ON THE MENU: CHAI SPICED SNOWBALL COOKIESDecember 14, 2016
@Lauresque shares with us her favourite festive recipe for chai spiced snowball cookies. With the approach of the big day, we’re enjoying the glimmer of fairy lights, wrapping up in oversized jumpers and baking up all the seasonal treats. Over to you, Laura…
UO: Have you always loved to cook? Was it something you did with family or develop an interest by yourself?
I believe my twin brother and I were about four or five years old when we first decided to cook something “all by ourselves”. We gathered all of the herbs and spices we could find in our kitchen, added them to water and asked our mom if she could make soup out of it. We boiled the mixture and added extra cinnamon (because cinnamon goes amazingly with soup, dah) and got to take turns stirring with a wooden spoon. When the soup was done we all sat down together and filled up our bowls. In the end, none of us were able to swallow the terribly tasting mixture but we definitely had a laugh. I’ve loved cooking and experimenting with recipes ever since.
UO: What do you love most about following a plant-based diet?
Eating this way is so much more than putting food in your body: it’s nurturing your soul, taking care of yourself and being good to the world at the same time. Being concious and mindful about everything you consume has so many benefits! Listing them all would take up an entire new blog post – to me, however, the fact that it makes both my body and the environment happy is enough to stick to it!
UO: What are your favourite vegan sweet treats for this time of year?
I absolutely love all the autumnal and wintery spices: cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg – they are so warm and comforting. Any cookie or cake just gets about a thousand times better with a little bit of gingerbread spice and everything nice! If I have to name a specific treat it would probably be pumpkin brownies with gingerbread spices. Or a turmeric latte with loads of maple syrup. Or anything chai flavoured.
UO: Could you share with us your top tips for great food photography?
Picking the right props and the right background makes all the difference. I like adding some of the raw ingredients to food photographs to show what’s in the dish I’m taking photos of – a couple of cloves, a few slices of banana, a spoon full of peanutbutter, just to spice things up a bit and light a spark of curiosity in anyone looking at the photographs. I also usually spend an eternity placing and replacing props and items to find a perfect balance in my set-up. Just have fun with it and don’t be scared to over-do it. Oh and I always take my photos with natural light – so I’d recommend finding a spot near a window.
UO: How do you like to dress your table for Christmas dinner?
I usually keep things quite simple: a white, silky tablecloth, some fairylights, twigs and sprigs of pine, loads of candles and some more rustic-ish decorations. Nothing too loud or shimmery though.
UO: What three ingredients would we always find in your cupboards?
Cinnamon, tahini and lentils or beans. Probably.
UO: What has been your biggest culinary achievement, and the biggest culinary failure?
I recently made a pumpkin piet that tasted insanely good. No one even noticed that it was vegan. I think that’s always quite an achievement: making vegan dishes and winning people over for the vegan lifestyle. So many people are predjudiced about veganism and vegan foods and showing them how good healthy, vegan dishes can be is just the best thing. As for culinary failures: I’m incredibly clumsy, so there are way too many collapsed cakes, burnt cookies and overcooked or undercooked dishes to choose from. I remember tripping over my own feet and dropping an entire pie upside down once. That was pretty unfortunate.
UO: What is your favourite way to spend the holiday season?
Oh I love this time of the year. Everything about winter is so dreamy – gathering around the fire place, being surrounded by loved ones, enjoying each other’s presence and roasting (vegan) marshmallows above the dancing flames. Going ice skating, having snowball fights and hot chocolate after. Watching the little lights that suddenly seem to appear everywhere and spending evenings wrapped up in blankets, dunking homemade biscuits into steamy cups of tea. It’s all so cosy.
UO: What is your go-to recipe for everyday ease?
Honestly, my favourite thing to eat at any time is a piece of toast with a good amount of plant-based butter and jam. Or a nice, warm bowl of oats. A favourite “real” recipe would be one for buckwheat pancakes: they make a great lunch or dinner and all you need is buckwheat flour, a plant-based milk, coconut oil and corn starch. Serve with avocado, lettuce, hummus, tomato and a sprinkle of sea salt and you’re all set!
On the Menu: Chai Spiced Snowball Cookies
With the arrival of darker days, early evenings, freezing temperatures and glimmering festive lights and decorations everywhere I usually start craving warm, spicy, comforting foods. Nothing beats spending an evening in the kitchen, singing along to my favourite christmas songs (yes, I’m that kind of person – the kind that pretends to be Mariah Carey, using a wooden spoon instead of a microphone) and baking some delicious treats. And by ‘delicious treats’ I mean chai spiced snowball cookies – because why not combine my all time favourite hot beverage and baked goods into something absolutely scrumptious? Ever since I discovered this recipe I’ve been addicted. They’re really easy to make and good for pretty much every occasion – when served in a cute box, wrapped in shimmery paper and topped with a big, festive bow they even make a lovely christmas present!
100 grams soy/plant-based butter, softened
50 grams agave syrup
60 grams cane sugar
The seeds of 1 vanilla bean
200-250 grams of flour (I used regular, white flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
1-2 cups powdered sugar for dusting
1. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Using a whisk or fork, mix butter, agave syrup, sugar, vanilla bean, baking soda, salt, and spices together in a bowl.
3. Now, using a spatula gradually add in the flour until the dough is firm and holds together in a ball. You may not need all the flour – the dough shouldn’t be crumbly or too dry.
4. Form little balls and place them on your baking tray. I usually get about 30 – 36 portions out of this recipe, making the dough balls about the size of half a tablespoon each.
5. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until firm and golden brown.
6. Let the cookies cool slightly but roll them in the powdered sugar while still fairly warm. Then let them cool entirely or enjoy right away. They should be good for about 4 days but I’m pretty sure they will all be gone before you even get the chance of storing them in a proper jar or container.