Amaranth Lemon Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

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I'll never pass up an opportunity to try to convince myself that stuff like cookies and ice cream are healthy foods and good for you in every possible way. It's my mission in life. And these amaranth lemon cookies, these sunny little morsels, could well be the standard bearer in my never-ending quest. I mean, really. Whole grains? Ancient grains too?  No overly cultivated, GMO-d, Frankenfood here, no siree. Vegan? Plant-based goodness! Gluten-free? Okay, it may be the food fad du jour for some of us—gluten doesn't bother me, phew!—but it can be an issue. And throw in organic for good measure. Check, check, check, check and check. All good for you, right? So yeah, I'm pretty sure you could eat these for breakfast, lunch, dinner and several snacks, no problemo. But don't quote me on that. 

This recipe caught my eye for a few reasons. First, the whole graininess because #CreativeCookieExchange is all about whole grains this month. Second, because it's a twofer recipe—you can either make them thick and chewy or thin and crispy with just a couple of ingredient swaps. (I went for the thick and chewy version because A. I didn't have tapioca flour on hand and I'm trying to curb my instinct to run out and buy stuff I'll probably not have much use for) and 2. it's been another week of dental woes and biting into a crispy cookie just isn't in the cards right now.) Third, lemon. I love it in all its forms. When a recipe says lemon, though, it had better deliver LEMON, which these did, albeit in a subtle way.

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But tell me about this amaranth stuff, you might be thinking. It's an ancient grain, going back more than 6,000 years, is native to Peru and was a major food for the Aztecs. It's a pseudo-cereal, not a true cereal grain, but why pick? It's not (yet) one of those things you can easily find in your local grocery, at least not unless your local grocery stocks a large selection from Bob's Red Mill (luckily, mine does). But it's picking up traction, not only for its taste—think slightly nutty and slightly sweet, at least to my taste—but also for its many health benefits which include, according to the Whole Grains Council (see everything you'd every want to know about amaranth right here), being a protein powerhouse, heart healthy and the aforementioned gluten-free.  Good. For. You. In every possible way. And that's what I keep telling myself each time I inhale another cookie. 

Whole Grains is the theme for this month's #CreativeCookieExchange and these good-for-you amaranth lemon cookies are my contribution. Be sure to check out the links below to see what the other CCE-ers baked up.

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Amaranth Lemon Cookies

Ingredients

For a chewier cookie:

  • 2 cups amaranth flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded coconut flakes
  • 1 flax egg (1 Tbsp. ground flax + 3 Tbsp. water, stir and set aside)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup water

For a crisper cookie, as above except:

  • Omit 1/2 cup amaranth flour
  • Omit 1/4 cup finely shredded coconut
  • Add 1/2 cup tapioca starch

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, starch (for the crisper cookie), coconut flakes (for the chewier cookie) baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flax egg, lemon juice, lemon zest, coconut oil, sugar, vanilla (for the chewier cookie) and water.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix thoroughly.
  4. Scoop the dough onto the cookie sheets using a small cookie scoop. If making the chewier cookies, flatten the dough lightly.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets, if needed, for even baking.
  6. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

Recipe Source: Vitacost

Notes

When first mixed together, the dough looked a bit soupy to me, and I was afraid I'd have another blobby cookie fail on my hands. But I let it sit for a few minutes and lo and behold, it came together nicely as a very workable dough that was easy to scoop.

Okay, I feel kinda guilty using Bob's Red Mill amaranth flour, since this is a recipe from Vitacost, but that's what I had on hand and you know, use what you've got. Forgive me, Vitacost, and here's a link to yours, which I'm sure I would have bought if I'd been out. 

As I mentioned, you can definitely taste the lemon in these cookies but it's subtle and just a tad overpowered by the addition of the coconut flakes—at least to my taste since I'm not a huge fan of coconut. I do like a lot of lemon so next time I'd probably substitute the 1/4 water for a 1/4 cup of lemon juice, just to boost it up.

I can't vouch for the crispy variety since I opted for chewy (see above: woes, dental) but I can't imagine they'd be any less delicious, and of course, good for you. Because, whole grains and stuff…

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    #CreativeCookieExchange for April: Whole Grain cookies

    The #CreativeCookieExchange is baking with WHOLE GRAINS in April and we’d love for you to join us! The possibilities begin with whole wheat and oats, but maybe you’ll find a new grain to bake with in your kitchen such as quinoa, amaranth, or buckwheat!

    You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

    If you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

    London Fog Shortbread Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

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    Regardless of where you live or what time zone you're in, I'm declaring that RIGHT NOW, it's Elevenses. That's time for tea and biscuits, thank you very much. (Biscuits being cookies to those of us on the left side of the pond.) I love tea, almost all kinds. It took me a while to warm up to it though because I always associated it with the stuff my mother drank all though my youth. Salada. Only Salada, I think because of the cute little sayings they used to put on their tea bags. Now, I'm sure it's a fine tea—not fancy schmancy—but all I remember is that Salada tea was a total turnoff to my kid nose and palate and it put me off entering the Wonderful World of Tea well into adulthood. (It always comes back to mother, doesn't it?) But about five years ago, I flung off the yoke of my childhood tea aversion and got into it in a big way. And I do mean BIG.

    I'm known for my obsessive acquisitive tendencies and tea was no exception. I went from having a couple of tins on the countertop to needing a shelf in a cabinet to needing the entire cabinet to running out to Ikea to buy a free-standing cupboard just for my teas and tisanes (and it still wasn't enough). While I've toned it down of late and no longer need that cupboard, I still love a good cuppa, especially on a rainy day, when I put on some soothing music, fight for space with the dog and three cats on the big poofy chair, curl up with a book and settle in for a nice, relaxing afternoon. 

    But what's a cup of tea without a good biscuit/cookie to go along with it? For me, that cookie has to be shortbread—no other cookie will do. There's nothing better—rich, buttery, with its signature sugary crunch. I've never turned one down, in all its forms and variations. The idea of making this favorite tea biscuit with tea as an ingredient, though, never occurred to me until Laura at #CreativeCookieExchange chose "Tea Time Cookies" as this month's theme. Searching on the interwebs for "tea cookies" brought up tons of recipes for matcha cookies—which I've made before—but it was these Earl Grey beauties—London Fog shortbread—that caught my eye. Because I love Earl Grey as much as I love shortbread.

    Earl Grey is a classic English tea, a blend of black tea and oil of bergamot, a type of orange (and not the same thing as the herb bergamot). It has an interesting history and it was originally thought that the oil of bergamot was added to disguise the use of inferior tea. Who knew that one of the most beloved teas would blossom from those suspect roots? 

    So where does London Fog come in? My first thought was the deadly London fog of 1952 (which, Anglophile that I am, I'd never heard of until I watched "The Crown" on Netflix), but that's not exactly the romantic stuff of tea party dreams and certainly not something to celebrate with a commemorative beverage, is it? Thankfully, this London Fog is an Earl Grey vanilla latte (English tea, Grey, a swirl of milky mist—London Fog…clever) of indeterminate origin, although it's thought to have come from Canada. Not surprising then, that I wouldn't have heard of it since foofy drinks like lattes aren't my thing. I like my coffee black and my tea straight (Starbucks hates me). But these same ingredients in a cookie? Yes, please.

    I happened to have an Earl Grey lavender tea on hand (Twinings, again not any fancy schmancy artisanal stuff but it's perfectly fine), which is what I used here. The thin, crisp, tea-flecked shortbread wafer and the notes of citrus and floral positively sing. I also added a sprinkling of sparkling sugar on top because…well, why not? And there you have it, not only a cookie for tea but an entire tea party in one cookie. Pinkies up!

    This month's #CreativeCookieExchange theme is "Tea Time Cookies." Be sure to check out the links below because you won't want to miss what the other bakers are bringing to the party.

    London Fog Shortbread Cookies

    Ingredients

    • 2 sticks unsalted butter
    • 2/3 cup confectioner's (icing) sugar
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1 vanilla bean split and scraped (or 1 tbsp. vanilla bean paste)
    • 2 tbsp. (3 tea bags) Earl Grey Tea 
    • 1 3/4 cup flour
    • Sparkling or turbinado sugar (optional, for sprinkling)

    Directions

    1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.
    2. Add in the vanilla, vanilla bean or paste) and tea and stir together.
    3. Add in the flour and mix until just combined.
    4. Gather up the dough and form into a flattened disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer.
    5. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
    6. Roll out the chilled dough on a well-floured surface to about 1/4" thickness, then cut out desired shapes and place them on the baking sheets. Cover and chill for about 30 minutes (this helps keep the cookies from spreading while baking.)
    7. While the cookies are chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F.
    8. If desired, sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sparkling sugar and press in lightly.
    9. Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes. The edges should just be starting to brown. Cool on the pans for a couple of minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

    Recipe source Oleander and Palm

    Notes

    I love my Paderno pastry mat and Joseph Joseph rolling pin, which makes rolling dough out to consistent thickness super easy.

    If you're looking for a great source for teas, aside from the larger, well-known companies like Teavana, David's and Adagio, I highly recommend checking out SerendipiTea. Founder/owner Linda is a customer of ours at my day job, and both she and Sonam are not only incredibly knowledgeable but super nice people. Linda also edited a lovely book about tea, written by SerendipiTea's co-founder Tomislav Podreka.

    A Note About Links

    None of my links to products or companies are affiliate links and I am not compensated in any way. I only recommend and link to things I use, like and want to share.

    #CreativeCookieExchange for March: Teatime Cookies

    Cookies in the afternoon at “teatime” are a long held tradition, whether served with tea, coffee or even milk for an after school snack. No matter what you serve with your cookies, we’ve got a great list for you to choose from!

    You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life.) You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

    Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

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    These pistachio, rosewater and cardamom shortbread cookies…aren't half bad. Now you're probably thinking that "not half bad" isn't exactly a ringing endorsement but you've got to consider the source. Which would be me. A lifelong hater of all things nut and a person who would rather be stuck in a sulphur pit than a subway car full of women who've doused themselves in rose perfume. So when I say that cookies with nuts and rosewater aren't half bad, it translates to "OMG! ARE THESE, LIKE, THE BEST COOKIES EVAR, OR WHAT?" 

    I've harbored a major hate for nuts my entire life—it's both a taste and a texture thing. I can pick out a nut blindfolded, they'll seriously ruin whatever it is I'm eating and yes, even at my advanced age, I'll make a face and spit 'em out. But let's face it, the world isn't kind to the nut averse. They're EVERYwhere. In EVERYthing.  So at least once a year, I'll make an attempt to get over my aversion. And after decades of trying, I've gotten to the point where I can just barely tolerate pistachios and cashews and that's it. I'll occasionally eat them out of hand but still can't eat them mixed into food. So of course, when the theme for this month's Creative Cookie Exchange was Nuts in Cookies (I knew it had to come sometime), and we had the option of NOT baking with nuts, I went ahead and baked with them anyway. Glutton for punishment, that's me. Especially when cookies are also made with rosewater.

    Oppressively heavy floral scents are another of my (many) dislikes, with rose at the top of the list. I know that when used with a clunky hand, rose essence in food can be gag-inducing but when used sparingly, it was a bit of a revelation to me. It's not heavy or overly floral at all. In fact, I'd describe the flavor as citrus-y and I've actually become a fan. So in searching for a nutty cookie when I came upon these, I figured the rosewater and cardamom—and the crunch of a good shortbread, probably my favorite cookie—could help disguise the pistachios. And they did. Almost. 

    Since I know I'm biased, I brought a big batch of these to work so they could be scrutinized by the Official Shaggy Dough Taste Testing Team and they were an unqualified hit. Everyone loved the shortbread texture and the flavors (pistachio, rose and cardamom are a very Persian combo and these cookies were originally inspired by Nowruz, the Iranian new year). Three dozen cookies barely lasted til lunchtime. And dare I say that when I made the second batch over the weekend, someone who will remain nameless (moi, but I'll deny it) was seen nibbling on more than one. So yeah, not half bad.

    Be sure to check out the links below to see what the nut-loving Creative Cookie Exchange bakers came up with.

    Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    • 3/4 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
    • 1 tsp rosewater
    • 1 tsp ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup salted, shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped (see notes)
    • sparkling sugar (optional)

    Directions

    1. Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream at medium speed for about one minute.
    2. Add the sugar, rosewater and cardamom and mix on low speed. As soon as the ingredients come together, increase speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes. The mixture should be light and fluffy.
    3. Add in the flour and mix on low until just incorporated. The dough will look a little crumbly but don't overmix.
    4. Add the pistachios and again, mix on low until just incorporated.
    5. Divide the dough onto two sheets of parchment or wax paper and form each half into a log, about 12" long. (See notes) Roll up the paper and twist the ends closed.
    6. Chill for 1–2 hours or until completely firm.
    7. Preheat oven to 325°F.
    8. When ready to bake, slice each log into 1/4" pieces and place about 1" apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment or silicone mats.
    9. Bake for 18–20 minutes or until the edges are just slightly golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
    10. Optional: Before slicing roll each log in sparkling sugar.

    Notes

    The first time I baked these, I used pre-shelled pistachios. The second time, I shelled them myself. I thought there was a big difference, both in taste and appearance. The ones I shelled were larger, had a fresher, more pronounced taste and looked more…pistachio-y. (They were greener.) It was a time-consuming pain in the butt to shell them all—and I sent more than a few of them flying, much to the delight of the dog (we didn't let her eat them)—but I think it was worth it.

    I also divided the dough in two the first time and ended up with cookies that I thought were a little small in diameter. I got a little more than 3 dozen cookies. The second time, I made one log about 2" in diameter and ended up with about 2 dozen. It's really just a personal preference but I just like larger cookies. There was no difference in the baking time since the cookies were still 1/4" thick.

    I have a method of rolling cookie logs that I was struggling to describe so I looked online to see if I could find a video. This one from Martha Stewart is a good 'un. It's a great method and it really does help your cookies stay round. 

    Even a nut hater needs a nut grinder. Just because.

    Recipe source: The Pomegranate Diaries

    #CreativeCookieExchange for December: Nuts in Cookies

    Nuts in cookies are a tradition celebrated all over the world—and Creative Cookie Exchange has joined the party!

    You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made: