Variations on a Russian Teacake

As you can probably tell from the picture, these are not your ordinary Russian teacakes. What they may lack in snowy whiteness, however, they make up for in delicious flavor and gluten-free, naturally-sweetened goodness! The luscious, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth flavor is like a cross between a pecan sandie and a Russian teacake. These were such a big hit at Christmas, I decided they could qualify as a winter cookie, at least until Valentine’s! ­čśë

On another note, that lovely quilted and embroidered snowflake table decoration was made by someone very special who just opened her very own Etsy store! In fact, every one of the beautiful napkins and other decor in the background of my blog were all made by the fabulous and talented Elaine. Please visit her store, Anna Katherine Styles, to find your own lovely table runners, mug rugs, and specialty fabric purses. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, you can place an order and have it made specially for you!

And…here’s the recipe.

Russian Teacakes
revised from the original Betty Crocker recipe 

1 cup butter, softened*
1/2 cup powdered coconut sugar**
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup white rice flour 
3/4-1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup arrowroot 
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts and pecans 
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered coconut sugar for rolling (about 1/3 cup)

Preheat oven to 400┬║. 
Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered coconut sugar, and vanilla in large bowl. 
Stir in flours, nuts, and salt until dough holds together (add more brown rice flour if dough is too sticky). 
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.
Roll cooled cookies in powdered coconut sugar and place on serving plate. 

* If you’re like me, you don’t want to wait hours for the butter to soften! If you choose to melt the butter in a saucepan instead, refrigerate the dough about 10 minutes before attempting to roll into balls. The temperature of the butter is the key to a workable dough. If the butter is too warm, the dough will just fall apart and leave butter all over your hands. If you leave the dough in the fridge too long, it will be hard as a rock and you’ll need to let it sit out to soften the butter again!

 ** To make powdered coconut sugar, whirl regular coconut sugar in the blender until fine as dust. To minimize sugar dust in your kitchen, place a towel over the blender lid while blending and wait 5 to 10 minutes after blending before opening lid. 

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Winter Spice Bonbons 

It’s time for Christmas cookies! My sweet husband has requested 7 kinds of Christmas cookies (apparently lots of cookies were a tradition in his family). We’ll see how far I get! ­čśŐ

This first installment is based on the Lara bar. Many copycat Lara bars have been posted across the internet; this one is based on the seasonal flavors (like gingerbread cookie) I had found last year at Whole Foods. They were so good! And now I can make them to enjoy any time of year!

I hope you enjoy them too!

Winter Spice Bonbons

3 cups whole pitted dates
2 cups pecans
1 cup cashews
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves

Grind all ingredients in food processor* until smooth and sticky (you may still have some nut pieces). Form into balls or press flat between parchment paper and cut into into bars. Store in refrigerator.

*Note: this does not work well in a blender!

Creamy Vanilla Cashew Yogurt

I have tried several non-dairy yogurt recipes, and have not been so satisfied with any as I have been with this adaptation of the Urban Poser’s cheesecake recipe. It has just the right creaminess, does not taste like coconut milk, and has just enough nutty flavor to be delicious but not overpowering. I hope you will enjoy it too!

Recipe:

1 cup cashews
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
20 billion probiotics

Blend cashews, coconut milk, and water in Vitamix or food processor until completely smooth. Open probiotic capsules and add powder to cashew mixture. Blend completely. Scoop mixture into a glass bowl and place in yogurt maker (keep warm at 100-110┬░) overnight, about 12 hours. 

When yogurt smells sufficiently fermented, remove from yogurt maker and scoop back into blender. Add the following and blend well:

1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon cream, butter, or ghee
1/4 teaspoon gelatin mixed with 1 tablespoon hot water 

Pour into bowl or individual jars and refrigerate 6-8 hours before serving.

Honey Lavender “Ice Cream”

The first flurries of snow have finally fallen on our side of town. The winter is almost here, though a few of the flowers in the garden are still holding on. This recipe celebrates the lovely lavender, one of the last blooming flowers of summer.

4 cups coconut cream, at room temperature
1/4 cup coconut sugar 
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon guar gum*
1/2 tablespoon bourbon, optional**

Mix all ingredients except guar gum in blender. While blender is running, sprinkle in guar gum. Pour mixture into ice cream maker freeze according to machine instructions. 

*guar gum may be omitted for those on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, or if you are using coconut milk that already contains it rather than using the pure coconut cream. It helps emulsify the water and fat content of the coconut cream so that it freezes smoothly rather than with ice crystals formed from the separated water.

**The alcohol is added to keep the ice cream from freezing too hard. It still does freeze quite hard even with the bourbon, so you will need to take it out of the freezer about half an hour before serving it.

Strawberry “Ice Cream”

As summer is coming to a close and the beautiful fall light begins to slant through the trees with its particular golden hue, there is time for one more warm weather recipe: delicious coconut milk ice cream, brimming with the flavor of summer strawberries. This is sure to please both the coconut hater and coconut lover, as the strawberries and vanilla successfully camouflage the coconut flavor.

2 cups coconut cream, at room temperature
2 cups frozen strawberries (12 to 14 medium-large strawberries)
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon guar gum*
1/2 tablespoon bourbon, optional**

Mix all ingredients except guar gum in blender. While blender is running, sprinkle in guar gum. Pour mixture into ice cream maker freeze according to machine instructions.

*guar gum may be omitted for those on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, or if you are using coconut milk that already contains it rather than using the pure coconut cream. It helps emulsify the water and fat content of the coconut cream so that it freezes smoothly rather than with ice crystals formed from the separated water (this is also helpful when making ice creams with added fruit, like this one).

**The alcohol is added not for additional flavor, but to keep the ice cream from freezing too hard. It still does freeze quite hard even with the bourbon, so you will need to take it out of the freezer about half an hour before serving it.

Cinnamon Star Cookies

So I’ve been on another egg-free kick lately. Now, egg-free, grain-free, nut-free, practically everything-free all at once is really, really hard. And it’s especially hard for making cookies. Thankfully, though, I can do brown rice flour! And I came across a website with a bunch of egg-free cookies from an Indian chef. They all look really fun! I started with the cinnamon cookies, and replaced the all-purpose flour with brown rice flour (they’re actually not crumbly or gritty, as I thought they might be!), used coconut sugar instead of regular, and translated the measurements from metric to…whatever it is we use in America. ­čśŐ The result was delicious the first day, but the second day…wow! They brought back memories of baking pies with Mom and Grandma. We used to take the scraps left over from the pie crust and bake them up with cinnamon and sugar on top. That is exactly what these taste like! Delicious little cinnamon crisps. What’s even better than delicious food? Delicious food that carries happy memories!

Cookie Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup coconut sugar 
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
1 3/4 cup brown rice flour 
1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
2 tablespoons water

Cinnamon-Sugar Topping:

1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Melt butter, then cream together butter, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Add brown rice flour and baking powder and mix well. Add water until the dough is workable, forming a medium-soft ball. Refrigerate dough for 10 minutes, then roll out on parchment paper till 1/8-1/4″ thick. Cut with cookie cutter, re-rolling the scraps and repeating the process till the dough is used up. Place the cookie shapes on a parchment lined baking stone. Sprinkle cookies with cinnamon-sugar mixture, gently pressing cinnamon-sugar into the cookies with your palm. Bake at 350┬░ for 15 minutes. Cookies will not brown very much (they are already brown from the cinnamon and coconut sugar), but should be done then. Let cool about 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

Orange Walnut Torte

This cake has been long in the making. I first wanted to create a non-chocolate nut flour cake, dense like a┬áchocolate torte, but flavored with orange instead. At first I wasn’t sure about┬áhow it turned out. It was light and fluffy on top, but dense and moist underneath. But after my husband raved about it…well, I decided that’s how it’s supposed to be!

Next, though┬áthe cake had an elegant flavor, it certainly didn’t look elegant. So I experimented until, with a little help from my talented taste-testing husband, I┬ácame up with an orange-flavored icing that finishes of the cake beautifully, both in flavor and appearance! I hope you enjoy the results of our experimenting as much as we do!

Cake:

1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest (1-2 oranges)
1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice (1 small orange)
2/3 cup walnuts (or 1/2 cup walnut flour)
2\3 cup cashews (or 1/2 cup cashew flour)
5 eggs, separated
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 300┬░. Grease an 8″ a springform pan with coconut oil and line with parchment paper. In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil, then allow to cool. Meanwhile, whip egg whites with the salt till soft peaks form. Grind nut flour in food processor. In a separate bowl (or food processor), whisk egg yolks with honey till pale, then mix in the orange juice and coconut oil. Add in nut flour and zest, then fold egg whites into batter a little at a time, until just mixed. Pour into springform pan. Bake at 300┬░ for 45 minutes, on convection if you have it. Cake will be browned and springy when done, but still dense and somewhat sticky in the middle.

Icing:

1 cup cashews, soaked 4 hours, then drained
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (3 small oranges)
1 tablespoon orange zest (2-3 oranges)
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend all ingredients in food processor or Vitamix until smooth. Chill in refrigerator 30 minutes, then spread on cooled cake. Finish with a dusting of coconut sugar.

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