The Rare Baker 


I no longer bake often. I realized in the not so distant past that all of the medical and nutritional articles I’ve read about refined sugar being literally more addictive than crack, sadly (yet absolutely) applied to me. My husband had this thing when we were dating where he’d always ask me if I wanted dessert. Awwww, he was genuinely being sweet ❤. But, it also turns out that he’s a socialologist and most girls do love dessert lol.  Sugar is so addictive most people in general are addicted to it. It’s not just dessert, it is in everything. Rarely can you purchased a food product that is processed and pre-packaged and it not have sugar in it. Fortunately for us, he isn’t a sugar addict and we eat Whole Foods, so quitting sugar has been so much easier because I don’t have him craving sweets too!

This discovery of my excruciatingly disappointing addiction was when I completely revamped our diet from being just vegetarian and vegan, to going Whole Foods plant-based. 

We both gained a lot of weight when we moved to Abu Dhabi. Everyone kept saying, “Don’t worry about it. It happens to everyone. It’s called the Abu Dhabi stone…” Don’t worry about it!?  It was miserable. We were miserable. None of our clothes fit. We were constantly tired, cranky as hell, and irritable. Although the weight gain was (for me) likely a product of sudden onset depression, it was also a revolving door that fed into more depression, more McDonald’s French fries, more fat-filled, more refined, processed foods and…more desserts!

There are loads of unhealthy vegetarians and vegans in the world. The concept of being an herbivore sounds healthy, but as we have learned and are perfect examples, processed and refined foods are not okay. We were consuming just as many empty calories, or more, than most meat eaters. 

There are many reasons I am vegan. For my health, it’s because a Whole Foods plant-based lifestyle (WFPB) has changed our lives. I’ll post more on this another time. But for today, we have not only lost the weight we gained but are continuing to reach whatever level of homeostasis our bodies determine it needs. We feel great. Our cells are nourished and happy and our brains are synapsing effectively. 

Get back on track Darby-Olene, back on track. Oh, Sugar 😒. Yeah…sugar was part of what went away from our diets when we switched to WFPB. But, working towards  vegan chef status, you need to know how to bake. Cooking is chemistry and if it isn’t true in all forms of vegan food prep, it’s especially so in baking. When you have grown up eating animals (😩 that’s as horrible to me as it sounds) and baking with eggs and milk, learning to bake vegan goodies is especially challenging and requires a rewire of your learned processes. For example, what combination of plant-based foods will give you the binding qualities of an egg when baked? Also, the proteins in soy, almond, rice or coconut milk do not respond to heat in the same way that cow’s milk does, nor does it contain the fat. And this goes on and on. 

So, every now and then I whip out my chemical and biological knowledge and set to baking to not only keep my skillset but also to challenge my creativity. Last night I made a variation of a cookie I once baked previously from the book Veganomicon. I call these Rose Water Zingers. I baked them, ate one for quality control (they were perfect!) and sent the rest with my husband to share with his co-workers today. Win-win! 

These are similar to a sugar cookie but they have a hint of rose water and a wonderful zesty zing of lime. The coconut oil creates a crispy outside after they’re baked yet the cornstarch adds to create a wonderful chewy quality to the inside. And a pistachio and almond topping? I mean, can you really go wrong there? Aside from being lovely in color, they have a nutty sweetness that is the perfect finish. 

Without further ado, please enjoy and if you decide to try your hand at this very simple cookie, let me know what you think! 

Rose Water Zingers

  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar 
  • 1/2 c coconut oil (melted)
  • 3 tbsp rice milk
  • 2 tbsp plus 1tsp rose water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp fresh lime juice 
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly grated lime zest
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom 
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger 
  • 1/4 cup coarsley ground (shelled) pistachios 
  • 1/4 cup chopped slivered almonds 

Preheat your over 350 degrees F

Do not use an electric mixer. Grab a whisk and whisk together the sugar, coconut oil, rice milk, rose water, vanilla, lime juice and zest until it’s all nicely blended. 

Sprinkle in the cornstarch and whisk until it’s dissolved. 

In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom and ginger. Add this to the previous mixture. It gets pretty thick so should be able to gently knead it almost like a bread dough to make sure it’s well blended. Do not over mix. 

With a food processor or blender, coarsely grind the pistachios and transfer to a small bowl. Using a knife, chop up the slivered almonds and add to the bowl of pistachios. Mix them well. 

Roll the dough into balls, about 2 inches in diameter and press one side into the pistachio and almond mix. You’ll want to use your fingers to flatten them out a little. Put the nut coated side face up on a greased or non-stick cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are golden. They’ll be really soft when they first come out but will harden once they cool. 

Bon Appetite! 

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