It’s Girl Guide cookie season. But before you get too excited, stop and ask yourself if you know what’s in those tasty biscuits? We look at the sustainability of everything else we eat, why not foods made/sold for charity?
It turns out that the cookies made for the Girl Scouts in the US are loaded with palm oil. In the news a great deal lately, palm oil has a scurrilous reputation. While it is the cheapest food oil on earth, it requires deforesting huge swaths of South Asian rain forest (and destroying the habitat of sensitive species like the Orangutan) to get the stuff.
Girl Guide cookies (the Canadian equivalent, with only the vanilla/chocolate combo in the spring and the chocolate mint cookies in the fall – not the plethora of flavours to be had down South) are just as bad. Made by Dare for Girls Guides Canada, they have made changes in recent years to decrease the transfats in the vanilla/chocolate cookies (there’s still some in the mint ones), but palm oil (because it is cheap and contains no trans fats) is still the main oil ingredient.
The saddest part is that members of Girl Scouts/Guides in both countries have tried to get their respective organizations to change the recipe and omit the palm oil.
Carolyn Thomas of the blog The Ethical Nag suggests not purchasing the cookies. Instead, she tells her readers to give the girls the money, but refuse to take the cookies, making it clear why. And if you’ve got time, an email to Girl Guides of Canada wouldn’t hurt either. As an organization that promotes learning about, respecting and being part of nature (specifically to “protect our common environment”), it seems a bit shameful that they’re not more concerned about this issue. And as an organization that depends on donations (and cookie sales), letting them know that consumers expect them to source their product ethically is a lesson that would seem to be at the heart of the organization’s mission to teach girls to contribute responsibly to their communities.
The flavour combination of dark chocolate, dulce de leche and sea salt is not new. You might even say it’s a bit passé, but it could also be one of those things that become a classic, like chocolate and mint.
I had wanted thimble (aka. thumbprint) cookies, but I was also craving chocolate. And when my pal David at Circles and Squares Bakery tweeted about making dulce de leche brownies, the idea hit me.
This first batch is really a prototype – I made one pan and put the caramel into the thumbprints first, before baking, as you do when making the regular version with jam. This created a big oozing mess of melted caramel. Filling the prints as soon as the cookies come out of the oven works better – it melts just enough to smooth out, without creating too much of a river.
I also used 100% cacao chocolate, because that’s what I had on hand. It’s not readily available, but I don’t think I’d go below about 80% or the cookie will be way too sweet – otherwise the amount of sugar would have to be adjusted. And, I cheated and used dulce de leche from a jar, but the caramel is not hard to make.
Go big or go home. Not my life’s philosophy, but apparently one I follow when baking.
See, I got a freezer, right? And not eating meat, I needed something to put in it. I filled it up somewhat with summer delights; fiddleheads and berries and pesto and tubs of peach chutney. But my original plan for the thing included cookies. I could start making Christmas cookies in September! Thus saving me from running around frantically in November to get everything done.
It was a great theory, but what actually happened was that I had all that extra time on my hands and so made more… much more. Ironically we found homes for most of it and now have a happy postman, building superintendent, co-workers, friends and relatives.
Cookies: clockwise from the top: chocolate coffee crinkles, zimsterne (a rolled meringue cookie with almonds and hazelnuts), white chocolate cranberry and pistachio biscotti, honey sand balls (a shortbread sweetened with honey and studded with walnuts), pfefferneusse, chocolate orange icebox cookies and eggnog shortbread squares. In the centre: zesty lime and coconut shortbread.
I know it’s not technically possible, but anyone looking in my cupboard would swear that I have all the almonds from the state of California. I know, I’m exaggerating, but it does seem that way. See, I’m still working through the swag from the almond event I went to back in November. The almond slices and slivers are unopened but I started to get concerned about the 3 pounds of almond flour.
Nut flours tend to go rancid pretty quickly – all that exposed surface area. So after a couple of attempts at macarons (I lied – so NOT as easy as you would think, those things are fussy!), I figured it was time to track down some other recipes that use almond flour or ground almonds.
I found this recipe in Gregg R. Gillespie’s 1001 Cookie Recipes where there are 57 recipes with “almond” in the title. These are “Almond Cakes III”; not to be confused with Almond Cakes II or VI, or almond cookies, almond crisps or almond crescents, all of which offer multiple recipes with their own Roman numerals.
A strange thing happened to me in 1991. All of a sudden my peanut butter cookies started coming out hard – like rocks.
I have no idea where the recipe came from. It was the one my Mom always used, so it likely came from my Grandmother, a cookbook, or perhaps a Home Ec course when she was a teenager. It is exactly like the majority of recipes for peanut butter cookies found on the internet today, where creators of “original” recipes try to differentiate themselves by an extra quarter cup of peanut butter or by sticking a chocolate kiss on top.
In all likelihood, however, every peanut butter recipe in use can be traced back to an original recipe, which first appeared some time in the 1930s, possibly 1936.
Which never really explained why my cookies had started turning out hard.
At first, I blamed myself. I must have screwed it up somehow. But subsequent batches were also hard. I adjusted quantities and techniques, even considered that the oven might be acting up. Then I thought to consider the peanut butter itself.
I have had what might possibly be the best day ever. The only thing that could make it better would be if someone were to show up at my door with a huge tray of oysters.
I hauled my butt out of bed this morning and headed to my alma mater, George Brown College, to take part in the Peace of Cake event. Every year staff, students and assorted volunteers get together and back a thousand or so fruitcakes, cookies, brownies and other treats and then package them up to be given to needy families, youth centres and the veterans in the long-term care facility at Sunnybrook hospital.
As is always the case when I leave early to give myself time to get somewhere during a storm, I arrived a half hour early. I was given an apron straight away, though, and was quickly put to work wrapping fruitcakes in saran wrap. As more volunteers arrived, I was put in charge of a group of kids from a local high school.
Many of the cakes meant for the veterans have to be diabetic-friendly, but when the baking was taking place yesterday, someone didn’t label the cakes made from Splenda properly. All that hype about how it tastes “just like sugar” is not exactly true. Sugar doesn’t make your tongue tingle.
Ah, the cookie. A simple treat that brings delight to millions. The cookie is the choice companion to cups of tea, the pacifier of boo-boos, the financial means for Girl Guides everywhere, and the choice prize handed out by the snarkily sarcastic. But for people with food allergies, finding tasty cookies and treats that won’t make them swell up and fall down can be a difficult task, as most mainstream brands include eggs, dairy, nuts, definitely wheat, and sometimes even animal fat. What’s an allergic vegan to do?
These days, folks once deprived of the joy of simple baked goods have found new hope in Eden Hertzog’s New Moon Kitchen. This gourmet bakery started in 1997 offers a range of six types of cookies and four loaf-style cakes that are entirely nut, egg, dairy, wheat, cholesterol and preservative free. Whew! They’re also made without the use of trans-fats, and all items are certified Kosher and vegan. And the best part is – they’re all really good!
Have you ever rejected something from your childhood based on a memory that was either partially or wholly incorrect? As adults, our palates expand as we try new and different types of food. For some people the food of their childhood becomes the comfort food they return to when the cornucopia of choices just doesn’t satisfy. For others, especially those of us for whom food created very mixed emotions, the stuff we ate as kids can be the fodder for terrible memories.
I thought of this last night as I watched a documentary on CBC called XXL about a “fat camp” for overweight teens in Nova Scotia. One of the families was eating a traditional boiled dinner; corned beef, cabbage, carrots, potatoes and turnips, all boiled together in one pot until it all tasted the same and was pretty much mush. I gagged a bit and had to cover my eyes until it was done, something I never have to do even when there are surgery shots on TV.
My reaction to lassy mogs was almost as bad. I remember them as being soggy; sweating to a mush where they all stuck together in the cookie jar where they would remain until they were eaten, regardless of how long that took. This ideology of not wasting food, even if it was going bad or stale, or had lost its appeal, remains with me to this day, and Greg regularly remarks on stir-fry nights that I must have cleaned out the fridge.