Vegan baking does not have to be boring

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Daniels gingerly coats the tops of the vegan cookies with granulated sugar.

Janice Daniels

What is a better way to start fall than with a nice fresh batch of ginger cookies – vegan ginger cookies, that is.

The first day of fall was Sept. 23, so I decided to bake something special, especially since my brothers were in town for the weekend. I looked up a few recipes and came across a vegan ginger cookie recipe.

People have misconceptions about vegan food, assuming it is bland and dry. All “vegan” means is there are no animal products included in the ingredients.

When I first heard about vegan cooking and baking, I was not hesitant to try it out. Baking without animal products is no easy task – you have to find replacements for eggs, milk and butter. When the recipes are a success, though, I am always left with a feeling of accomplishment and an allowance to say “In your face!” to people who underestimate vegan food.

It seems that most every meal consumed by omnivores throughout the day contains animal products of some sort.

Most cooked foods have animal products added to them for flavor, texture and consistency. Whether it is the milk in your coffee, the eggs in your mayonnaise, the butter on your green beans, or even just the chicken in your chow mein, foods with animal products tend to contain a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol – so taking a break from animal-infested meals and treats every once in a while cannot be a bad thing.

I am not vegan, but when I bake, I only bake vegan. I do this not only because it is challenging and fun, but to also bake myself delicious, nearly guilt-free treats that lack the saturated fat and cholesterol I do not need. I mean, a cookie is already “bad” enough, right? Why not make it somewhat “good” by eliminating cholesterol and saturated fat? This vegan ginger recipe is delightful, and you will be able to serve it to all of your animal-consuming friends without them ever being able to tell the difference.

 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon ground ginger

2 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ cup coconut oil

¼ cup applesauce

1 cup sugar

¼ cup liquid molasses

¼ cup almond milk or soy milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2-3 tablespoons of coarse raw sugar (to roll dough balls in, optional)

All these products should be easy to find in any grocery store, except the coconut oil. For that, you may have to scavenge to the nearest health food store, or Raley’s, which has a great health-food section.

Being the health nut that I am, I only use whole wheat pastry flour in my baking. It is whole grain, which has many health benefits and has been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Whole wheat flour also costs about the same as regular flour, and you cannot tell the difference. Have no fear, though – using regular white flour will not change the decadence of these cookies.

As for the coconut oil, it is also quite beneficial health-wise and gives the cookies a wee bit of a coconut flavor. Vegetable or canola oil will also do the trick if there is no coconut oil on hand.

When it comes to dairy-free milk, I like almond milk the best because it feels lighter and sweeter than soy. People are most familiar with almond milk and soy milk, but there are also many other dairy-free milks such as rice milk, coconut milk and even hemp milk, which can all be used for the milk ingredient in this recipe.

Mix all of the dry ingredients in one bowl and stir them together. After that is done, mix in all of the wet ingredients. When I made these cookies for my first time, the aroma of the dough excited me, but the gooey, wet consistency scared me. You’ll soon find out, however, that the dough is supposed to be that way, especially after the cookies turn out as great as they did for me.

Next, I greased the cookie sheet with oil spray and portioned the dough into two-tablespoon-sized balls, rolling each one in coarse raw sugar prior to dropping them on the cookie sheet. For me, portioning them out in this size made about 12 big cookies.

The look of the raw dough balls can be deceiving. Before I knew it, each cookie ball was three times bigger when I checked in on them in the oven after five minutes. Be sure to be a bit generous with the spacing between the dough balls so the cookies don’t spread into each other as they bake.

These cookies only took about 10 minutes to bake because there are no animal ingredients in the dough which need to be heated and cooked. The edges of the cookies turned a crispy brown, and the tops turned golden. Since I rolled each cookie into coarse sugar, there was a bit of a sparkle to each one, which made them pretty and sweet.

After they cooled, I watched my brothers and friends take their first bites, saying things like, “Wow” and “These are delicious.”

The ginger, cinnamon and cloves added an unexpected spiciness, while the subtle coconut flavor melted away with the sweet, coarse sugar which was sprinkled on top.

I was hoping a genie would pop up with some fine black tea or hot cocoa to complement the incredible taste, but no luck.

This cookie recipe is perfect for the fall season, and will surely surprise the consumers when they find out they are vegan. I know they surprised my friends and family. Whether they are for a pot luck, holiday parties, family gatherings, or even just a night of selfish consumption, these cookies are worth the short time and effort to bake.

Janice Daniels can be reached at [email protected]