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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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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Gingerbread Biscotti

Happy 2015 everyone! I spent the first few minutes of the New Year on a beach surrounded by friends, which is also how I spent Christmas, which is the great thing about having December in the summer. To be fair we’ve had a lot of rain, too, but the weather has pulled through on the important days.

Speaking of Christmas, I know I promised you croissants, and they are forthcoming. First, though, something a little simpler. I actually made these purely for the purpose of using up leftover ingredients from my gingersnaps, which makes the recipe perfect for this time of year. They take a bit of time – being biscotti, they do need to be baked twice – but they’re not difficult and they’re very worth your while.

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I halved the recipe below because my oven is small and again, I was really just making these to use up some leftover ingredients. I would highly recommend making a full batch.

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Peanut Cookie Brittle

When I first moved to Massachusetts for college (or “uni,” as I have now been conditioned to call it) back in 2007, I quickly discovered that many things I’d assumed were American turned out to be just Californian. For example, people in New England ate Twizzlers instead of Red Vines (both are weird – I mean who even eats licorice anymore – but Red Vines are obviously superior). The most obnoxiously inescapable song my senior year of high school never even made airwaves out of state (it was called “I Wear My Stunna Glasses At Night,” I hated it at the time, and now that I’ve looked it up I can’t stop listening to it). The famously cheap $2 wine at Trader Joe’s cost (shock, horror) $3 instead. And there was no See’s Candies.

I don’t spend a lot of money on sweets or baked goods, because generally I know I can make them better and more cheaply in my own kitchen, but See’s will always have a special place in my heart. So many options! So many free samples! And best of all, their peanut brittle, which, enormous peanut butter fiend that I am, I completely adore. My dad used to send me a box during finals every year to help get me through. And while I’m sure that it, too, could be made better (or at least as well) and more cheaply at home, I’m really not set up for candy-making in my current kitchen.

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Enter this cookie brittle. It’s got that same caramel-y, sweet and salty taste, and that great, satisfying crunchiness, mixed with the buttery texture of a really nice peanut butter cookie. Plus it’s dangerously easy to make. And it’s a nice change from the endless gingerbread and sugar cookies that you get this time of year.

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Crunchy Gingersnaps

Here’s a fun fact: humidity makes baked goods go stale. My part of Northern California is not a very humid place, and neither is Wellington, and most of my baking back in Massachusetts took place during the colder parts of the year, so I only just found this out today. When my lovely, fantastically crunchy gingersnaps, went soft and chewy overnight. Apparently a slice of bread in the container helps? Or I need better containers? Or I should have just frozen them overnight. I’m not sure. Any advice would be welcome. Regardless, these were a bit of a disappointment the morning after. Still tasty! But I like my gingersnaps almost hard enough to crack a tooth on.

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Still, if you are somewhere less humid, or you have a better storage strategy, or you plan on eating these immediately, you should try this recipe. They are (or, in my case, were) just what a gingersnap should be. Very gingery, not too sweet, a touch of salt, and (did I mention this already?) nice and crunchy. Excellent holiday cookies. Which makes sense because I got the recipe from Alton Brown, and that man knows his cookies.

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Mexican Wedding Cakes

As promised, seasonally appropriate cookies. Well, I say “seasonally appropriate” but of course here in Australia it’s 2000 degrees and everyone is more or less running around naked. Not exactly mulled wine and gingerbread weather, but I’ll make do. Starting with a cookie that was one of my favorites growing up.

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I didn’t know anything about this cookie until I looked up how to make it. Apparently it has about six different names (including Russian Tea Cake and Povlorón) and no one knows why, or what its true origin is. All I know is that one of my neighbors back when I lived in Palo Alto used to give us a box every Christmas and I loved them. I’d never eaten them before and I loved the flavor and the unreasonable quantities of powdered sugar. I haven’t had these for years, and since no one here in Australia seems to have ever had them at all, I thought I should share.

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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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Old-Fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookies

pileHi guys! Predictably I’m behind on my posting. I’m currently living in a hostel in Byron Bay, Australia. It’s sunny and beautiful, but I’m working with a shared kitchen, a communal toaster oven, and a seriously tiny food budget, so I haven’t exactly been doing tons of baking. I’m probably more upset about it than you are. Anyway, I’m hoping to get some done in the next couple weeks, but in the meantime, I have another old post for you!

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These were born out of failure. I wanted to make Old-Fashioned macarons – you know, like the classic bourbon, sugar, bitters, and orange cocktail. But I ignored the first rule of making macarons: don’t do it without a scale. I tried. I failed. Twice. But I had some really nice Buffalo Trace bourbon left over, and some ingredients to use up before leaving Wellington, so I made these instead. They were pretty damn tasty.

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