Aching and Baking

January 30, 2008

"Why do you want a vegan cookie?" "Why did you get the soy chicken salad instead of the chicken salad?" "Soyrizo? You mean chorizo, right?'s made out of what?!"

I know it doesn't make much sense. I love ice cream, chorizo tortas slathered in crema and the lasagna-esque chocolate peanut-butter cookies from Grey Dog, but I also love Soy Delicious with vegan oreos, soyrizo quesadillas and stand by my conviction that Keri's Kreations' chocolate chip cookie is worth badgering my friends in San Francisco to cart over to me if they can't swing by Arizmendi for their hockey puck of a vegan chocolate mint cookie. I believe I need to put this issue to rest once and for all: vegan food can be really good even if (especially if) it isn't peppered with the righteousness and obduracy that accompanies so many of its proponents. Consequently, while I avidly follow developments in bacon, fat-free vegan also features in my regular rotation. I don't generally make much of a point to harp on fat content (why take any joy out of piping hot cheese grits?) but delicious is delicious and if it comes rolled up in a fat-free bundle then that means more for me.

Which leads me to biscotti. I set out to make quinoa cookies, but lacking rolled oats and fielding a thoroughly horrified reaction from the mother upon my suggesting I sift packets of oatmeal to separate out the oats, I needed to change my plan with a quickness. While it is easy to think of biscotti as stale-tasting cookies served up either shrink-wrapped or crammed and crumbling in jars at your local coffee house, I prefer to think on the unfailing sensation of decadence whenever an unrequested crisp little biscotti arrives alongside a cappuccino. Nostalgia won a double victory tonight, for not only did these subtly spicy little crisps trigger fond memories of their predecessors but they have also cemented what was previously a suspicion that coffee should never be served without them. While I am plotting more elaborate ingredient variations, Susan's simple recipe for success continues the trend of fool-proof baking begun by the beer bread. Much as bread is not bread unless there is a dairy product on or in it, coffee is not coffee unless it comes with a cookie.

Ginger Biscotti
adapted from Fat-Free Vegan

I was tempted to maintain the veganness of the original recipe by using a banana in place of the Ener-G egg replacer (an item of which I am fond but not currently in possesion), having done so successfully recently in the service of some apple butter ginger cookies. Fearful of ending up with either mushy or banana-tainted biscuits, I decided to sack up and use an egg and as much water as was required to achieve the desire consistency of dough. If you insist on vegan integrity, use 1 1/2 Tbl Ener-G and 6 Tbl water plus more if needed. Adding the chopped walnuts was a success, and next time I'm going for dried cranberries and a good dredging through some melted bars of Dagoba xocolatl.
1 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp (packed) freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
2 eggs
6 Tbl water
1 Tbl molasses
1/2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350.

Sift together the dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and water.

Gradually add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients followed by the molasses, vanilla and walnuts. Mix well, adding more water just until the dough holds together. It will be sticky

Divide the dough in two and place on a floured surface. Shape each half into two logs about 2" wide and transfer to an an oiled cookie sheet or silicone baking mat, Flatten the logs to about 1 inch high. Bake for 30 minutes.

Take the baking sheet out of the oven and cool the biscotti for 10 minutes (it didn't take a full ten before I could successfully cut into the logs but don't risk breaking them).

Cut the half-baked logs into 1/2" slices on the diagonal.

Place the slices cut-side down on the baking sheet and bake for 10 more minutes before turning them over and baking for another 8-10 minutes.

Remove from oven. They will likely still be somewhat soft in the center but will harden as they cool. And then soften upon being dipped in espresso.

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