Cookie decorating has always been one of my favorite holiday traditions. When I was a kid, my mom would throw Christmas cookie decorating parties every December. In the center of the table she would pile mounds of homemade sugar and gingerbread dough, and my friends and I would spend hours making cookies in all shapes and sizes, generously decorating our creations with sugar sprinkles and tubes of brightly coloring frosting, while completely destroying her kitchen, I’m sure.
Today, I don’t have the space to throw the grown-up cookie parties of my dreams (some day), but I do make sure to bake cut-outs in one form or another every year, just so I can have an excuse to break out my piping bags and put my decorating skills to work. And while I’m obviously no expert, it’s still just as fun as it was when I was a kid.
These Vegan Orange Gingerbread Cookies are a healthier version of the Christmas classic. My fiancé has a dairy allergy, which excludes him from enjoying many of my beloved, and butter-heavy holiday cookie recipes, so this year I decided to surprise him with dairy-free gingerbread cut-outs. As I was researching recipes, I stumbled across this one, which just so happens to be free of both dairy and eggs so it’s 100% vegan friendly. Which in today’s world of complicated food habits, I figure will be a welcome alternative to the eggnogs and shortbreads of the holiday dessert table.
I adapted the recipe to my liking by upping the level of spice and adding both orange zest and orange juice to impart a touch of wintery citrus that beautifully complements the hearty flavor of molasses. They’re a perfect balance of complex and grown-up, while holding onto enough Christmas whimsy to make you want to dig out the sprinkles and have a little fun decorating. I should know, I spent three hours of my Saturday afternoon listening to Spotify Christmas playlists and perfecting my snowflake piping skills. It was absolutely fantastic.
Happiest of Holidays!
For the cookies:
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (plus extra for rolling)
- 2/3 cup white whole wheat flour (can sub all-purpose)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- zest of one small orange
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the vegan royal icing:
- 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 3 tablespoons almond milk (or vegan milk of choice)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
- Make the cookies: In a medium bowl, sift together flours, spices and salt.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the molasses, coconut oil, brown sugar, orange juice, and vanilla.
- Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until dough forms. The dough will be very soft, and requires chilling before rolling. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F.
- On a well-floured surface, or between two sheets of parchment, roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shape and place cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet at least 1-inch apart. If dough gets too soft at any point, place back in the refrigerator to chill -- cold dough is much easier to work with. `
- Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are just slightly brown. Cooking time will vary based on size of your cutouts. Cool on a wire rack completely before icing.
- Prepare the royal icing: Combine ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth. For piping consistency, the icing should hold thick peaks when spooned.
- Spoon into a piping bag and have fun frosting!