Vegan Christmas Cookies!!

My sweet niece, Annie, who loves Christmas, inspired me to do some Christmas baking this year. The only trouble is…I’m a terrible baker!! I mean, sure, I can make bread, but when it comes to cookies and cakes…not so much.

I decided that I would make shortbread cookies, rumballs, mince tarts, and almond crescents. I then realized that these were the exact cookies my mother baked every year during the Christmas season. And I was then determined to make the cookies EXACTLY as Kate made them…except veganized!

This post is more a reflection of my experience and a collection of recipes with veganized adjustments I can share with my darling daughter and nieces, most of whom are vegetarian or vegan. They all fondly remember Boxing Day at Grandma Pooley’s house, and they each had their favourite Grandma-made Christmas cookies.

Kate loved Christmas, so it seems appropriate to honour her on our first Christmas without her by attempting to replicate (and veganize) her Christmas baking!

Shortbread Cookies:

For these, I relied on a recipe Bid sent me for my mum’s shorbread cookies and they turned out very close to hers–indeed, these cookies melt in your mouth! The only adjustment I made was to replace the butter with PC plant-based butter:

Mince Tarts:

I always thought my mum bought the mince for her tarts, but Bid told me that she made her own!

So I started by making mince for the tarts, which I veganized by subbing vegetable Crisco instead of suet (ew) or butter. I used this recipe from The Spruce Eats, but doubled it–the veganized version is great. When you make this mince, your entire house smells like Christmas!

For the crusts for the mince tarts, I used this vegan pie crust recipe. However, I ended up with SO much mince left over that I bought some vegan tart shells and made a couple of dozen more BIG tarts. I sprinkled icing sugar on half before Bid told me it’s best to wait to dust until right before you serve them. Live and learn!

I made the initial batch in TINY muffin tins, and they were very fiddly and could hold only one teaspoon of mince. The ones I made in the store-bought shells hold two tablespoons of mince and are more of a full dessert than a tiny one-bite tart. Oddly, I prefer the look of the tiny rustic ones to the larger “perfect” tarts.

Next, I made….

Almond Crescents

To be honest, the almond crescents were a bit of a nightmare. My mum’s almond cresents were tender, but crisp and with a bit of a snap. I tried three recipes before I found one that was even close. I was a bit disappointed that I had to bin two big batches of cookies, but they weren’t good enough to serve to guests, and we certainly don’t want to eat that many rock-hard almond cookies–never mind the flat or burnt ones!

Eventually, I consulted with Bid (the queen baker) over various recipes, and we eventually decided that my mum’s recipe must have been the one from The Joy of Cooking.

I’m still not 100% happy. I mean…they’re good, but not Kate-good!

Here’s the recipe for almond cookies from The Joy of Cooking, but I replaced the butter with vegan butter and added a tsp each of vanilla and almond extract rather than 2 tsp of vanilla:

Rum Balls:

One of my favourite SNL skits is this old chestnut (harhar), so I was delighted to make some schweddy balls for Christmas this year!

I decided to try two different versions: one with real chocolate and one, as Kate made them, with cocoa.

I used this recipe for the rum balls made with melted chocolate, but I used semi-sweet baker’s chocolate melted in a bain marie (rather than the microwave). I chose the bain marie/baker’s chocolate method after I tried the method recommended in the recipe (chocolate chips melted in the microwave), but my chocolate seized and I had to bin it.

For the cocoa-based rum balls, I used this recipe.

Both recipes turned out brilliantly and very much like my mum’s, but I slightly prefer the former over the latter.

Oh, and I was able to find ONLY gluten-free vanilla wafers, so these fabulous rum balls are gluten-free!

I ultimately chose not to make the exotically named “Frying-Pan Balls,” which my mum made every Christmas because I never really liked them–they were too sweet even for my childhood self. Perhaps I’ll attempt to veganize them (and reduce the cloying sweetness) at some point, but not this year!

Janet’s Fruit Jumbles:

James has also decided to make a couple of his mother’s Christmas cookie recipes–her fruit jumbles and her sugar cookies! He made the jumbles yesterday and the whole house smelled delightfully Christmas-y! He has had her recipe posted on the side of the fridge for the fifteen years we’ve been together and it’s become (sadly) so faded that he had to rewrite it, but he, of course, kept the original recipe in his sweet mum’s handwriting.

I veganized the recipe about five years ago–here is the post with instructions.

And here is my version of Kate’s Christmas baking–veganized–with Janet’s jumbles top right!

Em is coming for a short visit tomorrow with her friends, Greer and Nic, and their adorable new baby, Alfie, so they’ll be the first to sample our Kate-and-Janet-inspired Christmas baking. We are SO excited to meet little Alfie, who has apparently already met Santa!

I’ve been blasting Spotify Christmas playlists as I’ve been baking and I have to say my new favourite it this–the Ed Sheeran-Elton John collaboration, “Merry Christmas,” which I’ll share with you here!

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