During the holiday season it seems like it takes me just a little while longer to give myself over to the sentiment of the season. The sparkly lights, pines and giant golden ribbons help. Toy soldiers standing guard like giant sentries over midtown add a little magic to the days. My holiday music station on Pandora has me singing along, especially when I can do it as a duet. Then comes the first snow fall, everything looks pristine and I’m smitten. I want to put on all of my winter clothes and get outside. Now I have an excuse to get out there no matter what. I somehow got into the NYC half marathon in March. If winter is about armor and arsenal then I’ve been taking stock and I’m ready to get at it. And these cookies make good fuel. They’re gluten free and vegan and they are SOOOO good.
I’ve started taking little breaks at work here and there to sneak out and get coffee and a gingerbread man. In the midst of all the decorations in the big offices, the music on the streets and the chill, these little guys have popped up. This is the only time of year when my favorite cookie is not only appropriate, but available! Gingerbread men are so freakin’ cute that I always feel a little bad eating them. We look at each other for a moment and I think “Oh Mr. Gingerbread Man, you’re so cute, but I’m still gonna eat you.” Then I bite his head off and revel in those rich winter flavors. That deep blackstrap molasses, cinnamon, maple and ginger. It’s what brings the warmth to winter. These guys are crisp on the outside, but soft and pliable in the center. They reach that perfect mixture I like in a gingerbread man of cake and cookie.
Everything in winter must be earned. The decision to go outside has to be firm, proper attire attended to. I’m more attentive in the winter, accepting the warmth from the people around me that is fiercely absent from the background of the days and nights, except in the decorations, of course. I’m more receptive to kindhearted gestures and more prone to delivering them. I’ve still been focusing more inward and taking care not to over-extend myself and it feels pretty good. In doing so, the winter spirit slowly enveloped me and I’ve been so inspired to share this guilt-free version of these cookies. They’re incredible and very quick and easy. Even if you don’t have cookie cutters, you can roll a tablespoon of the dough into little balls and make ginger snaps. I’d even argue that they taste better that way.
Make them and give them out to loved ones. Wishing you all a very happy holiday season!
GINGERBREAD COOKIES (V+GF)
- 1 1/2 cups almond meal
- 1/4 cup arrowroot or tapioca starch/flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- pinch fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 Tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
- Extra arrowroot or tapioca starch, for rolling & cutting
For the Icing:
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- 1 cup organic powdered sugar, sifted
- 1-2 tablespoons plain unsweetened almond milk
Preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl combined the almond meal, starch, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda and stir to combine. Add in the coconut oil, maple syrup and molasses and stir again until a sticky dough is formed.
To make cut-out cookies, place the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes to help it firm up. (Or you could place it in the fridge overnight, if you want to make this a day in advance.) Place the dough in the center of a large piece of parchment paper and sprinkle it with a bit of arrowroot or tapioca starch to help prevent sticking. Using a rolling pin to roll the dough into a flat sheet, about ¼-inch thick. Dip your cookie cutters into a bit of the starch, then press them into the dough to create each cookie. Pull away the excess dough to reveal each shape, and re-roll the dough to create more shapes. (I ended up with about 10 cookies using cookie cutters about the size of my hand. Normal ones would yield about 15)
Alternatively, you can skip the cut-out cookies and just roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls, roll them in a bit of coconut sugar, and flatten them on the baking sheet with your hand. They are SO GOOD this way, too!
Bake the cookies at 350F for about 10 minutes for cookies with a soft center, or 14 to 15 minutes for a more crisp cookie. (The edges should brown for a crispier cookie.) Allow them to cool completely on the pan before icing.
For the Icing:
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the vegan butter and powdered sugar. Mix in the almond milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the texture is thick but pliable. Transfer the icing to a sandwich-sized sealable bag. Squeeze out any air, then seal the bag. Use scissors to cut a tiny hole (about 1 mm) in one of the bottom corners.
Decorate the cookies however you like. Leftover cookies should be kept covered and stored at room temperature (up to a few days).