My vegan holiday tradition

Holidays usually come with family traditions. One of my family traditions is baking cookies. I can remember being at my grandmother’s house up in the Poconos and waiting impatiently for a taste of her homemade sugar cookies, rolled out to perfection and molded into shapes with her old, metal cutters. Those were my absolute favorite cookies for many, many years until I started baking on my own. My mom isn’t a baker, so we never had home-baked cookies at our house unless Grandma brought them down.

I wasn’t brought up vegan, so I was taught to use the traditional ingredients for cookies—butter, milk, and eggs. When I got married I started baking with my mother-in-law (who is both a savory cook and a baker), which was another way to extend and integrate our traditions. It was at that time that I started frosting my sugar cookies (and still can’t believe we never did it when I was a kid—they are much better frosted, in my humble opinion). I also learned to use a cookie press for spritz and longed for a kitchen where I could actually roll out those sugar cookies, chop lots of nuts for Mexican wedding cakes, and bake dozens of snickerdoodles.

When we eventually moved into our house over 6 years ago, I dedicated one weekend each December to cookie baking. This didn’t limit me to baking just for that weekend, but rather jumpstarted my cookie engine so that I could bake a few dozen cookies throughout the rest of the month. And I finally had that counter space where I could roll them out and cut two sheets of cookies at a time. I had a whole box dedicated to sugars and sprinkles (some people call them jimmies—which is another discussion altogether). My mom, knowing how I loved baking cookies, bought me a stand mixer and I was pretty much set for life. Or so I thought.

This past year, I’ve really changed my diet so that I enjoy more savory tastes and have started to eat less sugar. I’ve always had a sweet tooth—and that hasn’t really gone away—but I don’t keep and consume nearly as many sweets as I did when I was younger and nonvegan. This hasn’t stopped me from investing in many wonderful cookbooks that I’m trying out this season. This weekend, I decided to try out a few recipes in the Babycakes Covers the Classics cookbook.

I bought this particular book because it has recipes for the incredibly delicious Babycakes chocolate chip cookies and doughnuts. I’ve gone to their store in New York several times and highly recommend trying something on their menu, if only to taste a divine gluten-free doughnut. I also think the chocolate chip cookie is one of the best I’ve ever had—so I decided to make some, along with snickerdoodles (which are one of my husband’s favorites). I have many, many nonvegan cookie recipes but I figured that since I’m comfortable with the ingredients now that I would try something different.

Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies.

And different they are. My first batch of chocolate chip cookies were little balls, not at all the flat, crispy disks they bake up in the store. Erin McKenna, Babycakes founder, is fairly strict in this book about sticking to the recipes closely—but I could not find oat flour within a 20 miles radius of my house. I substituted the oat for rice flour instead, and with the second batch I flattened the cookies before putting them in the oven. These should definitely satisfy a craving for chocolate as they are loaded—loaded!—with chips. I generally like flax seeds, but I’m not sure I want flax seed meal in my cookies. It made the cookies a bit dense, which I didn’t want in a chocolate chip cookie.

The snickerdoodles flattened out in the oven (I also used the bottom of a glass to flatten them before putting them in)—but this time I put them in the fridge for an hour, which I think I’ll do with the chocolate chip the next time I make them. Unfortunately, while they are good cookies, they don’t taste like my nonvegan snickerdoodles. I think instead I’m going to veganize my favorite recipe and see if that gives me the fluffy, light cinnamon texture I’m looking for.

I’m really glad I spent a little time making some different cookie recipes this weekend. You never know if you’re going to like something unless you try it, right? Now I have some gluten-free flour and xanthum gum, so I think I’m going to have to finally make those doughnuts for my husband (who bought me doughnut pans just for that reason). I think I’ll still go mostly full gluten for my cookies in the future. My cookie tradition has been going strong for years now, and it’s fun to try new recipes once in a while. I know my family agrees, since I watched them down so many cookies in minutes that I thought they would eventually come back up!

Whatever your tradition, I hope you all have a safe and lovely holiday season!

Also read about Lydia’s Allergern-free Holiday Tradition.

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