My blog is more than six months old! When I started it back in September, I wasn’t sure if I would keep it up, or if it would be something that I posted to once or twice and then let slip away, as the demands of work, motherhood, and life in general took their toll.
I have a slight tendency to be a complete Type A perfectionist. But when it came to blogging, I had to force myself to let go in order to keep going. My writing wasn’t eloquent enough? Post it anyway. Photo looks gross? Just do it. I told myself I didn’t have to be the next Joy the Baker or Smitten Kitchen—I just had to have fun.
One of the things I’ve learned along the way is how much I love not just food, but writing about cooking and teaching other people. Nothing makes me happier than hearing that one of my friends tried one of my recipes and totally loved it. Sure, it would be nice if my blog was at the top of Google searches and I had endorsement offers flooding my inbox, but truthfully, it’s enough to know that the people I love are reading along. My dad, the pickiest eater I know, really enjoyed my root vegetable slaw and lemon poppy dressing!
But lately something has been on my mind. Here’s the thing: I’m not vegan. Yes, I’m passionate about eating healthfully and reducing the amount of animal products we consume, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t devour half of my sister-in-law’s roasted duck entrée last weekend (um, on top of my own seafood pasta and a few bites of Alex’s osso buco…).
It’s been especially hard when it comes to dessert—after all, I’ve written multiple baking cookbooks! It’s no secret that I love sweets. But baking without eggs is like going for a run in flip flops: awkward, clumsy, and—to be perfectly honest—pretty much futile most of the time. There have been a bunch of amazing dishes I’ve prepared in the last few months that I’ve really wanted to share, but I hesitated because they weren’t vegan. It’s starting to feel a little disingenuous. I want this blog to feel like the real me, and to be a reflection of what I’m excited to cook and what I love to eat.
I named my blog Cheating Vegan because I really believe that you don’t have to be vegan 100% of the time in order for plant-based eating to have a positive impact on your health and on the world. So maybe my blog doesn’t have to be vegan 100% of the time, either. I want my recipes to meet three objectives: 1. They have to be doable. This means familiar ingredients and simple cooking methods. 2. They have to be healthy—or at least healthier than similar alternatives. 3. They have to be interesting and delicious.
So here we go. This is the first non-vegan recipe I’m posting. I promise this won’t be a downward spiral to chicken-fried steak and grilled cheese cronuts!
I made these cookies once before, about three years ago, and I have no idea why it took me so long to make them again. The exterior may look delicate and crisp, but inside these little bombers are moist, chewy, and intensely fudgy. The recipe is originally from the famed French pastry chef Francois Payard. I’ve changed the technique a bit (I’m too lazy to chop the nuts, so I just whirl them in the food processor). I also add a hint of espresso powder, which really intensifies the chocolate flavor.
Since these cookies are flour free and have no leaveners, like baking powder or baking soda, they would make a perfect Passover dessert. They are best within two or three days of baking, but they will keep for a week, stored in an airtight container.
- 2 3/4 cups walnut halves (9 ounces)
- 3 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Position 2 racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Spread the walnut halves on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 9 minutes, until they are golden and fragrant. Let cool slightly, then transfer to the work bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (about 6 to 10 one-second pulses). Don't worry if some pieces are bigger than others.
- In a large bowl, whisk the confectioners' sugar with the cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt. Whisk in the chopped walnuts. Add the egg whites and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened (be careful not to overbeat or it will stiffen). Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in 12 evenly spaced mounds.
- Bake until the tops of the cookies are glossy and lightly cracked and feel firm to the touch, 16 to 18 minutes, rotating the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through.
- Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.