Food-Allergy-Friendly Fall Fun! Dairy-Free Pumpkin Gingerbread Cookies with Naturally Flavored Icing
Many healers will gleefully inform you that sugar is The Devil. They will tell you that it is the Be All End All of Dietary Evils, that it’s poison, that it will kill you and that there is something very wrong with you if do not find the notion of eating a cupcake morally offensive in the extreme, up there with, say, lacing your child’s sun-nut butter sandwich on gluten-free bread with arsenic and sending them off to school with a happy little smile.
Oy. Makes your brain (and sweet-tooth) ache, doesn’t it? Needless to say, I’m not one of those healers.
Is that grainy white stuff “healthy” for you? Not really, no. Will you feel better if you eat less? Yes, you will. But does that mean that you should never ever ever indulge at all? Not in my mind.
In my experience, in fact, there is nothing more devastating to our psyches, and therefore to our bodies, than an ongoing feeling of deprivation, of feeling like we can’t. Particularly when we feel that others can, as though somehow, they are deserving when we are not. Considering that in our current society, much of our socializing is tied into food—family dinners, holiday baking traditions, dating, going to the movie-theater or having a drink with friends—denying ourselves a food that we want can actually be more harmful to us than if we just let ourselves enjoy it. I don’t mean that you should have a doughnut for breakfast every morning, or even once a week. But if you wake up with a screaming craving for a doughnut and can’t get it out of your mind, then please, yes, give yourself the doughnut. Don’t beat yourself up—just let yourself savor the experience with the knowledge that for whatever reason, your body needed that comfort, and you weren’t sure how to provide that in a form that was not frosted and sprinkled. We don’t have to do The Perfect Thing for ourselves every second of every day—unless we want to make ourselves crazy. Which is a whole another topic. Let’s save that for another post, shall we?
With that in mind, I am thrilled to share with you my recipe for dairy-free pumpkin-gingerbread cookies with naturally colored icing, a favorite in our household that I make at least once a dozen times every autumn. They are dairy-free to accommodate my own sensitivities, do not use artificial dyes and are very, very yummy! They are also choc-full of warm, healthy spices such as cinnamon and ginger, get a beta-carotene and fiber bump from the pumpkin, and much of their sweetness comes from unsulphured blackstrap molasses, which, for certain blood types (A, in particular) is thought to be enormously beneficial. Also, because they are frosted and decorated with royal icing rather than a butter-based frosting, they are considerably lower in fat and calories than their bakery-style counterparts.
Happy baking, my darlings, and if you have any questions regarding ingredients or possible substitutions, please don’t hesitate to ask!
Dairy-Free Pumpkin Gingerbread Cookies with Naturally Colored Icing
Makes approx. 40 cookies, depending on cutter-size
*I also have a reduced-fat-and-calorie version that uses less sugar. Please contact me if you are interested.
2 ¾ cups white spelt flour, all-purpose flour or gluten-free baking mix (plus extra for rolling)
3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. sea salt
½ cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tbs. unsulphured blackstrap molasses
¼ cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 pasteurized large egg whites, or equivalent amount of reconstituted powdered egg-whites
3 cups (330 g) powdered sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. almond extract (optional)
Natural food coloring, such as that produced by India Tree (available Online and at Whole Foods).
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, pie spice, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2. In the large bowl of a stand-mixer, or using an electric hand-mixer, cream together the Earth Balance and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the molasses, pumpkin puree, egg and vanilla, and continue mixing until well-combined.
3. With the mixer on low, beat in the flour-mixture a cup at a time, mixing until thoroughly combined and no white streaks remain.
4. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, and wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap (I will shamelessly admit here that usually, I just scrape the whole lot into two Tupperware containers with tight-fitting lids. No need to waste plastic : )
5. Chill the dough in the freezer for at least an hour, or in the refrigerator for at least 2.
6. When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375°F, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
7. Lightly flour a large cutting board or squeaky-clean countertop. Unless your rolling pin is silicon, you will also want to dust that with flour as well. Working with approximately a quarter of the dough at a time, roll it out until it is about ¼ an inch thick. Cut shapes from the dough with cookie-cutters of choice, and carefully transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough, chilling it for a few additional minutes if it becomes too soft and sticky. Repeat until all dough has been used, adding additional flour as necessary (or you can freeze the remainder for baking another time).
8. Bake 9-to-15 minutes. The baking time will depend on the size and thickness of the cookies, the temperature of the dough when you begin baking them, as well as on your oven. It’s easy to tell when they are done, however! When ready, the edges will be firm to the touch, the middles will be soft but not doughy when lightly pressed, and the edges will just be beginning to turn golden brown.
9. Remove cookies to a rack to cool completely before frosting.
For Royal Icing
1. Place all ingredients in the large bowl of a stand mixer, or use a large bowl and an electric hand-mixer.
2. Blend on low speed until the powdered sugar is incorporated, then whip on high speed until the mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks.
3. Divide mixture into individual bowls or Tupperware containers with lids. Color each with your chosen hue, using a toothpick to transfer a drop of color from the bottle to the icing, being sure to be very conservative with the food coloring. One drop goes a very long way! Seal each container tightly when not in use, as Royal Icing dries very quickly.
4. You can frost the cookies simply by spreading on the icing with a butter-knife, or you can fill a pastry bag with a decorator-tip (or a sturdy plastic bag with a very small hole cut in one corner), and use that to create more intricate designs. I usually spread mine with icing, let them dry for a few moments, then use a different color icing to pipe the details with Wilton decorator-bags and the decorator-tip that makes narrow lines (Tip #3, if you are a Wilton-addict like me).
5. Leave the cookies out for about an hour to dry completely, then you can gently cover them with plastic-wrap or store in Tupperware containers. Store in the refrigerator if you think you can keep your family from eating them all that day.