.)

Lest we forget.

Spelt Anzac biscuits

YOU NEED
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup desiccated coconut
3/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour (or wholemeal plain flour)
2/3 cup coconut sugar (or raw caster sugar, rapadura sugar)
115g butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp boiling water

WHAT YOU DO
Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. If you like, pop the trays into the fridge to get them cold, this does help the biscuit (somehow!) but I don’t always do it.
In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, coconut, flour and sugar.
Place butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon until they have melted together.
Put the baking soda in a cup, add the boiling water and mix to dissolve the soda before pouring it into the mixture in the saucepan.
Stir with a wooden spoon then tip it into the dry ingredients and mixture to a crumbly mixture.
Drop heaped teaspoonfuls on the trays, or roll into balls for a more even shape, leaving 3cm of space around each biscuit as they do spread.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until they have spread out and are a dark golden colour. I like to give them 8 minutes then turn the trays around to ensure even baking.
Cool on a rack, Make sure they are fully cooled before storing as this helps to keep them crisp. Store in an airtight container.
Makes 18 biscuits.

A cheergerm adaptation from ‘Ladies, A Plate. Traditional home baking’ by Alexa Johnston


Shortbread for a hungry Silly Yak

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‘It’s not fair!’, cried The Yak, stamping his coeliac foot and crossing his coeliac arms. ‘Everybody except me gets to eat your shortbread at Christmas.’ Pouting doesn’t normally work in this household but I am nothing if not kind. Also, I had previously set myself a challenge and it was time to woman up.

Gluten free shortbread has arrived and the Yak is once again a happy man.

The experiment started with golden butter from New Zealand that glittered like Smaug’s treasure. Then basically, I just substituted the plain flour in my regular recipe with a quality brand of plain gluten free flour.

Methinks the key is to only knead the mixture for a minute or two, just enough to bring it together. It also requires a bit longer baking than my usual shortbread.

A batch was sent along to the Yak’s place of employment….although he is a begrudging sharer. The feedback was glowing. (At least that’s what The Yak told me.) They are delicate and moreish, and the Yak thinks every bit as delicious as the gluten laden version.

I concur Sir Yak, I concur.

The big test? Neither Kid 1 or Kid 2 clocked that they were GF…..a pretty good test in my books.

Sure, you can find store bought gluten free shortbread these days but I challenge you to accept the challenge that I challenged myself to. (You still there?). The enjoyment that this therapeutic bake provides, let alone the scrummy eating, far outweighs any convenience from buying it pre-made.

And as a very famous French woman was once reputed to have said ‘Let them eat shortbread’. (Well, she would have if she’d tasted this shortbread).

YOU NEED
250g butter, unsalted
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 3/4 cup gluten free plain flour
1/4 cup rice flour

METHOD
Preheat oven to 180C.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and sift the flours together into a bowl.
Cream the butter and add the sugar gradually, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. (I use a mixer for this.)
Work in the flour gradually and with a very light hand, knead to form a dough. (I do this in the bowl.)
Divide the dough in half, roll each half out to a 3-4 cm log. Wrap in clingwrap and refrigerate for half an hour.
Slice the logs into 1-2 cm thickness, depending on your fancy, place 10mm apart on a baking tray and prick each piece all over with a fork.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp and straw-coloured.
Cool down on wire racks.
Makes about 20-25 pieces.
adapted from The Margaret Fulton Cookbook

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Shortbread for Christmas

To me, Christmas is shortbread and shortbread is Christmas.

It’s the only time I make it. Batch after batch is baked, packed in various ways and given as a tasty holiday treat. This gives me the opportunity to delve into my collection of vintage kitchenware and present it on quaint china plates or quirky glass bowls. (A great way of justifying my hoarding tendencies).

I never try new recipes for my Christmas giveaway. After years of perfecting this recipe, I would hate to disappoint the yearly recipients. I assure you it’s not due to laziness. Or is it?

In my extended family, we could start Shortbread Wars (like Star Wars but more delicious.) Our family is full of shortbread bakers. Nana Dorothy used to bake shortbread, my mum bakes it, as do two of my sisters. (The baby of the family has gone renegade and has so far resisted this hereditary primal urge..I give her another year…).

This shortbread is short (like myself), light, with a hint of crispness and not overly sweet. I have used the iconic Margaret Fulton’s recipe for the past few years and find that adding the 1/4 cup of rice flour adds that textural bite and lightness that makes me want to sing.

A piece of this shortbread with a cup of tea is ambrosia.

The smell makes little lads salivate and hang round the oven door.

In our house, its mandatory for Santa to be left a piece with the obligatory glass of milk.

This recipe is not gluten free which makes The Yak very sad. My mission (if I so choose to accept it) for the next few days, is to perfect a gluten free version. Fingers crossed.

Shortbread hints and tips: Knead the dough with a lightness of hand for about 3-5 minutes until its smooth and buttery. Do not attempt this on a very hot day unless you have airconditioning or you will end up with buttery mush! I use my trusty KitchenAid mixmaster but I have also used a handbeater. Or use your a wooden spoon and arm power if you feel like a workout!

YOU NEED
250g butter, unsalted
1/2 cup caster sugar
2 3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup rice flour

METHOD
Preheat oven to 180C.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and sift the flours into a bowl.
Cream the butter and add the sugar gradually, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. (I used a mixer for this.)
Work in the flour gradually and with a light hand, knead to form a dough. (I do this in the bowl.)
Divide the dough in half, roll each half out to a 3-4 cm log. Wrap in clingwrap and refrigerate for half an hour.
Slice the logs into 1-2 cm thickness, depending on your fancy, place 10mm apart on a baking tray and prick each piece all over with a fork.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until crisp and straw-coloured.
Makes about 20-25 pieces.
The Margaret Fulton Cookbook