Smoke & Fire Cookies (Vegan!)

I know I’ve waxed poetic about Fix and Fogg before, but really, these guys are my favorite. When I was back in Wellington I made sure to stock up on some of their excellent peanut butter, and when I went to their adorable storefront to buy a jar, the guy working offered me a sample of the new spiced peanut butter they’re making. Spiced peanut butter! It sounds weird, and it is, but it is AMAZING. Needless to say I bought a jar.

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I know what you’re thinking – that’s nice and all, but I’m not in Wellington, so I guess I can’t bake these cookies. Well, no. While I am 100% certain these would be better made with actual F&F Smoke and Fire, I actually made them with regular old chunky peanut butter and an assortment of spices to imitate the real stuff. Because that one jar of spicy peanut butter I brought back? Yeah, I ate all of that. With a spoon. In about a week. And so until Fix and Fogg start exporting (please start exporting!) this is what I have to tide me over.

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Coffee Bourbon & Boozy Mocha Brownies

This is it: the first truly alcoholic post on the blog. I know I’ve mentioned my bar work here before, and I even put up a recipe for bourbon-spiked cookies a while back, but so far this blog has stayed mostly teetotaler-friendly. Not a bad thing, necessarily, but infusing spirits requires a similar skill-set to baking, and it’s fun, too. So here’s my first infusion recipe: coffee-infused bourbon. I stumbled upon a recipe back in December, made a few tweaks, let the stuff sit for a couple weeks, and ended up with something delicious. It’s very strong and pleasantly bitter, but with enough vanilla sweetness to soften the blow.

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I had grand intentions of using the infusion for espresso Manhattans or Old Fashioneds, but in the end my friends and I drank all of it neat at a party. (Which was also a great use of it, don’t get me wrong.) Luckily, not before I managed to use some in a tray of amazing boozy brownies. Both recipes are below. The coffee bourbon takes a couple of weeks; the brownies take less than an hour.

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Salted Chocolate Rye Cookies

Hello again, readers! I’ve been very busy the last couple weeks running around New Zealand and checking out my future home of Melbourne, so despite my best intentions I’m a couple posts behind. Instead I was photographing a friend’s wedding in Wellington and writing for another friend’s blog. And while I did actually bake while I was away, it was only once, and just these old standbys. But I’m back now, and I’ve got a couple cool recipes to share with you.

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These cookies, for starters. I’ve been playing around with a couple recipes from Tartine recently—notably I made a vegan version of these, which for some reason I neglected to photograph—and this was my favorite new find. The rye flour gives these a very distinctive flavor and texture, and while I’ve never been a fan of rye bread, I thought these were delicious.

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Marscapone Brownies

I suppose as a baking blog I’m pretty much obligated to mention Valentine’s Day…as a perpetually single person this holiday is pretty much meaningless to me, but I know a lot of people like to celebrate with chocolate, and so I have a nice, easy, last-minute chocolatey recipe for you all.

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Of course in this part of the world, it’s already February 15th. I spent my Valentine’s Day back in New Zealand at a very unorthodox bachelorette party (no strippers or ridiculous penis-shaped straws/balloons/whatever else; we went wake boarding and had a barbecue) which was wonderful. Also, I’m back in New Zealand, which is a great feeling in and of itself.

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Grasshopper Brownies

Okay, so I didn’t get through quite so many Christmas cookies as I would have liked. I thought about squeezing one more round in, but opted instead to spend my evening making pain au chocolat and baguettes. So not quite so many cookies, but some really lovely breakfast for my friends and if all goes well, a step-by-step croissant tutorial for you guys soon. ‘Tis the season, or whatever. I do have one last holiday recipe for you, because it just didn’t feel right to have Christmas with no mint or white chocolate.

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I actually wanted to make peppermint bark initially, but candy canes do not seem to exist in Byron Bay, so that idea was quickly abandoned. This is a bit of a similar concept, but with an added brownie layer. So you’ve got a chocolatey, fudgy brownie, topped with minty white chocolate ganache, topped with rich dark chocolate ganache. These are very intense and very, very tasty.

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Double Chocolate & Macadamia Nut Puddle Cookies

I totally missed the boat on a Thanksgiving post, guys. It’s hard to celebrate being so far away and all, although I did manage to get a big group of travelers in on a potluck dinner. My Thanksgiving this year consisted of a random assortment of dishes, from vegetable curry to bruschetta to mango dumplings. Everything was delicious, but the only traditionally Thanksgiving food was the stuffing I made. Which was delicious, and which may get a write-up this time next year, but I wasn’t quite on top of things enough to get it up before the holiday. I’ll do better for Christmas.

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So instead, some more cookies. More gluten-free cookies, even! I’m still pretty busy and worn out with work, so this is another good quick recipe. Hopefully next week I’ll be back up to my usual tricks, making unnecessarily involved desserts for all my lovely new friends here in Australia. This week, though, you only need seven ingredients and about half an hour of your time.

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And these are so good. Chewy and rich, with a smooth, slightly crunchy surface like a meringue. More crunch from the macadamia nuts, and plenty of deep, intense sweetness from the dark chocolate. They are one of my favorite gluten-free recipes and definitely a good one to have in your arsenal.

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Easiest Peanut Butter Cookies (Gluten-Free)

I can’t say I’m wholly sold on this whole “Australia” thing, but I will say this – it is so sunny and warm and beautiful. A little too windy down on the beach, maybe, but after a childhood spent on Northern California beaches (where you always need a sweatshirt and the water is so cold it hurts your bones), I can’t really complain about that either. And it’s only getting hotter and more summery.

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 (Okay, that photo’s actually from up near Cairns because I haven’t shot much of Byron Bay yet, but you get the idea.)

I don’t mean to brag (I totally mean to brag), I’m just trying to explain how busy I have been at work lately. The tourists are starting to flock to Byron Bay, and everyday the little cafe I work at is packed out from about 9:30 am until sometime in the early-mid afternoon. Between the ever-busier days and some abrupt staffing changes, I have been pulling some long weeks. So the last time I went to bake, I just wanted something quick and easy and mindless. That’s what these cookies are for. The gluten-free thing is a nice bonus, but mostly they’re just so wonderfully simple. Not in a gross microwave-cake-in-a-mug (do you guys remember that fad?), just in a delicious, sometimes-you-only-need-three-ingredients way.

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And then if you’re like me, you make it all a bit complicated and coat everything in chocolate. But that’s optional.

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Vegan Hippie Cookies

I know what you’re thinking – more vegan baking? Already? Don’t worry, as soon as I finish this post I’m going downstairs for some more traditional lacto-ovo-vegetarian baking, but yes. I made some vegan cookies. And they were amazing, although weirdly my new coworkers here in Australia did not eat all of them. I brought a whole box and only about half went. Quite a change from bringing literally 100+ cookies into work and having people tell me I hadn’t made enough. I’m a little relieved, to be honest.

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These are not actually all that outrageous. I still used refined sugar and wheat flour, because at the end of the day I just love my chocolate chip cookie recipe too much as it is. So if, like me, you’re more of a health fan than a health freak, or if, like me, you just have a couple vegan friends and you want to give them some cookies, this is perfect. And they taste amazing. The cacao nibs (broken-up bits of raw cacao beans, and definitely part of what makes these hippie cookies) add a nice intensity of flavor and a bit of crunch. And the coconut butter adds just the right amount of coconut flavor – it’s not overwhelming, but it’s there. Equally important is the texture, which is not all that different from your standard chocolate chip cookie, though perhaps a bit softer.

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Strawberry & Dark Chocolate Muffins

Hello again! I’ve really dropped the ball on my Halloween baking this year – I had grand intentions of skull cookies, which I will still probably bake this week, but I obviously didn’t get anything done in time for this blog. So it goes. I’ve had a very busy weekend – it was my 25th birthday, so lots of socializing and eating and drinking. A friend of mine even baked me cupcakes from this blog! Such a great birthday present. But I didn’t want to neglect you guys, so here’s a slightly older recipe for you.

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I’m not usually a huge fan of baking with fruit. A bit of orange zest here and there, sure. Apple pie, definitely. But most of the time I’d really rather have the fruit by itself than waste it in baked goods. However, over the past few months I’ve become inordinately fond of berry and chocolate muffins. And so, when I got to Byron Bay and strawberries were unbelievably cheap, I thought I’d try my hand at making some myself.

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Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

I’m sorry guys. I’m so sorry. I’ve been neglecting you. It’s not just that I’ve been baking less often – though I have definitely been baking less often. I’ve also been doing some seriously sloppy baking (and, as you can probably tell from the photos below, some even sloppier photography). I just sort of throw things together, and then I heat it all up in the hostel toaster oven (which is actually a decent little oven, but I know it’s lying to me about the temperature so there’s a lot of guesswork involved.) Sloppy. I even managed to bake the first batch of these without sugar. Eight ingredients and I managed to forget one.

So yes, I apologize. But I’ve moved into a new place, with a nice kitchen with things like scales and measuring cups. Mixing bowls. A fridge with enough space to chill things. It’s wonderful. I’m about to start on my first baking endeavor, but I wanted to give you guys a couple of the nice things I baked in the hostel to tide you over.

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