22 November 2009

So Many Lemons

I don't know if it has something to do with living in this particular part of the state, or if it's a "California thing" in general, but there never seems to be any shortage of lemons here.  Even with many of the housing developments of the last couple of decades occupying former orchard or other agricultural lands, one need not travel far to come across the next lemon tree; lemon orchards are still quite abundant despite the continual growth of housing units, and many residents grow their own backyard citrus trees.  It's no wonder that I realized the abundance of locally grown lemons at my disposal.

My favorite store-bought vegan cookie is of the lemon poppy seed variety, and it just so happened that I just recently devoured the last of this infrequent indulgence.  After savoring the last bite, I resolved to attempt to bake up some chewy, lemony cookies of my own, despite having had few successes in the realm of chewy cookies.  Sure, I've baked up pretty batches of lemon biscotti and lemon cornmeal cookies, but I also find it much less difficult to bake up something crispy than to achieve the perfect balance of soft, chewy, and completely cooked.  And I knew it would be difficult to exactly replicate the texture and flavor of my beloved store-bought favorite, but I gave it a go anyway.  No sense wasting perfectly good lemons, in any case.
I actually really like the cookies resulting from my first attempt at chewy, lemony, baked deliciousness.  After consulting the Internet and finding an appropriate Vegan Treats recipe (featured at VegNews), I made some adjustments to suit my taste and what I had available in the kitchen.  In terms of the inspiration recipe's use of soy yogurt, it was something I did not have on hand and did not want to track down on a late Sunday afternoon, so I replaced that and some of the margarine called for with a blend of leftover silken tofu, the remainder of vegan soy mayonnaise in the refrigerator, and a small amount of vegetable oil.  Now, I've not tried Vegan Treat's recipe as written, but sticking to their given amounts of margarine and soy yogurt obviously sounds much easier than my method.  But I try to work with what I have at any given time, if possible, as well as adjust the other amounts to my tastes (in this case, increasing the lemon factor for more of a citrus punch).  These cookies are still a work in progress, but I'm fairly happy with my first shot, so hopefully future adjustments can be kept at a minimum.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies (inspired by a Vegan Treats recipe) (printable recipe)
Makes 32

3/4 c granulated sugar
3/4 c light brown sugar
1/4 c vegan soy mayonnaise
3 oz firm silken tofu (equal to 1/4 package of the vacuum-packed type)
2 T vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 T lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp poppy seeds

Blend the soy mayonnaise, tofu, and vegetable oil until smooth.  In a large bowl, mix the tofu mixture with the sugars, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest until well-combined.  In a separate bowl, mix the the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, along with the poppy seeds, and mix well.  Scoop walnut-sized portions of batter onto parchement-lined baking sheets, leaving at least an inch of space around each dough ball to allow for expansion.  Gently press the dough balls down slightly to smooth out the top and slightly flatten them (this isn't completely necessary, but the resulting cookie will look nicer and will brown more evenly).  Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 24 minutes, until the edges begin to turn a light golden brown; check after 15 minutes for browning, turning the sheets midway.  After removing from the oven, let the cookies stand on the sheets for a minute or two before placing them on cooling racks.  Enjoy!

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