For a lot of North America, winter just reared it’s charming head for the first real time this past week, but we in Winnipeg have been shin-deep in snow since November, and actually the cold snap of last week broke over the weekend, creeping up to a balmy -7. I’ve been walking around with my coat undone and only one pair of socks (that’s 33% of my usual sock volume), in defiance of God and my Toronto roots; six months into Manitoba living and it seems I’m made of tougher stuff than when we first arrived.
In Toronto we lived a stone fruit’s throw from the Korean fruit markets, with amazingly inexpensive fruits and veggies, many of it local-ish and much of it beyond the scope of what is stocked in an average supermarket. I also worked at a health food store with a “staff shelf” policy, where anything not pretty enough to be sold (bruised, wilted, containing a single moldy berry in a pint of fruit) ended up free for the taking. I was remarkably spoiled when it came to cheap and fresh produce. Now, because of where we live and work, I find myself buying more shelf-stable foods, about once a week, whereas I used to buy fresh food almost every day, to be prepared and eaten that night or the next. Enter: dried berries.
You can use either dried, unsulphured or freeze-dried berries for these Berries and Cream Cookies. If you’re not familiar, freeze-dried berries are brighter in colour than regular dried fruit, is easily broken, and crisper in texture. They’re harder to find, but you can find the strawberries I used from Amazon here. Freeze-dried fruit takes on a jammy texture when baked into something whereas dried fruit maintains its chewiness. I made one batch with dried blueberries and another with freeze-dried strawberries, and they both worked really well.
The cookie itself comes together easily and has a chewy interior and a slight crispiness along the outer edge once baked. The recipe works with both regular all purpose flour or a gluten-free blend, and you also have some flexibility with which oil you use, so long as it is liquid when you’re working with it. The frosting is dead simple, so long as you have access to a vegan margarine/butter substitute, and if you don’t you can sub in a coconut oil buttercream, a chocolate ganache, or serve the cookies on their own.
- 3 tbsp corn starch
- 5 tbsp water
- 1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
- 1/2 cup grapeseed oil or melted coconut oil
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
- 2 cups all purpose flour or gluten free all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 cup dried unsulphured berries or freeze-dried berries
- 1/3 cup vegan margarine or butter substitute
- 1/8 cup all-vegetable shortening (or additional butter substitute)
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 6 tbsp full fat coconut milk
- 1 tbsp vanilla
- 1-2 tbsp berry jam or frozen thawed blueberries (with their juices)
- In a large bowl, add corn starch and water and stir to break up any clumps in the starch. Add oil, sugar, vanilla, and coconut milk and stir to dissolve sugar.
- In a separate bowl, stir together remaining ingredients, including berries. Add to wet and stir until no dry bits of flour remain. Chill the dough until fully cooled and stiff, at least an hour or covered overnight.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment and preheat oven to 350F.
- Form dough into balls, about 1 tbsp for reasonably-sized cookies, 2.5 tbsp for unreasonably large ones (like shown here). Bake for 18-23 minutes (depending on size, I used the full 23).
- Let cool fully while preparing the frosting.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream margarine and shortening together until incorporated and light. Turn off mixer. Add one cup of powdered sugar and 2 tbsp of coconut milk and turn the mixer back on. Repeat until the sugar and coconut milk are gone, or until you're happy with the texture and sweetness (remember that this frosting should be thick, so it doesn't pour out of your sandwiches immediately). Stir in vanilla and jam/fruit.
- Once your cookies are totally cooled, pipe frosting on half of them, then top with remaining cookies to form tasty, portable sandwiches.