Before I go on a bit about holiday baking--here is a quick check list for you for your pantry for the season--trust me, you'll need these things:
-an oven thermometer (this is really an essential item, they cost about $15 and will test the accuracy of your oven temperature. I found my oven is off by ten degrees--that makes a huge difference in vegan baking)!
-fresh ground nutmeg (this does not have a long shelf life so get a new jar of it)
-jar of molasses
-bag of vegan chocolate chips
-crytallized ginger (buy in bulk at international stores if you can, otherwise you will be sticker shocked!)
-unbleached all-purpose flour
-powdered sugar (to make yummy frosting for sugar cookies!)
-colored sprinkles (to decorate the yummy frosted sugar cookies!)
-Christmas cookie cut outs
-parchment paper--a must for baking cookies!
-cookie cooling racks--another must for baking cookies!
-whole wheat flour
-Florida Crystals or bag of vegan sugar (at Whole Foods)
-Ener-G Egg Replacer
-plenty of Earth Balance Buttery sticks--lots of this in the fridge for cookie making!
I used to bake trays and trays of cookies for the holidays. I'd begin this journey about now--early December. I would spend many-a-work time hours scouring the internet for the perfect holiday cookies to surprise my friends with. (I was a very productive corporate person at one time--so productive that I actually was able to carve time out to follow such pursuits.) It got to be quite the distraction. I would bake, eat, store, bake, eat and share. I love cookies!
My cookie obsession began not with the chocolate chip kind (which usually came from a tube and usually was eaten from the tube!) but with a Christmas cookie my grandmother would bake. It was a delicious little treat that had a yellow sort of cookie dough (most likely from egg yolk), rolled in pecans and topped with a marachino cherry. The marachino cherry and I have a long history. My grandmother kept these on hand not only to top her cookies, but to add to her evening martinis. (They also ended up in some of her fruit breads--ick--not my cup of tea.) I could not be kept from them--juice and all--I loved snacking on these morsels. My other favorite cookie came from my mother, but probably started with my grandmother:
the Mexican Wedding Cake Cookie--that powdered sugar, flour, butter and pecan obsession. This cookie so often made an appearance in our home, that when they were finally "gone" we would move on to the powdered donuts (supplanting the powdered sugar cookie--those mini holes that come in huge bags--sort of like potato chips), these were a staple in our home. It's a wonder I am not a diabetic. I ate sweets constantly growing up.
So, the cookie baking begins. I usually start with something my husband loves, and not something I am inclined to eat all by myself, i.e., the Mexican Wedding Cake Cookie. He loves molasses and ginger cookies. I have an old Amish recipe for this cookie--it bakes up like a charm all moist and chewy with just a hint of sugar sprinkled on top. But in all honesty, I am trying to take the "healthier" approach in some of the baking options this year. But there will be cookies-a-plenty.
Enter my vegan chewy ginger molasses rye cookie inspired by a recipe I came across in the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook I checked out of my library for the fourth time (or something like that). It is a huge book. I barely have room in my kitchen for my own cookbooks. But I am intrigued with this book because of the very user-friendly coverage of baking using whole grains: oat flour, barley flour, whole wheat, spelt. The list could go on and on. I love experimenting with different types of flours. You'll often find that in many of my baking recipes I post, I will substitute flour portions with flours other than "unbleached all-purpose"--usually with a very good outcome.
The many iterations of molasses and ginger cookies that appear during the holidays make it difficult to decide what to try and what to skip. I don't really like "ginger snaps"--which to me taste like a cracker doused with powdered ginger. When I came across this recipe in the King Arthur cookbook, it mentioned the pairing of rye and molasses and how the combination of these two ingredients are like a match made in heaven. I would have to agree. I love rye bread, so I thought, why not? I made a few tweeks to this cookie, I added more molasses because I wanted a chewier cookie and then I played with some of the spices. Well, and then there is the vegan part--removing the egg and butter. This cookies gets high marks because it also keeps well! Still snack-worthy three days later--it's a keeper!
Vegan Chewy Ginger Molasses Rye Cookies
1/2 cup vegan butter (1 stick Earth Balance)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 2 tablespoons warm water
1/8 cup of molasses
1 cup spelt flour
2/3 cup white rye flour or plain rye flour
1/4 cup diced crytallized ginger
Prep your Ener-G egg replacer and set aside. Line two cookie trays with parchment paper. Cream the vegan butter with sugar, molasses and spices--it's not going to be "creamy" as in smooth and that is okay--just be sure to blend everything really well. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add about a cup of the dry ingredients to a food processor and then, add the diced crystallized ginger and pulse several times to get that ginger into smaller pieces. Now, add the dry ingredients to the wet and with a hand beater mix until the dough is somewhat smooth. Put the mixture in the fridge for about an hour. Preheat oven to 350. Remove the dough from fridge and drop by teaspoon full to cookie sheets about an inch apart. Bake for about 13-14 minutes. Do not overbake these! They are still going to bake once removed from oven while they cool. If you have a hot running oven--then go for the lower time, if your oven is cool running, go for a bit longer or get an oven thermometer and test to see where your temperature should actually be set. These are more tasty if they are "soft." Store in a closed container and they will keep for several days.