Vegan Pistachio Toffee Cookies

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Since losing half of October to Covid I have struggled to get a grip on time, space, concepts, activities, et cetera, it’s like I’m trying to run underwater, (or, honestly, given my running abilities, trying to run on land) or get to the airport on time in a dream, everything feels liminal and indistinct. And it’s nearly November! And, let’s face it, pre-Covid I was not exactly a paragon of organization and grip-getting. However, these cookies appeared to me in a piercing moment of lucidity and the rush of coming up with a recipe again reminded me that just because my brain is still a bit out of reach, it does want to come back to me.

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The cookies themselves are delicious enough, but when you add the bumpy, glassy toffee-coated pistachios like molten gold and emeralds poured over each cookie, it suddenly feels like an artisanal bakery has sprung up in your kitchen. I can’t even begin to impress upon you how excellent the texture is: crunchy, splintering toffee, firm and buttery pistachios, and dense cookie, all yielding to each other in every mouthful.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan pistachio toffee cookies • full recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com • #cookies #pistachio #toffee #foodblog #vegancookies

♬ Central Reservation (The Then Again Version) – Beth Orton

Pistachios aren’t cheap, I know, but I guess the upside of everything being stupidly expensive right now is that the price of pistachios isn’t so shocking, comparatively (and by “upside” I do not at all mean “I accept this current state of things”, to be clear), and this recipe makes a modest quantity go quite some distance. The cardamom and coffee flavours in the cookie dough below are subtle yet entirely essential, together they give a kind of mysterious, almost gingery flavour profile (and as I note in the recipe, if you don’t like cardamom you could use ginger instead) and lend a sophisticated note to balance all the rambunctious sweetness coating the cookies.

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And go big or go home, right? If anything, I’m touched that my brain thought I was capable of monitoring the caramelisation of sugar and then rapidly transferring spoonfuls of the aforementioned boiling sugar from a saucepan to a tray of cookies, and I, in turn, believe you can do it too. Yeah, it’s a bit of work, and mildly treacherous, but the result is undeniably charming.

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Pistachio Toffee Cookies

To make it easier you could just fold the chopped pistachios through the dough, but truly, it’s all about that crunch of pistachio-studded toffee giving way to spiced cookie below: worth the effort. Recipe by myself.

Cookie Dough:

  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil, or similar neutral oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (see notes)
  • 3 tablespoons oat milk, or similar

Toffee Topping:

  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  • a pinch of salt

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a cookie sheet/tray with baking paper.

2: Stir together the 1/2 cup oil, the cup of brown sugar, and the two tablespoons of golden syrup. Add the remaining cookie dough ingredients (and I tend to sieve in the baking soda because I live in fear of lumps of soda in my baked goods) and stir together to form a stiff dough. Add an extra splash of milk if it’s too floury still, but this should be just enough liquid to make it all come together.

3: Roll heaped tablespoons of cookie dough into balls and place about 2 inches apart on the paper-lined tray. Bake for 13 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack, carefully as they’ll be a little fragile while they’re still hot, and then repeat this step with any remaining dough.

4: Once all the cookies are cooling on the rack (and not a moment before), you can start on the toffee. First, briefly chop the pistachios, so that some are left whole and some are in pieces. Rest the rack of cookies back on top of the paper-lined tray — as per the picture above — so it can catch any toffee drips.

5: Slowly dissolve the 3/4 cup caster sugar and 3 tablespoons of water together in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar is dissolved — and you can check by dipping your spoon into the syrup and seeing if there are visible gritty sugar crystals on it — turn up the heat and bring it to a boil. Let it bubble away without stirring at all, until it turns from clear, to light gold, to a deeper amber-honey colour. As soon as it hits that point, remove the pan from the heat and tip in the chopped pistachios. Don’t be tempted to move away from the stove at any point, as it can quickly go from underdone to burnt, and will carry on cooking even when the heat is turned off.

6: Using a dessert spoon, and working quickly but not frantically, spoon the toffeed pistachios over each cookie. Don’t worry too much about uniformity or whether each cookie has an equal number of nuts, the haphazard, dripping vibe is part of their charm. Once you’ve done this, sprinkle juuust a little salt over the cookies.

7: Let the toffee coating cool completely, then remove the cookies from the rack (happily eating any crunchy toffee-droplets that fell through the rack to the baking paper below) and store them in an airtight container.

Makes about 18 cookies.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have coffee liqueur or don’t wish to use it, dissolve 1 teaspoon of instant coffee in two tablespoons of water, and add a splash of vanilla extract.
  • Just in case it’s not clear, by “shelled pistachios” I mean pistachios with their shells removed. If you can only find pistachios with the shell still on you’ll probably need twice the amount to make up 1/2 a cup of shelled nuts.
  • If you hate cardamom or just can’t find it, replace it with the same quantity of ground ginger or cinnamon.
  • Though the saucepan of toffee might look scary to clean, just fill it with boiling water from the kettle and let it sit for a bit. Once it’s cooled down, cold running water should dissolve any remaining stubborn toffee.

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music lately:

I Never Know When by Elaine Stritch, from the 1958 Broadway musical Goldilocks. Not, as the name might suggest, a depiction of the fairy tale, but a musical comedy about the silent film era, also starring Don Ameche and Margaret Hamilton, aka the Wicked Witch of the West. I tend to associate Stritch with more brassy, acerbic numbers rather than torchy, wistful songs like this, but even when wistful she radiates weary steeliness instead of mere sentimentality, and it’s really quite beautiful.

Dig It, by The Coup, while rewinding repeatedly to the “how now brown cow” verse because it’s so satisfying is probably not the listening experience the group intended, I can’t help it! It’s so satisfying! The rest of the song obviously rules, too.

Up on the Sun by Meat Puppets. We all have those songs, where you look them up on youtube and scroll through the sincere, superlative, breathless comments below, and instead of sneering you’re like “yeah, I would absolutely say that unprompted about this song to a stranger on the street”. Cannot overstate the effect that the long moan leading into the discordant and downbeat yet oddly uplifting chorus has on me.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours every month. There’s no better time than right now — your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Pecan Sandies

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I’ll speak freely with you: these cookies did not blow my hair back, and they are not the stuff of hyperbole (even though I like to maintain that I never actually use hyperbole, and only ever describe thing accurately.) But sometimes you just need a nice, calm biscuit. There is a place for them! We can’t all be pupil-dilatingly exciting like these Chocolate Rosemary Cookies (incidentally, adapted from the same author) or my Vegan Hundreds and Thousands Cookies. So no, these are neither hellzapoppin’ nor knee-tremblingly intoxicating but they do taste very good, and were born to sit robustly alongside a cup of tea at 10.30am or 9.30pm.

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Besides which I haven’t blogged in an age (no dramatic reason, I just haven’t cooked a whole lot this month) and I had to write about something and here these Pecan Sandies were, sturdy and stalwart and reliable and ready to step up to the figurative and literal plate.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan pecan sandies • easy and delicious cookies from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s I Can Cook Vegan • recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com 🍪 #vegan #baking #cookies #pecansandie #foodblogger

♬ Adagio / Spartacus – Josu Gallastegui

I’d never heard of these cookies before — although I understand they’re quite normal in America — and I admit the name put me off slightly (reading it made me feel like I’d suddenly got sand caught in my sleeves somewhere about the elbow, this is absolutely likely a me-problem and not the recipe’s fault) but they’re very easy to make, with a supple dough that comes together in minutes and a low oven temperature meaning you’re unlikely to overcook or burn them. The pecans, crucially, give it a little razzle dazzle with their rich smokiness and soft crunch, but if you are for some reason hankering after a very plain biscuit you could leave them out and increase the spices — maybe adding in some cinnamon while you’re at it — at which point you might consider half-dipping them in dark chocolate — but then we’re veering around to blow-your-hair-back territory again. In lieu of pecans, walnuts would be the most sensible replacement, with their similar almost-bitter softness. Whatever you leave out or add in, the biscuits themselves have a melting texture, a hearty flutter of vanilla, and despite my usual heavy hand in this regard, the modest amount of sugar gives just the right level of sweetness. Simple? Yes. Fantastic? Also yes!

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Vegan Pecan Sandies

A simple, not-too-sweet cookie studded with pecans, very easy to make and unsurprisingly, very easy to eat. Recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s excellent book I Can Cook Vegan, I’ve bumped up the allspice but that’s the only change I made. If you want to make these cheaper, you could use one of those little 70g packets of pecans from the baking aisle instead of a whole cup’s worth, just make sure they’re broken up well so you get plenty of pecan dispersed through each cookie.

  • 2/3 cup refined coconut oil, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup oat milk, or similar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup pecans

1: Beat the 2/3 cup refined coconut oil and 1/2 cup sugar together in a mixing bowl. Coconut oil is usually soft enough at room temperature, but if it’s a really cold day, giving it about ten seconds in the microwave (in a microwave safe bowl) is enough to make it pliant.

2: Beat in the 1/4 cup milk, followed by the two teaspoons of vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon of allspice, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir in the flour to form a thick, pale dough.

3: Break up the pecans into small pieces using your hands, and stir them through the dough. Place the mixing bowl in the fridge for twenty minutes, and while this is happening, preheat your oven to 165C/325F and get out a cookie tray/sheet and a large piece of baking paper to lie on it.

4: Once the 20 minutes are up, roll the dough into balls (using a tablespoon to scoop out the dough) and place them about 2.5cm apart on the baking paper-lined tray. Flatten them a little, gently, with your fingertips, and bake for about 18 minutes, or until just lightly golden around the bottom edges. Transfer the hot cookies to a cooling rack and continue rolling and baking the rest of the dough.

Makes 18 – 20 cookies (that is, the original recipe yields 18, but I got 19 out of this and I ate enough dough that I probably could’ve got about 21 cookies had I a little more discipline.)

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music lately:

Kool Thing by Sonic Youth, there is something comforting about listening to a song that is cooler than you or anyone you know will ever be, it’s like ok, thanks for shouldering that responsibility, guys.

There’s Always A Woman from Sondheim’s musical Anyone Can Whistle as performed — thrillingly! — by Bernadette Peters and Madeline Kahn at a concert in 1995, whoever thought to put them and their energies together on stage is a genius and I’m forever grateful. This footage isn’t very good quality but the sound is fine, and their tremulous voices by turns querulous and harmonising is something I wish we’d got more of before Kahn sadly passed a few years later.

About once every six months I medically have to listen to this — bear with me — isolated and looped sample of doo-wop group The Marcels’ song Heartaches as used in the song I’m So Humble by Andy Samberg’s character in the mockumentary film Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. It’s unbelievably obnoxious and yet I will sit there listening to it for a good six, eight, nine minutes flat. I can hear what you’re saying already, “If I had a nickel for every time I did that,” etc etc.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

vegan chelsea buns

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Each day is an internal battle between myself and whatever little metrics and rubrics I’ve set out for myself to plod through, and still I usually end up more disorganised than if I’d just thrown myself headfirst at the day to navigate by vibes alone. Once you identify the rules of a situation, however, you can work out what’s stupid about them, and then, maybe, you might start getting somewhere. For example: I wasn’t going to blog about these very delicious vegan Chelsea buns, despite them being about as pretty and sweet and delightful as Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias (guess what I just watched) because the ingredients were a little too specific, and one of my personal rules is to keep the ingredients on this blog within a reasonable realm of what a person could — reasonably — get hold of.

But then, I considered, with a slap of palm to forehead, reasonable is a moving target, and many of the ingredients I currently reach for without thinking might have seemed out of reach only a few years ago. And the Chelsea buns are really delicious! Who am I to say what you can achieve? Why should I mentally undercut your abilities before we’ve even started?

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That being said, it would be kind of unreasonable to say that these Chelsea buns can only be made with a ready-prepared batch of Nigella Lawson’s roasted quince fruit mincemeat, appositely named Quincemeat, as I made them. That is quite the roadblock. In the interests of keeping things as accessible as possible, I have offered both the truncated Quincemeat recipe, options for making this with simple dried fruit, and if that’s all too much, you can just sprinkle the dough with cinnamon and sugar a la the Lazy Cat Kitchen cinnamon buns, whose recipe I used as the starting point for mine, and if you want to do even less than that, just go to a bakery and buy your own buns. They’re professionals for a reason, this is no failing on your part.

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But if the idea of padding about in the kitchen purposefully appeals, kneading dough into life, and waiting as the sun rolls across the sky and the dough expands and swells and eventually, in the oven, fills your house with the kind of scent you yearn for in bottled form, if all that appeals, then this recipe is for you. Maybe not as popular or cool as their cinnamon bun cousins, Chelsea buns — rolled and stuffed instead with dried fruit — have a lot going for them, especially with — sorry! — the quincemeat as their filling. Its heady, fragrant sweetness is utterly sumptuous, with magnificent contrast between the soft graininess of the quinces and the dried fruit bulging with (in my case) overproof rum. There’s an old-fashioned charm to these buns, and making them gives you the feeling of being a small anthropomorphic animal — a hedgehog perhaps — in a Beatrix Potter story, using a leaf as an umbrella and a spool of thread as a chair, safe and warm, et cetera.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan Chelsea buns, full recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com 🍞🥐 #baking #cookingtiktok #breadtok #foodblogger #nz #vegan #fyp

♬ Forever – Pete Drake

As you can see in my tiktok above, the rolling and slicing is a little dexterous — but not overwhelming, and the results are stunning; feathery soft yeasted dough, glossy sticky fruit, you will not so much eat these as devour them.

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(While I’m holding myself accountable, I know I said, literally in my most recent blog post, that I couldn’t face eating a handful of raisins, and yet here I am, espousing buns wrapped around vast quantities of that fruit? I still stand by my statements: they’re a woeful snack on their own, but both delicious and necessary in these buns.)

Finally — and particularly for those of you reading this outside of the quince’s brief and thrilling season — I cannot wait for pink rhubarb to appear so I can make a batch of these with Nigella’s Rhubarb Vanilla Fruit Mince, and I invite you to consider the same.

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Vegan Chelsea Buns

Sticky-sweet, tender, and heavy with fruit, these scrolls are almost as easy to make as they are to eat. I’ve included a brief rundown of Nigella Lawson’s quincemeat recipe at the end if you want to go the same route as me; otherwise I’ve given options in recipe for making them simply with dried fruit. I used the Lazy Cat Kitchen cinnamon bun recipe as my starting point for the dough, it’s reliable and comes together in minutes.

Dough

  • 1 and 1/4 cups oat milk (or similar), lukewarm
  • 250g high-grade/bread flour
  • 250g plain/all-purpose flour
  • 9 grams instant dried yeast
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pouring/table salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little extra for the rise

Filling

  • 250g-300g ready made fruit mincemeat, or see in recipe for other options
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup, for brushing

1: First, get your milk lukewarm — I zap it for fifteen-second intervals in the microwave till it’s warm, but doesn’t have the slightest sting of heat to it. Place the 250g each of high grade and plain flour into a large mixing bowl, along with the 9 grams of dried yeast, the two tablespoons of brown sugar, and the teaspoon of salt. Stir in the lukewarm milk, followed by the tablespoon of olive oil.

2: Start kneading this shaggy dough — you’re welcome to tip it out onto your work surface, but to save on mess I just do it inside the bowl, either way, push the dough away from you with the heel of your palm or your knuckles, fold it back towards you, and repeat for a few more minutes until it’s gone from shaggy and floury to springy and smooth. If you’ve been kneading for a while and it’s still really sticky, dust over just a little flour and knead that in — this almost always work for me. Once the dough is a smooth ball, drizzle over a small amount of olive oil, then cover your bowl with a tea towel and leave the dough to rise for one hour.

3: Once your hour is up, punch down your dough — which is just how it sounds, you plunge your fist, happily, into the swollen dough, releasing the air from it. Tip the dough out onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, and press or roll it into a large rectangle, folding over any wobbly bits to make the sides fairly straight. You’re looking for a size of about 40x20cm, but as long as two sides are shorter and two sides are longer you don’t need to worry about getting out your ruler.

4: If you’re using ready-made fruit mince, spoon it evenly over the surface of the dough rectangle, in a fairly thin layer — too much and it will all fall out — and press it very gently into the dough. Otherwise, brush the surface of the dough with olive oil — about two tablespoons — and sprinkle evenly with brown sugar (about four tablespoons), then scatter over about 75g currants and 150g sultanas. I’d also sprinkle over plenty of cinnamon. If you want to make your own quincemeat, see the notes at the end of the recipe.

5: Starting with the long side closest to you, carefully and slowly roll the rectangle of dough into a long tube. Slice the tube at roughly 3cm intervals — again, just follow your heart here, this is home cooking, not a production line — and arrange the slices near each other on the same baking tray. If any of the “tails” of the scrolls look like they’re about to get away on you, pinch them gently into the rest of the dough, and if any fruit has fallen out in the cutting and lifting process, just prod it back into the nearest coil of dough. Cover these buns with the same teatowel from before, and let them rise for one more hour.

6: About forty minutes into this hour’s rising, set your oven to 180C/350F. Once the hour’s up, remove the towel, to behold your now-puffy and expanded Chelsea buns, and bake them for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Don’t worry if some of the fruit catches a little, it still tastes delicious. Finally, brush them with a little golden syrup while they’re still warm.

Makes 10 to 12 Chelsea buns, depending on how you slice them (both times I’ve made these they all ended up different sizes, which I liked: something for every mood.) Eat them fresh, or store them in an airtight container once they’ve cooled. They’ll be good for a day or so, after that, they’ll want a little warming up in the microwave first.

Notes:

Some recipes call for an icing drizzle, you’re welcome to mix icing sugar and water together and do so, but — and it’s not often I say this — I don’t think they need it.

Here is a fairly brisk rundown of the quincemeat recipe if you want to make it for yourself; you can usually find quinces in baskets at op shops very cheaply this time of year, from someone or other’s tree. The quincemeat is from Nigella Lawson’s book How To Be A Domestic Goddess, along with many other beautiful recipes.

Roast 1kg quinces, peeled and (carefully) cut into rough chunks and tossed with a tablespoon of coconut oil, at 150C/300F for forty minutes. Once cooled, roughly chop the quince and mix together with 250g each sultanas, raisins, chopped dried apricots, brown sugar, shredded vegetable suet (I used the Atora brand, it’s in a brightly coloured box and should be available in most supermarkets); one teaspoon each of cinnamon, ground cardamom, and ground cloves, a good pinch of nutmeg, 100g crystallised peel, and 100ml quince brandy, regular brandy, or — as I used — dark rum. Store in an airtight container or in clean jars in the fridge; this makes, give or take, around 2kg. Also: I didn’t have any mixed peel, so I just used the finely chopped peel of a couple of oranges, and added a bit more sugar.

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music lately:

Obsession by Animotion, fittingly, I am VERY obsessed with this song. Wait till 28 seconds in, then it will all make sense (I also recommend watching the video, which gives the impression of an automated bot having been fed 1000 hours of 80s music videos and spitting out results based on the learned algorithm.)

Tell Me (I’ll Be Around) by Shades, for all that winter is my favourite season this song always made me long for an endless summer where I could drive around in a convertible and Be Summery (in this fantasy, not only do I enjoy hot weather, I can also drive.) Anyway, this song is lush and should’ve been a bigger hit!

I Dreamt I Dwelt In Marble Halls by Michael William Balfe, sung by Sumi Jo. She was recommended to me when I asked for opera suggestions, and — oh my! Every time I hear this song I’m always taken aback by its fake-out chorus, climbing higher and higher before finally resolving, Sumi Jo’s watered silk voice is a stunning vessel for it.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Chocolate Rosemary Cookies

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One of my favourite things to do with rosemary, in a prior life as a bartender, was to garnish drinks (most specifically, a blackberry daiquiri made with halloumi-infused rum) with a sprig that had been held over a lit match — a brief singe from the flame made the rosemary’s already heady fragrance positively dizzying. I love rosemary in all its smoky, haunting richness, and use it as often as is practical, but like an absolute dunce, it never occurred to me to pair it with chocolate. But that’s the joy of reading cookbooks, isn’t it? Someone else does the thinking for you, and you get to enjoy the delicious results of their creative toil. While reading Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book I Can Cook Vegan I landed upon her recipe for Chocolate Rosemary Cookies, and immediately knew I would love them and, more pragmatically, that I had to bake them.

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Of course it makes sense: chocolate is sweet, sure, but there’s all that cocoa bitterness; and rosemary, while associated more with dinner than dessert, has just the right level of robustness to match the chocolate’s dominance, and its woodsy fragrance is very amenable to sugar.

Grateful though I am for this recipe, I ended up adding quite a bit more flour to get the dough to a workable consistency, curiously, however, it still made the same quantity of cookies as stated in the book. (Actually, this is not so curious; I did eat some of the dough as I was rolling the cookies, it’s very good and consider yourself warned.) Aside from that, the recipe is a breeze; one bowl, a wooden spoon, that’s all you need.

@hungryandfrozen

chocolate rosemary cookies • recipe at hungryandfrozen dot com 🍪 #vegan #nz #baking #chocolate #cookies #foodblogger

♬ So Long, Marianne – Leonard Cohen

And the taste? So good! The rosemary gives both herbal delicateness and elegant intrigue (I was about to call it a cookie of mystery before realising that’s veering into Austin Powers territory), and the double action of both cocoa and chunks of dark chocolate makes these meltingly intense.

If you’re not already a fan of rosemary then I don’t seek to change your mind with these; they’re also possibly — despite the chocolate, and without wanting to generalise about children’s palates — not the most immediately child-friendly biscuit. Rather than being a workhorse tin-filler, these cookies are incredibly chic and would be perfect after a dinner party with coffee or liqueurs. These would also be an excellent gift, so long as you know the person likes rosemary — you could even consider fixing a sprig of rosemary to the package with some rustic brown string; I offer this suggestion as someone who is dreadfully uncoordinated at wrapping presents, and it may or may not work. Nevermind: the cookies, delicious as they are, speak for themselves.

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Vegan Chocolate Rosemary Cookies

Rich, dark and melting, with a pastoral scattering of rosemary through the dough — let me assure you, having eaten many of these cookies now, that chocolate and rosemary are an excellent match for each other. This recipe is adapted a little from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book I Can Cook Vegan.

  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 cup refined coconut oil, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup oat milk, or similar
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds (or, you can use ground flax seeds)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 and 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup good cocoa powder (see notes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 120g dark chocolate

1: Line a flat baking tray/cookie sheet with a piece of baking paper. Finely chop the two tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves, and, while you’re at it, you might as well chop the 120g dark chocolate into rough chunks and small pieces (although keep them separate, the rosemary is added at the start; the chocolate at the end.) Because I let the cookie dough rest in the fridge for a bit, I tend not to preheat the oven at this early juncture, but just so you know I haven’t forgotten about it and it will happen.

2: Place the 1/2 cup of room temperature refined coconut oil, the 1/3 cup each brown and white sugar, and the chopped rosemary leaves into a good-sized mixing bowl, and beat briskly with a wooden spoon for about a minute. Pour in the 1/4 cup of oat milk, the tablespoon of chia seeds, and the two teaspoons of vanilla and beat again.

3: Sift the 1 and 3/4 cups of flour, the 1/3 cup cocoa, the 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda — and don’t skip the sieving bit here, neither cocoa nor baking soda is something you want lumps of — and stir to form a thick dough. Fold in the chopped chocolate from step one, and then put the bowl of cookie dough into the fridge to rest while you heat the oven to 180C/350F.

4: Use a tablespoon — as in, a measuring spoon, not a large serving spoon — to scoop out the cookie dough, gently rolling it into balls in your hands before setting them out on the awaiting, paper-lined tray. I laid them out four by three, they don’t spread much but it’s good to give them a little room to breathe. Use the back of the tablespoon to flatten the dough balls just a little, then bake for 10-12 minutes (bearing in mind that the cookies will continue to firm up as they sit out of the oven) before transferring them to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remainder of the dough.

Makes around 24 cookies although, if you don’t eat any dough — and I’m warning you, it is really nice — you could probably get at least 26. Keep them in an airtight container in the fridge, although if your kitchen is cool, they should be fine just in the pantry.

Notes:
Regarding cocoa — if the nutritional information states that it contains anything less than 20g of fat per 100g cocoa, then it’s not worth your time or money. By which I mean, look for cocoa with 20g fat/100g and above. There’s not much I’m really fussy about in the kitchen but this is important!! You deserve good chocolate.

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music lately:

A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow, by Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, in character as Mitch and Mickey in the film A Mighty Wind. The music to this satirical film is so GOOD it’s UNREAL, you know when a dog gets overexcited and runs around in circles chasing its tail, well that is me thinking about the music to this film. This song, the emotional heart of the film, also makes me so emotional, and this specific iteration, where Levy and O’Hara, in character, perform the song at the Oscars, where — abhorrently! Reprehensibly! — they did not win the award for best song, undoes me every time. I literally cannot sound normal when talking about the music to this film, and for that I apologise; and also for the fact that I’m not done yet; as I also urge you to listen to When You’re Next To Me, written by Levy himself for the film; the way he and O’Hara’s voices were made to harmonise together — the way the last chorus builds to a cavalcade — there’s nothing parodic about this, it’s just purely, breathtakingly beautiful.

Breathe Again by Toni Braxton. A perfect song, and Braxton is such a master of her vocals — the way she goes from her deeper register to that gorgeous “breathe again, breathe again” refrain gives me the chills every time.

Then Comes Dudley by The Jesus Lizard. My second-favourite band with “The Jesus” in their name; but it’s not a distant second by any means, not with songs like this!

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Ginger Crunch

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Any recipe that centres around a thick layer of frosting and not much else will have my immediate and enduring respect. And yet, even as a dedicated lover of icing, I also respect and understand that you need the contrast, the cake—something to hold the icing up like a plinth bearing a golden trophy, something for the icing to drape across like a silk-robed lounge singer reclining on a grand piano. Ginger Crunch is a classic recipe—by which I mean, I guess, that I remember seeing it in glass-covered bakery cabinets as a kid and I have some years to my name now—and it is an unrivalled victor in the genre of Modest Base/Big Icing. (And saying this suddenly brings to mind the cinematically perfect pairing of short king Joe Pesci with the tall and absurdly beautiful Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, a film I recommend to one and all.)

I assumed the internet would be flush with vegan versions of Ginger Crunch but ten pages into Google and all I could find were raw vegan recipes, usually involving large quantities of dates, and like, no disrespect to dates but that is NOT what I was looking for nor am I interested in pursuing that path. Of course dates can have their place in baking, but they don’t have to be in everything, and more importantly, everything vegan doesn’t also have to be raw and supposedly healthy. So, without anything to compare it to, I just made up a recipe myself and hoped for the best. I was determined to make this as simple as possible: no extra spices, no nuts, no crystallised ginger or pistachios or anything to interrupt the simple alchemy of flavours at play. I’m confident enough to make a vegan version of something everyone will recognise, but I’m not going to let that confidence go to my head. (Also, I didn’t have any crystallised ginger or pistachios or anything in the pantry.)

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And fortunately, what resulted was – the best! Just as it should, my vegan Ginger Crunch has a crisply oaty and entirely unobtrusive base, and a thick, fudge-dense, throat-burningly gingery frosting. The trick is to really go up to the knife’s edge of too much ginger, too hot, too peppery, and then to balance it out with so much sugar that your palate is constantly trying to process what’s happening to it. I mean, otherwise, what’s the point? That’s what makes this interesting, that push-pull between heat and sweet, between the intensity of the icing and the mildness of the base. In case I’ve made it sound scary I assure you, this Ginger Crunch is very normal and will be easily reminiscent of the ones you may have eaten yourself throughout your life. Nothing raw, nothing masquerading as health food, just happy, delicious, (vegan) nostalgia. And it only uses one bowl. (For reasons that infuriatingly I can’t fathom the tiktok that I made absolutely refused to embed despite not being in any way different, so if you want to watch it you’ll have to follow this link like they did in ancient times.)

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Vegan Ginger Crunch

My vegan version of the classic slice with no surprises, just an oaty base with a thick layer of ginger icing. Simple as that. Recipe by myself.

  • 1/4 cup refined coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup oat milk, soy milk, or similar
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup (see notes)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • a pinch of salt

Icing:

  • 3 tablespoons refined coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 tablespoons oat milk, or similar
  • 1/4 teaspoon malt vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 level tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 and 1/2 cups icing sugar

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a 20cm square brownie/slice tin with baking paper. Place the 1/4 cup refined coconut oil, 1/4 cup oat milk, and the 1/4 cup golden syrup in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add the remaining ingredients—the 1/2 cup rolled oats, 2 cups flour, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, teaspoon of ground ginger, and pinch of salt, and stir to form a crumbly dough.

2: Tip this dough into your paper-lined tin and press it down into an even layer with your hands, or the back of a spoon, or both. Use a fork or knife to stab a few holes here and there—this will help it cook evenly—and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

3: While the base is baking in the oven, you can get on with the icing. In a mixing bowl—and you might as well use the same one as for the base—stir together the 3 tablespoons refined coconut oil, the 3 tablespoons golden syrup, the 2 tablespoons of oat milk and the 1/4 teaspoon of malt vinegar. It’s fine if the spoons of coconut oil and golden syrup are on the heaped side. Stir in the level tablespoon of ginger, then sieve the 2 and 1/2 cups of icing sugar into this mixture and stir to form a thick frosting, adding a little more milk if it’s too stiff (I had to add about a tablespoon).

4: Spatula the icing over the base while it’s still hot from the oven—the frosting will collapse and spread easily into an even layer—and then refrigerate until the icing is firm and matte (as you can see from the photos, I was not patient enough to wait). Cut into pieces as large or as small as you want, I got 25 pieces out of my somewhat wobbly slicing.

Notes:

You really do need to locate proper golden syrup for this to work (that is, if you’re in America or another country where it’s not a common ingredient.) Treacle would be absolutely fine, although I can’t imagine it’s any easier to get hold of. I don’t think maple syrup or corn syrup would work here, sorry, the former lacking the texture and the latter lacking the flavour, but having golden syrup to hand is endlessly rewarding so it’s worth the effort. Molasses would take it in an entirely new direction, but it probably wouldn’t be unpleasant.

The icing ingredients might not look very promising but real hungryandfrozen-heads will recognise my quick emulsion method (for which I really need to come up with a better name for) where coconut oil, milk, and a tiny splash of vinegar come together with icing sugar to make the most incredible, classic-tasting frosting.

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music lately:

Love Me More, by Mitski. There’s a new Mitski album. Naturally, I’m not okay! Naturally, it’s all brilliant!! I don’t know how she keeps coming out with new albums that somehow sound even more Mitski-ish than the ones before, but that’s why she’s Mitski and I’m just a weepily appreciative idiot.

Little Trouble Girl by Sonic Youth. Kim Deal featuring on a Sonic Youth song with this title and with this kind of mellow yet sinister arrangement is precisely the sort of combination that makes a hundred thousand people say “this was made just for me” and of course, I am one of those hundred thousand.

Aries, by Mary Lou Williams, from her delightful Zodiac Suite, composed and recorded with remarkable prescience in 1945. There is literally something for everyone (except, I suppose, people who don’t believe in horoscopes.)

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Breakfast Banana Bread

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This is literally just banana bread with some bits in it, but I feel the granola-esque nature of the aforementioned bits more than allows for the confident title of Breakfast Banana Bread. And confident I shall be, for this banana bread is simple, only requires one bowl, and tastes wonderful—hearty yet light, comfortingly sweet yet posing no danger to your teeth, sensibly oaty yet luxurious.

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I’m feeling tentative and wary about 2022; it has started off in a way that knocked me sideways and threw me completely onto the back foot, and I’m still fragile from spending a third of 2021 in lockdown, and with the omicron variant of Covid closing in on us like a particularly dedicated homing pigeon, planning for the near future feels foolish. Besides which, it’s SO HOT, too hot to be cogent or reasonable, and I know it’s the middle of summer and this heat shouldn’t be a surprise but the news said it’s the hottest recorded summer of all time and I feel I’m within my rights to be agitated.

But even with all that I’m ready to cook again and this breakfast banana bread is an unassuming and low-key reminder of my love of thinking about food and then acting successfully on those thoughts. Banana bread was of course one of the culinary signposts of Covid Season 1 but my making it is no comment on the state of things—we just had some overripe bananas slumping on the bench, and regardless of the heat I was reminded of the comforting joy to be found in rustling up a warm baked loaf of something.

Though its long list of ingredients would suggest otherwise this recipe really is very straightforward. I imagine you could dispatch the seeds, dried fruit, and oats and replace them with 3/4 cup of actual granola for an even speedier route to your comfort food. And don’t let the name lock you into any kind of timeline: this would make an excellent midnight snack, too.

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Breakfast Banana Bread

One-bowl, very simple, mildly spruced-up vegan banana bread. Oh, and it’s delicious, of course, at any time of day. And if it’s regular, un-spruced vegan banana bread you’re after, my 2019 recipe should do the trick. Makes one loaf, recipe by myself.

  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses or golden syrup
  • 1/4 cup soy milk (or similar)
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons rice bran oil, or similar neutral oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup pitted dates, roughly chopped (or sultanas, or other dried fruit)
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1 and 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon cinnamon

1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a loaf tin with baking paper. In a small cup, mix the tablespoon of chia seeds with 2 tablespoons of water and set aside to let the seeds absorb the liquid.

2: Roughly mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl—I just used my wooden spoon to do this—and stir in the 3/4 cup sugar, the tablespoon of molasses, and the soaked chia seeds. Then stir in the 1/4 cup milk, two teaspoons apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons oil, teaspoon of vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup chopped dates, and two tablespoons of sunflower seeds.

3: Tip in the 1 and 1/2 cups flour and the 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (I always sieve baking soda because I live in fear of finding lumps of it in my baking) and gently stir everything together till the flour is only just combined with the wet ingredients. Spatula this mixture into your prepared loaf tin and sprinkle the cinnamon over the surface. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Once cool, store in an airtight container.

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music lately:

Fantaisie-Impromptu by Hazel Scott—her piano virtuosity breathes new life into this already pretty thrilling Chopin number.

30 Seconds by Tracy Bonham. My bordering-on-unhinged obsession with the TV show Yellowjackets has seen me revisiting Bonham’s music and I hate to sound completely ancient but I miss when music sounded like this, all Breeders-y and sweet but knowing and sinister! Who’s doing it like that these days?

30/90, the opening number from Jonathan Larson’s musical, and also later the 2021 film adaptation, Tick, Tick… Boom!, and it is with a supreme and entirely unearned confidence that I link both the 2001 original Off-Broadway cast version and the 2021 film version. I imagine there’s about three of you who could be bothered to listen to both, let alone one. But still I link them both, because I can’t think about this electrifying song without considering Raul Esparza’s unearthly, not-found-in-nature vibrato in the 2001 stage show, and honestly I have to hand it to Andrew Garfield in the 2021 film adaptation, he gave it his all and seems to embody Jonathan Larson, both the person and the version of himself that Larson wrote into his shows. Because I’ve been so utterly burnt by film adaptations of musicals before I can afford to be generous here, I really loved Tick, Tick… Boom! and the slight changes to the arrangements of this song, like bringing forward the harmonies with Joshua Henry, make it somehow even more exhilarating.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up 

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To egregiously paraphrase Dickens, though I’m sure he’s quite used to it by this point: you there! What day is it? Why it’s my annual edible gift recipe round up! 

In case this doesn’t make any sense, let me explain: each December I gather a list of recipes from my prior blog posts here on hungryandfrozen.com which I believe would make ideal edible gifts, in case you want some kind of prompting in that direction, despite having the entire internet already at your disposal. It’s a self-serving action, yes, but hopefully helpful in some way – and all I ever really want is to be useful, but to also draw attention to myself in the process. I’ve kept a lot of the text in this post the same as last year’s as there’s only so many ways you can launch into this thing, and appreciate your understanding.

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This time last year I was naively hopeful that once 2021 drew to a close COVID-19 would be behind us but instead, it’s managed to get on top of us in new and innovatively terrifying ways. Just last week, after a quarter of the year spent in lockdown, I was (somewhat dramatically) not sure if Christmas would be happening at all, even now it feels like a bit of a mirage and I’m somehow overthinking it yet entirely unprepared at the same time. All of this is no reason not to cook though, if that’s what you like doing. If you’re confined to a relatively small circle of people, there are still neighbours, the postal service, any number of people nearby who might be cheered by a small jar or box of something in their letterbox, or on their doorstep (perhaps also with a note reassuring of your vaccination status if they’re a stranger that you’re giving something to). But even just you, alone, are reason enough to bake a cake.

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As for the financial pressure of this time of year – I won’t lie, between the ingredients, time, electricity, storage and wrapping, homemade edible gifts aren’t necessarily that cheap, and there’s no moral superiority in making your own jam. It is undeniably delightful to receive something homemade – but if this is too strenuous, stick with the food concept and do your Christmas shopping at the supermarket. Chocolates, candy, olive oil, fancy salt, spices, peanut butter, curry pastes, hot sauce, olives, a complicated shape of pasta – even just food you know someone eats a lot of. They love beans? Get them beans! I guarantee they’ll be pleased. Basically, we cannot escape capitalism but giving an edible gift of any kind has so many upsides: it’s delicious, it has immediate application, it will eventually cease taking up space in the receiver’s house, it makes you look like a really great person.

I realise to heaps of people Christmas is – quite reasonably – just another day of the week! But generally, there will be some point in your life where giving a gift is required, and almost all the recipes listed below work beautifully year-round (though I personally can’t eat candy canes out of season.)

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Anyway, let’s get to the list. I’ve grouped the recipes into three categories, and have also included some of the recipes I wrote for Tenderly over the years.

Two caveats: some of these recipes are from absolute years ago, as will happen when you have a fourteen-year-old food blog, but while details and contexts and locations and motivations have changed, the deliciousness remains constant. Also, I feel like it’s worth pointing out that anything involving an ingredient that either could melt or has been melted, should be stored in the fridge rather than under the tree.

Also – all these recipes are vegan.

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The Annual HungryandFrozen Edible Gift Recipe Round-Up 

Category One: Things In Jars

No matter how uncertain the world we live in, you can still count on Things In Jars. From relish to pickles to the unsinkable salted caramel sauce, it’s always well-received, looks like you’ve gone to arduous levels of effort, and makes an ideal gift for everyone from your most marginally tolerable of coworkers to the most highly specific love of your life. For added personal flair – although this could just be my neurological predisposition for over-explaining – I suggest including a gift tag with recommendations on ways to use the contents of the jar.

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Savoury:

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Sweet

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Category Two: Baked Goods

They’re baked! They’re good! While biscuits and cookies are more commonly gifted, don’t rule out a loaf, perhaps wrapped in baking paper and then brown paper – the banana bread and ginger molasses loaf below keep well (especially the latter) and would make a charmingly convivial offering. At this busy time of year, having something to slice and eat with a cup of tea or a snifter of whatever weird liqueur you can find in the back of the cupboard is nothing if not a stroke of good fortune. I’ve made the first three (four, technically, since the Christmas Stars and Hundreds and Thousands Biscuits are basically the same) cookie recipes in this list a LOT this year and recommend them the most enthusiastically out of the biscuits on offer.

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Category Three: Novelty, No-Bake Sweets, and General Sugary Chaos

The best category, let’s be frank. Whether it’s dissolving candy canes in bottom-shelf vodka or adding pink food colouring to white chocolate for the aesthetic, sugar is the true reason for the season. And since dentists wildly overcharge us for their service, you might as well make them really earn it. Note: unless you can find overproof vodka, the passionfruit and mandarin liqueurs won’t be ready in time for Christmas; either give the intended receiver an IOU, or save it for their birthday – or next Christmas.

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music lately:

Turkey Lurkey Time from the 1969 Tony Awards performance of the musical Promises, Promises. If you’ve been here a while you’ll know that I have a small tradition where I wait till December and then watch this extremely grainy video of a very goofy song being performed and CRY. (Here I need to really emphasise that this is absolutely not a song you’re supposed to cry at.) It’s Donna McKechnie’s rubber spine, it’s the diagonal thing they do at the end, it’s the anticipation, it’s Christmas, it’s everything.

Fun Lovin’ Criminals, by The Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Why am I consistently drawn to rap rock? Because it’s fun and great, that’s why!! (When does rap rock become nu metal? Not here, but I’m very happy on either side of course.)

The Only Heartbreaker, by Mitski. Anxious and beautiful and synthy! I don’t know what it is about synths, specifically, that makes me all “this song sounds like it has already existed. How can this be a new song” and here I am again saying that this song sounds like you already know it. I don’t mean that it sounds derivative of anything – I mean that it sounds like it was your favourite song from a long time ago and you’ve only just heard it again for the first time in forever. I guess the obvious answer is that synths sound like they’re from the eighties and it tricks my brain into thinking I’ve already heard it but I think it’s something more in the neon yearning quality of synths themselves? Anyway, I love it!

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Christmas Star Cookies

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My friend Harriet recently tweeted suggesting that Christmas be moved to every four years, like the Olympics, and as is usually the case with her opinions, I simply have to agree. I say this as someone who loves so much about Christmas – little brings me more joy than the scent of pine, a smooth jazz interpretation of a classic carol, experiencing some customary hustle and bustle, watching holiday episodes of TV shows, cracking open the seasonal text Nigella Christmas, and vibing near some baubles. Even so! It does seem to come around a little more often than usual these days, right? And all the things I like about it most are anticipative in nature – love Christmas Eve, routinely struggle to keep my head above water on Christmas Day itself – and what’s more anticipational than shifting the goalpost further away? And while we’re changing the fabric of western society, why not move Southern Hemisphere Christmas to July, in the middle of winter, where it belongs? Christmas in summer feels so gauche, trying to think about roast potatoes and fruitcake while also not being sure where the humidity starts and your violent sweating ends is no way to live!

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Unfathomably, no one’s put me in charge of anything yet, so till then we have to work with what we’ve got, and what we’ve got is Christmas rapidly approaching like a fleet of sturdy, purposeful reindeer. And so with it goes the food. Real hungryandfrozen-heads will note that this recipe is literally the same as the biscuits I blogged about a few weeks ago, just a different shape and colour with some spices added, to which I say: that’s right! Recycling is chic! And surely you’re used to me doing it by now! For what it’s worth, my improved method of icing the cookies by dunking them directly into the bowl of frosting will save you absolute minutes, and they really do taste different with all the warm and friendly spices added – cinnamon, the spice of the season, plus ginger and a little clove, a batch of these in the oven will have your house smelling like a scented candle which smells like a batch of cookies baking, and I’m convinced it’s neurologically impossible to be around this much cinnamon and not feel the slightest bit merry and bright, even if you’re not sure why.

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Something about the particular combination of blue, white, and gold is monumentally pleasing to me – the colours feel very old-fashioned, like a dress that Lena Horne or Lana Turner might have worn, or like a mid-century tree ornament. Of course, you don’t have to make these star-shaped, nor do they need to be blue, nor do you need to track down specialty sprinkles. Any colour icing, any shape, any decoration, they’ll still taste excellent. This recipe is pretty easy – one bowl, quickly mixed, the dough behaves beautifully under the rolling pin and the finished biscuits are quite durable. If you’re looking for something to either laden your table with or to wrap up and give as a present, these cookies are an easy choice.

And you don’t even have to make these for any kind of Christmas-related reason! This is a cookie for all seasons. The sweetness of cinnamon, the calm-yet-almost-reckless nature of the blue food colouring – not to mention, the pure deliciousness – is welcome any time of year.

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Vegan Christmas Star Cookies

A seasonal variation on my hundreds and thousands biscuits, these cinnamon-spiced one-bowl vegan cookies are SO easy, and – if you choose to keep my blue icing with its night-sky scattering of white and gold – really quite beautiful. Most importantly, whichever shape or decoration you choose, these cookies are delicious. And for a more visual guide to the recipe below, see my tiktok. Recipe by myself. 

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil, or other neutral vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup treacle, golden syrup, or molasses
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup soy milk, oat milk, or similar

Icing:

  • 2 and 3/4 cups icing sugar
  • A few drops blue food colouring
  • White and gold sprinkles – about 80g

1: In a large bowl, mix the three cups of flour, the teaspoon of baking powder and baking soda, the pinch of salt and the quarter cup of sugar. It’s important to mix the dry ingredients together first to prevent any baking soda lumps – I also tend to sieve in the baking powder and baking soda to help with this.

2: Add in the two teaspoons of cinnamon, or three if you like, the teaspoon of ginger and the 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves. While these cookies can withstand a lot of cinnamon, I wouldn’t increase the ground cloves any more than this, unless you’re very certain of your preferences. Stir to combine, then make a well/excavate a little hole in the flour mixture with your spoon, and pour in the half cup oil, then the half cup of treacle – doing it in this order means the syrup will slide right out of the measuring cup – and the smaller quantity of milk. Stir everything together till it forms a rough, crumbly dough. If it’s too crumbly, add a little more milk. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for twenty minutes.

3: Meanwhile, set your oven to 190C/375F, and line a cookie sheet/flat baking tray with a large piece of baking paper. I find the dough to be pretty well-behaved and easy to roll out on a flat surface lined with baking paper, but depending on your capacity for doing dishes/the humidity levels etc you may wish to roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper. Either way, only roll out a smallish portion of the dough at a time so the rest can stay chilled in the fridge.

4: Cut star shapes (or, obviously, whichever shape you’d like using whatever cookie cutters you have) and transfer the stars to your baking paper-lined tray, continuing until your tray is pretty full. These cookies don’t really spread, so you can have them fairly close together on the tray. Bake the cookies for eight minutes (on the dot!) and shift them to a cooling tray while you continue rolling out, cutting, and baking the remaining cookie dough.

5: Once the cookies have cooled, place the 2 and 3/4 cups icing sugar in a mixing bowl, along with about 2 tablespoons of water and either a couple of drops or dots of your food colouring. Whether you’re using liquid colouring or gel colouring, I find a toothpick inserted into the bottle then stabbed into the icing sugar to be the safest way of colouring the icing. You can always add more colour, but it’s very hard to take it back! Keep adding water, a small spoonful at a time, and stirring until you have a thick but pliant frosting. You can, if you like, just spread the icing straight onto the cookies, but I currently like to dip the cookies into the icing, then use a flat-sided knife to scrape off any excess – doing it this way is much quicker and less messy. Keep the layer of icing fairly thin, so it sets easily without dripping off, and place each iced cookie back onto the paper-lined baking tray (you may need to line another one to fit all the iced cookies on.)

6: Once you’ve iced five cookies, use a teaspoon to drop a little of the sprinkles over one side of the cookies, as you can see in the pictures. Continue, every five cookies – for me this was the ideal interval, because the icing wasn’t so wet that the sprinkles fell off, but it hadn’t firmed up too much yet either. Once the icing is completely firm and dry – I sat my cookies in front of a fan because it’s so humid here – store them in the fridge in an airtight container.

Makes about 34-ish cookies? Maybe more? If I may be frank with you I completely forgot to count them after they were baked, besides which the quantity of cookies all depends on the size and shape of your own cookie cutter anyway, but nonetheless, I apologise for not being able to offer specifics.

Note: I ordered my sprinkles online from a place called Sweet Pea Parties, they stock a charming range of decorating tools and ingredients and I happily recommend them.

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music lately:

Do You Love Me Now by The Breeders. I’ve listened to this song so many times that it feels like a meditation, it seems so much longer than its mere three minutes and yet there is never enough of it.

Return by Emma Ruth Rundle. It’s new, and it’s otherworldly beautiful, and that’s it really.

Fast Car by Tracy Chapman. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t like this song when I first heard it on the radio in early 1990-something but sometimes songs just find you when they’re supposed to and now I am penitently and enthusiastically making up for lost time! (I hear what you’re saying – wasn’t I like, seven in the early 90s? Yes, and that’s no excuse for bad taste in music!)

Losing My Mind, from the musical Follies, specifically Liza Minnelli’s all-neon 1989 version. I’m still getting to grips with the death of Sondheim and staying immersed in his music and you wouldn’t necessarily think that one of his most delicate and poignant songs would work when smashed together with every last available synth, a four four beat, and the Pet Shop Boys’ production, but really, is there any place more poignant than the dancefloor? Somehow this – and a lot of it is to do with Liza’s gutsy voice and fully committed performance – is every bit as fragile as any acoustic version.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Hundreds and Thousands Biscuits [or, vegan cut-out cookies]

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“The enemy is the inner me“, said Nick Miller, eyes widened in recognition, in s2e7 of the TV show New Girl. “To thine own self be true”, wrote Shakespeare in Hamlet. Somewhere between these two cultural landmarks, I stand, acknowledging but not self-deprecating about the fact that despite my modestly well-travelled palate and my published cookbook and my food writing indiction and that time I was invited to two degustations in one week, the food expression I spiritually connect with, yearn for, and constantly seek to recreate most…is pink icing with hundreds and thousands sprinkles.

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I mean, I never claimed to be sophisticated – nor could I, you can practically hear the audience laughing uproariously at this notion – but it’s hard to explain my love of this combination. Experienced in the wild, the icing is at best artificially flavoured with fake raspberry but is usually just a vague, generic sugar paste, and speaking of vague, the sprinkles offer absolutely nothing taste-wise and barely anything texture-wise once they’ve softened into the frosting bed clinging them to the baked good beneath. But together? Somehow – transcendent! Immediate happiness! Is it mere nostalgia? My rambunctious undisciplined inner child? A shallow and superficial prioritisation of aesthetics?

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Well, whatever it is, pink icing and sprinkles is still cute, and no amount of psychoanalysis can take that away. And while this recipe is a kind of vegan recreation of the rainbow-studded Hundreds and Thousands biscuits that I grew up dazzled by, it’s also – for those of you not so preternaturally wedded to the aesthetic as me – a useful and reliable vegan cut-out cookie recipe for any occasion or frosting direction, limited only by your collection of cookie cutters. Christmas is the obvious one – in which case I might add some cinnamon and ginger to the dough – but any day of the week could, indeed, should, be cheered by a novelty-shaped, garishly iced biscuit.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan hundreds and thousands cookies • perfect cut out cookies for Xmas etc! recipe at hungryandfrozen.com #recipetok #vegan #cookies #fyp #nz #nzfood

♬ Taking a Chance on Love – Alma Cogan

And it’s not just about looks. These biscuits are delicious – of course! – I would never lead you up an ambiguous path – with the golden syrup offering a bordering-on-gingerbread intenseness, despite not a lick of ginger being present, and a softly dense texture. Fake raspberry flavouring is, to me, the white truffle of the bottled essences, instantly sending you to a time when fifty cents could get you the world at the corner bakery, and contained in the thin layer of simple frosting – just icing sugar and water, set to a firm, smooth surface – it provides a kind of off-kilter yet entirely welcome contrast to the more traditional-tasting biscuit beneath. The cookie dough itself is well-behaved – a little stirring brings it together, and it rolls and re-rolls obligingly, so long as you keep it chilled.

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We’re 74 days into lockdown now (and yes, I’m going to bring it up every time because there’s nothing else to bring up!) and, I don’t want to overstate their abilities or anything, but looking at these biscuits, like a pixelated rainbow scattered across a pink skyline, makes me feel at least momentarily peaceful – to say nothing of the pure joy I feel upon eating them.

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Vegan Hundreds and Thousands Biscuits [or, vegan cut-out cookies]

A versatile, easy, and delicious vegan cut-out cookie – make it pink with rainbow sprinkles or use whichever cutters and colours you like. The simple sugar-and-water icing sets firm like royal icing without any of the hassle. As always, the recipe is very simple, I just don’t know how to write short succinct instructions. Recipe by myself.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil, eg rice bran
  • 1/2 cup golden syrup (see notes)
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup soy milk, oat milk, or similar

1: Place the flour in a mixing bowl and sieve in the baking powder and baking soda. Add the sugar and salt, then stir to combine.

2: Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil, followed by the golden syrup (going in this order means the syrup should slide cleanly out of the oiled cup measure) and the milk, adding the smaller quantity at first in case you don’t need it all. Stir, and then push together with your hands, to form a ball of dough that is cohesive without being sticky. If it’s too dry and clumpy, add some more milk, if it’s too sticky, add a little more flour. Cover the bowl and place it in the fridge for ten minutes, and turn the oven to 190C/375F.

3: Roll out your dough on a sheet of baking paper – you can use another sheet of baking paper between the dough and the rolling pin if you like but this dough is very well-behaved and shouldn’t stick to the roller. To help with this, it’s best to roll out the dough in small portions, so the remaining dough can stay chilled in the fridge. Cut out shapes using your chosen cookie cutter, and use a spatula or lifter-prodder type kitchen implement to transfer them to a baking paper-lined cookie tray/baking sheet.

4: Re-roll and cut until you have enough biscuits to fill the tray, return any unused dough to the fridge and bake the cookies for precisely eight minutes, positioned in the middle of the oven, if you want them soft-ish and chewy, and precisely ten minutes – no more! – if you want them crisp and snappish. As someone who frequently loses track of time and forgets what they’re doing in the middle of doing it, you understand that I don’t give you these instructions lightly.

5: Remove the cookies to a cooling tray and then continue rolling, cutting, and baking the remaining dough until it’s all finished. Allow the cookies to cool completely before icing.

Icing

  • 2 and 3/4 cups icing sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon raspberry flavour/essence
  • a few drops pink food colouring
  • hundreds and thousands sprinkles

6: Stir the water into the icing sugar a little at a time – bearing in mind that the raspberry essence will add extra liquid – I found two tablespoons + one teaspoon of water gave me a thick but spreadable icing. Add the raspberry flavouring, then use a toothpick to transfer dots of pink food colouring from the bottle into the bowl of icing, stirring and adding more until it’s the right pink for you. (I mean, you can just pour the food colouring into the icing but that way is fraught with danger.)

7: Spread the icing in a thin layer on each cooled biscuit with a flat-sided knife, dipping the blade in water if need be to help smooth it – and then sprinkle the biscuits with the hundreds and thousands. Allow to cool until the icing has firmed then store the biscuits in an airtight container in the fridge.

Makes – depending on the size of your cutter and how much cookie dough you eat – around 40 biscuits.

Notes:

  • If you’re in America and can’t get golden syrup then it’s my understanding that light corn syrup is the usual substitute – I wouldn’t use maple (too thin) or agave (too sweet) but if you can find golden syrup or treacle somewhere then stock up because it’s a singularly delicious and useful ingredient.
  • If you’re making these cookies for a non pink-rainbow-sprinkle context then I would still add a half-teaspoon flavoured essence in place of the raspberry – perhaps vanilla, or almond, depending on your audience and the occasion. Also bear in mind that using more flavouring or food colouring may require extra icing sugar to get the texture/thickness right.

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music lately:

Bluer Than Blue by Lil Hardin Armstrong; an accomplished composer, jazz musician, and singer, she was also the wife and collaborator of Louis Armstrong for several years. I’m so glad recordings like this one – where she sings her own composition in 1937 – exist.

The Man That Got Away by Judy Garland from her iconic Carnegie Hall concert – we listened to this album last night and it’s just – I can hardly even speak about it! The applause alone makes me cry!

Blue Banisters by Lana Del Rey – while not as instantly arresting as, say, Mariners Apartment Complex, this song lingers and haunts you in slow motion and it was stupid of me to imagine it wouldn’t affect me!

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!

Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread

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Getting used to something and being enthusiastic about it are two different things, but the absence of hatred is a start – of course, I’m talking about margarine, which I’ve resigned myself to using in various cooked and baked goods to the point where it’s done without thinking, and certainly without self-flagellation. I’ve been vegan for long enough now that I no longer appreciate the concept of consuming large quantities of dairy – that milk is none of my business! – but…it would be nice if margarine companies at least tried to emulate butter’s undeniably good flavour. Humans are capable of untold scientific endeavour, where’s that energy in margarine? I understand there are great vegan butters out there – and by “out there” I mean selected pockets of America – but here in New Zealand it’s margarine or nothing, and, well, I refuse to have nothing, so the margarine has to work for me.

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In the case of shortbread, where butter is the main event, the star, the biscuit’s reason for getting up in the morning – you’d be forgiven for assuming that a margarine-based recipe would be a failure, tinged with that tongue-lingering nastiness that only strong flavours can mask. First of all, you have to find the margarine that’s least vexatious, the most tolerable – for me, that’s Olivani (not Nuttelex, as I initially assumed when embarking on this highly-committed whim). Second of all, you have to believe me when I say – and I’m genuinely astonished by it – that this shortbread doesn’t taste like margarine. It doesn’t! It tastes softly buttery and mildly sweet and very reassuringly shortbready. It does, however, lack that final convincing push of flavour that butter enjoys; hence the helping hand offered by the regionally unorthodox yet highly recommended chocolate dip over half of each shortbread.

As well as bringing the obvious to the table – delicious chocolate flavour! – the firm shell of chocolate, especially when fridge-cold, has this fantastic contrasting bite compared to the fine-grained shortbread below, which melts in your mouth like sand disappearing into seawater. You can leave these plain if you don’t have any chocolate or you’re severely disapproving of any variation on this traditionally Scottish biscuit, but if you’re up for it this chocolate step comes highly, if not strenuously, endorsed.

@hungryandfrozen

vegan chocolate dipped shortbread 🍫 recipe @ hungryandfrozen.com 🤠 #vegan #chocolate #veganbaking #recipe #nzfood #foodblogger #fyp #plantbased

♬ Working for the Knife – Mitski

I had intended for these to be adorable chocolate-dipped stars, but I realised moments before starting the recipe that I had lost my star-shaped cutter somewhere in the fifty million times I moved house in the last five years; all I could find was a set of Christmas-themed cookie cutters which curiously did not include a star but did have a vague and formless shape that I could only assume was Santa with his sack upon his back or perhaps a slightly wonky and unsure-of-foot partridge. My aesthetic loss is absolutely your gain – this method is significantly easier and faster, scored and baked all at once in a tin then prised apart into rustic rectangular fingers.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, we’re in the frenzied grips of my mother’s lockdown project where we celebrate a different country that one of us has been to each day, in alphabetical order; I will definitely be making the Fijian Tarkari and the Česnečka from the Czech Republic again; my attempt at a vegan haggis is probably best kept a memory not to be relived. These shortbreads, however, will definitely be back.

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Vegan Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread

This vegan shortbread is simple, delicious, and made all the more palatable with a dunk in some melted chocolate. I swear to you, the recipe really is straightforward and super easy – I just couldn’t work out how to explain any elements of it in a succinct manner.
Recipe by myself.

  • 200g vegan butter/margarine (I used – and recommend – Olivani)
  • 90g icing sugar
  • 300g flour
  • 3 tablespoons custard powder
  • 150g dark chocolate

1: Beat the butter and icing sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and creamy – which should only take a minute or two – then tip in the flour and cornflour and carefully stir it all together (I say carefully because it’s very easy to shunt large clouds of flour everywhere at this point). Push the dough together into a ball with your hands, then cover the bowl with a clean tea towel or lid and put it in the fridge for about twenty minutes.

2: While this is happening, set your oven to 160C/320F and line a 28x18cm baking dish/brownie tin with a sheet of baking paper. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and press it out evenly into the tin – you can lay another sheet of baking paper over the top and gently press down on it to make it more even, removing it before baking of course. Jab the dough several times with a fork, which helps steam escape and makes it rise neatly; and then use a knife to score it twice horizontally and vertically several times, so you have about 24 similarly-sized rectangles. Apologies if this description doesn’t make much sense – basically you’re just scoring the dough as if you were preparing to slice it up, which makes it easier to slice once it’s actually out of the oven.

3: Bake the shortbread dough for 35 minutes – checking often – or until it’s lightly golden and the surface is firm. Remove the cooked shortbread out of the dish by lifting the edges of the sheet of baking paper. Use a knife to slice through the lines you scored earlier, then carefully ferry each individual shortbread to a cooling rack.

4: Once the shortbreads have cooled, melt the chocolate however you normally do it (I used a small glass bowl and 20-second bursts in the microwave, but if you put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and then rest that bowl on a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, that works too). Carefully dip each shortbread halfway – so half of it is coated in chocolate and half of it remains bare – and sit them on a tray lined with baking paper, then refrigerate till set. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes around 24.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have custard powder or are simply disinclined to use it, replace it with the same amount of cornflour (or cornstarch for the Americans) and add a generous splash of vanilla extract.
  • In my experience, Olivani is the best-behaved and most mellow-flavoured margarine – better than Nuttelex for sure – but you use whatever you’re comfortable with.

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music lately:

Minority by Green Day – I don’t know what it is about them but whenever I’m like “I’m a fan of Green Day” I say it in this reverent yet apologetic voice like I’m revealing some great shuddering truth about myself (it’s very similar to the voice I use when I own up that I’m a bigtime show tunes kind of guy.) Anyway, I’ve always been very fond of this song and its jauntiness and year-2000-ness and the impenetrable Mairzy Doats quality to the lyrics. I’m especially fond of this live version at Milton Keynes in 2005, since I was in that very audience.

Working For The Knife, by Mitski – new Mitski! New Mitski music in 2021! I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge throwing open his windows on Christmas Day. This is very important! Also, I was super nervous, and put off listening to it in case it wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped, and then got anxious in case I was somehow letting Mitski down, or in case people were like “oho, a fair-weather fan, are we” but of course none of those things happened (or was going to happen) and as soon as she sang “I cry at the start of every movie/I guess ’cause I wish I was making things too” I knew she was BACK.

Hello Dad…I’m In Jail by Was (Not Was). Like the Sideshow Bob stepping on a rake scene in The Simpsons – truly the opposite of diminishing returns.

PS: If you like my writing and wish to support me directly, there’s no better way than by stepping behind the claret velvet VIP curtain of my Patreon. Recipes, reviews, poetry, updates, secrets, stories, all yours on a monthly basis. There’s no better time than right now – your support helps me to make all these blog posts!