Vegan orange shortbread spiced with nutmeg, vanilla, cardamom, and allspice. Made with spelt flour and coconut sugar for a healthier option, these shortbread cutouts are crispy and bursting with winter flavours. Cut into your favourite shapes and decorate for a pretty food gift.
If you’re looking at this picture and thinking the icing looks a little messy, well. It is! Making only trees might have been a better decision in hindsight. I struggled a bit with the other shapes, hah. To make things even sillier, I used a syringe to pipe the icing because I don’t have an icing bag, and we don’t use plastic bags. It worked in a pinch but I don’t recommend raiding your medicine cabinet to ice cookies! Instead of using icing, I chose melted (vegan) white chocolate because although I have a healthier icing recipe using coconut butter, it’s a bit pricy. The white chocolate tastes great with these cookies and you could sub dark chocolate if you’d like. Chocolate is a million times easier than making icing and you know it’ll harden up properly and not smear all over everything when you transport or pack up the cookies, win win.
This recipe is adapted from my friend Traci’s vegan dark chocolate shortbread cookies which was an absolute revelation for me. It ended up being a rather loose adaptation as I was going for a different flavour profile, but the method is straight from Vanilla and Bean. Her blog is a gem and she has such a wide breadth of knowledge. The really big difference with these cookies compared to others is that there’s a significant amount of liquid (orange juice in this case), more than you think they’ll need, and the dough has a higher moisture content than most. It’ll seem like a mistake, but it isn’t. Trust. You refrigerate the dough, much like normal shortbread, and the coconut oil firms everything up. It’s a total miracle cookie. If anyone other than Traci had made this recipe I probably would have scoffed at it, hah, but I know how much she tests everything, so I tried it out – best vegan shortbread ever. I’ve been meaning to do an adaptation ever since and lucked out that orange juice worked in place of water! The recipe might seem a little tricky but just read the directions carefully and they’ll turn out perfectly. It’s not more difficult than other cookies, just a bit different, and after the first time making them it’ll make sense.
These cookies are perfect for the holidays, with a lovely flavour from the orange and spices. If you’re worried that they’ll be too sticky, don’t be. The method really is amazing and the cookies are so easy to cut and work with. I’ve even freehanded them before and didn’t have any issues at all with ripping or sticking, even though they’re made with coconut oil, spelt flour, and coconut sugar. A note about chilling the dough before baking – you don’t really need to, as far as I can tell. I’ve included it in the instructions just in case it’s the type of pan I have. I tested several times with freezing and several without and didn’t have any problems at all with spreading. That being said, if you’re concerned then definitely take the step to chill before baking. If you live in a cold area just stick them in the snow for a bit, that’s what I always used to do! I’ve made these as slice and bake cookies before too and that worked, but it’s the season for cutout cookies.
This is the only cookie recipe I have planned before Christmas, but I will be sharing another excited cookie related post tomorrow! There’s a very exciting holiday main coming your way this week too, keep your eyes peeled.
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Orange Spice Shortbread
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 cup coconut oil melted
- 1/4 cup orange juice*
- Zest of an orange
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons light spelt flour
- 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg**
- 1/2 vanilla powder
- 1 cardamom seed crushed***
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, juice, and zest until the sugar is completely incorporated and no visible grains remain (fully hydrated). Sift in the flour, spices, baking soda, and salt. Stir until combined.
Shape the dough into a disc (it will be quite wet), and place onto a piece of parchment paper. Refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. It should be just stiff enough to roll but not so hard that it can't be indented when pressed with a finger.
Generously flour a countertop and rolling pin. Place the chilled dough onto the counter and hit it a couple of times with the rolling pin, then roll, turning occasionally, to a 5mm (1/4 inch) thickness. Dip your cookie cutters in flour then cut the dough into your desired shapes. Gather the scraps, press them together, and roll again. Repeat until all the dough has been cut.
Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the cookies onto the prepared baking sheets and freeze for 10 minutes. Remove from the freezer and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly golden but still soft to the touch. Remove and cool on the pan for 10 minutes before removing and cooling completely on a rack.
To ice the cookies, melt a white chocolate bar with a teaspoon of coconut oil. Use a piping bag (or syringe) to pipe designs onto the cooled cookies. Place the cookies in the refrigerator to set the chocolate, then store in a sealed container for up to three days.
• The dough can be refrigerated longer, like overnight. If you want to make the dough ahead of time, make sure you wrap it very well before refrigerating and place it on the counter for half an hour to warm up a bit before trying to roll it out.
• The raw dough can be successfully frozen. Double wrap it before freezing, thaw it in the fridge, then follow the steps in the above tip when you're ready to bake.
• After three days, the cookies become quite soft. Keep them in the fridge or freeze them in a well-sealed container to preserve crispiness.
• You can wrap the dough in plastic wrap, but it's not necessary. It won't dry out in 15 minutes and you don't need the plastic.
* This was one orange for me. You can use bottled juice but you need orange zest in any case, so it might as well be fresh juice.
** If you use ground nutmeg, increase it to 1/2 teaspoon.
*** For ground cardamom, use 1/4 teaspoon.