Category Archives: cookies

baklava – dairy & nut-free (vegan)

It’s perfect weather for a picnic! For a recent picnic, the theme for the food was “Mediterranean”. Since my usual role includes bringing desserts, I had picked out a recipe for some date-filled cookies.  Then the gauntlet was thrown with a casual comment about whether I could come up with a nut-free baklava.  Since I love a challenge, I accepted and dove into searching the web. The first few recipes I found for “nut free” baklava substitute sesame seeds or sunflower seeds for the nuts. Sounds yummy, but not going to work with the set of foods we need to avoid.  A little more searching led to this “Nut-free Fruity Baklava” recipe.  Tah dah!  A bit untraditional, but looked like some tasty flavor combinations.

The only tinkering I did with the ingredients was to substitute Earth Balance vegan buttery stick for the butter. The version here translates the instructions into U.S. English, including the measurements and cooking temperatures.

The results are very “baklava”. Flaky, sticky and slightly too sweet goodness. They got very positive reviews from all at the picnic, as well as the neighbors who are helping polish them off.

Oh – and the “trick” for working with phyllo dough is just to be patient and move slowly. The paper-thin dough does rip easily, but when I take my time things generally turn out okay. Read the package instructions for tips on how to handle the fragile dough. And remember that you need to plan ahead and leave enough time to fully defrost frozen phyllo dough before you start to assemble the baklava.

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
3/4 cup currants (or you could probably use raisins)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 package phyllo dough (check the package instructions – needs to defrost before use!)
1 cup (2 sticks) margarine, melted

1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind (I like to use a microplane)
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup cold water

1) Preheat oven to 350°F.
2) Place coconut and dried fruit in a food processor with a metal blade and process until finely chopped.  Transfer to a bowl, and stir in sugar and cinnamon.  (NOTE: The filling mixture can be made in advance. Store in an air-tight container.)
3) Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 inch metal pan.
4) Gently unroll the defrosted phyllo dough.  See the package instructions for tips on how to work with phyllo.  It helps to keep the stack of phyllo dough covered with a damp towel to keep it from drying out and getting even more fragile.
5) Depending on the size of the phyllo dough you are working with, you may need to cut the stack of phyllo sheets in half to fit in your pan.  OR you can just fold the sheets in half as you go.  I folded and it worked well – plus it was easier to pick up and transfer the folded sheets without ripping them too much.
6) Brush 1 large sheet phyllo with melted margarine.  Fold sheet in half, then gently place into the pan.
7) Repeat with 3 or 4 more sheets of phyllo until you have a total of 8 or 10 layers.
8) Sprinkle the layers of phyllo with 1/2 cup of the coconut and dried fruit mixture.
9) Brush 1 sheet phyllo with melted margarine.  Fold sheet in half, then layer on top of the coconut and dried fruit mixture.
10) Sprinkle with about 3 tablespoons of the coconut and dried fruit mixture.
11) Repeat layers of phyllo brushed with melted margarine and the coconut and dried fruit mixture, ending with several layers of phyllo on top.  You may have extra phyllo – that’s okay.
12) Use a large, sharp knife to cut the baklava into squares or triangles.  I cut mine into fourths the long ways (cut in half then in half again), then cut across the short side of the pan to create squares approximately 2×2 inches.
13) Bake for 30 minutes.  Reduce the oven heat to 300°F.  Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until golden.  My total baking time was a bit longer – about 50 minutes total.
14) While the baklava is in the oven, make the syrup.  Place honey, cinnamon, orange rind, sugar and 2/3 cup cold water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium.  Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the syrup has slightly thickened.
15) Pour the hot syrup over hot baklava.  Cool in the pan, then re-cut the baklava along the same cuts that you previously made.


coconut macaroons for Passover – egg-free (vegan)

What I really WANTED to make was an egg, dairy, and nut-free Passover cake (or cupcakes).  I experimented with trying egg-free versions of a Passover Charoset Cupcake recipe, but trying to sub 5 eggs (including egg whites!) was just a bad idea and I should have known better.  Really yummy tasting but a total flop.  I finally gave up the cake / cupcake idea, and instead looked for a macaroon recipe to “Passoverize”.  I’d tried some egg-free macaroons in the past that (for me) were a flop.  Too crumbly.  Or too tooth-achingly sweet.  My late-night searching turned up a Vegan Coconut Macaroon recipe that looked promising.  It looked like it would be moist, not too sweet, and easy to do Passover subs.

(makes approximately 36 bite-sized cookies)

2 cups shredded coconut (I used unsweetened)
1 cup coconut milk (coconut milk in a can tends to separate – I put the whole UNOPENED can in a bowl of hot water for a couple of minutes, then shake well)
2 tablespoons agave nectar (or honey)
4 teaspoons matzah cake meal (non-Passover version:  2 Tablespoons flour, or gluten-free “flour”)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
(cocoa powder – optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 350°.
2)  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or spray with cooking spray).
3)  In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the coconut milk, agave nectar, and salt.
4)  Add the matzah cake meal and whisk thoroughly.
5)  Heat the mixture to a full boil, and continue to boil for about two minutes or until it has thickened (OPTION FOR CHOCOLATE MACAROONS: add 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder to the coconut milk / agave mixture).
6)  Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla and shredded coconut.
7)  Drop the mixture by heaping teaspoonfuls onto the baking sheet.
8)  Bake the macaroons for about 16 minutes, or until golden brown.
9) Cool on the cookie sheet for a couple minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Note: This recipe was shared on Cybele Pascal’s Allergy-Friendly Friday on 4/23/2011.  Please check out the other recipes shared here.

thumbprint cookies for Passover – dairy, egg & nut-free (vegan)

More cookies!   This time I started with a recipe that was already dairy, egg & nut-free, then did some substitutions to make them into Passover cookies.  The recipe I started with is a favorite from The Food Allergy Mama – Kelly’s delicious (and easy) Dairy, Egg and Nut Free Thumbprint Cookies.  This was the first recipe that I attempted to “Passoverize”, and since it was a success gave me the little “push” to try tinkering with other recipes.  In addition to substitutes for the flour, I also added some lemon zest because I like a little lemony flavor in cookies.  And also because I wanted to get away from a taste that screams “Passover cookie!”.  The cookies are a little crumbly, so handle with care.

The Passover flour conversion comes from Joan Nathan’s cookbook “Jewish Holiday Kitchen”.

NOTE:   Powdered (confectioners’) sugar usually includes cornstarch; you can either buy Passover powdered sugar, or make your own.

1/2 cup powdered (confectioners’) sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) margarine, softened
2 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Zest from 1 lemon
1/2 cup matzah cake meal
1 1/2 cups potato starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
fruit preserves such as strawberry, raspberry, apricot (for the filling)

1)      Preheat oven to 350°.
2)      Use an electric mixer to beat together the powdered sugar and margarine; add vanilla and lemon zest.
3)      In a small bowl, combine the matzah cake meal, potato starch, and salt.
4)      Add “dry” ingredients to “wet”, and mix until the dough forms a ball. The dough will be very soft, but holds up well to being handled.
5)      Roll tablespoons of dough into balls and place on cookie sheets lined with either parchment or a silicone baking sheet.
6)      Use your finger or thumb to gently make an indentation in the middle of each ball. The cookie may crack a little around the edges.
7)      Fill each indentation with about ¼ teaspoon of your favorite fruit preserves.
8)      Bake about 14 minutes or until barely golden.
9)      Cool on the cookie sheet for a couple minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

double chocolate Passover cookies with dried fruit – dairy, egg & nut-free (vegan)

Passover baking is a bit of a challenge. Most traditional Passover recipes rely on eggs, eggs, and more eggs to create some sort of “lift” to baked goods. Or they use ground nuts as a substitute for flour. Neither of those options work for us, so I’ve been on a quest for Passover cookies that are dairy, egg & nut-free … and there just isn’t a lot out there.

My first attempt started with a “mock oatmeal chocolate chip” Passover cookie. I made batches using either applesauce or banana as a sub for the eggs, and can happily report that both worked well. I lost track of which batch was applesauce and which was banana, and my testers couldn’t easily figure out which was which. Probably because the main flavor was chocolate. My big problem was that when I formed the cookies, the chocolate chips mostly fell out. I ended up smooshing the chocolate chips on top of the formed cookies, which was yummy but a big mess to eat. Time for some tinkering …

I thought about chopping up the chocolate chips, but then decided to go with cocoa powder to make sure the chocolate is fully incorporated. Because there really isn’t such a thing as too much chocolate, I also mixed in some melted chocolate chips.

These cookies are moist, a little chewy, and full of flavor! They’d be super easy to modify by using whatever dried fruit you like, or chopped nuts, or coconut. For the dried fruit – I used dried apricots (because that’s what was in the house) but think dried cherries would be a great flavor combination.

Makes about 30 cookies.

1 cup matzo meal
1 cup matzo farfel
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup applesauce (OR 1 medium banana, mashed)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried fruit (if large dried fruit like dried apricots – dice or use kitchen shears to snip into smaller pieces)

1) Preheat oven to 350°.
2) In a large bowl, stir together the matzo meal, farfel, sugars, cocoa powder, and salt.
3) In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, combine the chocolate chips and oil, then microwave for about 1 minute to melt the chocolate.
4) Add to the melted chocolate the applesauce (or mashed banana) and vanilla; mix well.
5) Add the “wet” ingredient mixture to the “dry” mixture. It looks like it’s going to be too dry, but be patient and keep mixing. Feel free to use your hands if needed.
6) Stir in the dried fruit.
7) Roll dough into balls approximately 1.5 inches and place on cookie sheets lined with either parchment or a silicone baking sheet.
8) Using the heel of your hand, slightly flatten the cookies.
9) Bake about 10 – 12 minutes until the bottom of the cookies are slightly browned (less baking time will result in a softer, chewier cookie) .
10) Cool on the cookie sheet for a couple minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.