Beer Isn’t Vegan?
Yippee, it’s Sweet-Tooth Friday! It’s Christine here with the first “festive” dessert of the season! I wanted to make a vegan version of my famous Guinness gingerbread, but boy was I in for a surprise when I typed the words ‘vegan’ and ‘Guinness’ together in my search engine – instead of yummy recipes I found lots of discussions on how Guinness (and other cask beers) are not vegetarian friendly!
Really? Beer isn’t naturally vegan? Turns out, many use a fish product called isinglass to filter cask beers. I can’t believe I had been in the dark about this. Shouldn’t that kind of information be on the label?
Actually, the FDA requires food and beverage labeling, but alcohol is governed by a different agency. Right now, alcohol companies really only need to back up their product with the facts if they make certain claims, like the beer is organic or low-calorie. I read one comment against labeling alcohol that was particularly hilarious: “Wine fined with isinglass labeled ‘Contains: Fish’ would wreak havoc on consumer perceptions.” Um, yeah, it would! But is the right response to that just keep the offensive ingredient a secret?
I understand that transparency is not a black and white issue. Among many problems is that it is expensive, especially for the smaller companies. But if it is for something I put into my body, and the economics have worked out over on the FDA side, it seems like it should be worth it. I don’t think I’ve heard any of the low-cal beers feeling the hardships of their labels (though most are from large companies). My impression is that it would be a competitive advantage to let consumers have the information to choose.
After all, lots of people are concerned about calories and carbs. And the sugar content would be great for diabetics to access. But you know what’s totally frustrating? While reading the official 26 page proposal on labeling, I could not find one petition for vegetarians. With all these health concerns, the use of isinglass, egg whites, bone charcoal, or any other animal product in alcoholic beverages somehow was not an issue. Luckily, Guinness has confirmed that their Extra Stout is in fact vegan.
Vegan Gingerbread Cookies with Guinness Stout
So, without further ado, I give you truly vegan gingerbread cookies, made with Guinness Extra Stout. I modified this recipe from one on the wonderful site The Post Punk Kitchen, where vegan really does rawk. My main change was adding the Guinness as the liquid. I simmered it down to concentrate the flavor and get rid of the alcohol. I also wanted a really super thin and crisp cookie, so I switched to powdered sugar instead of granulated, a trick I picked up from a certain cookie guru. Then I made up my own Guinness flavored royal icing!
- 1 cup Guinness Extra Stout [Update: Guinness Extra Stout is no longer vegan or vegetarian-friendly 🙁 Choose a different stout.]
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar (the brand Wholesome Sweeteners does not filter through animal products)
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp each baking powder, baking soda, and salt
- 1/2 tsp each nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- optional tsp grated fresh ginger
Simmer the cup of Guinness Extra stout uncovered on the stovetop until it is reduced by half, which took me about 25 minutes. Let cool.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices, set aside.
Mix together the oil and sugar, then add the molasses and 1/4 cup of the Guinness. (Save the rest of the Guinness for the icing).
Stir in the grated ginger if using, and gradually fold in the dry ingredients until it makes a nice coherent dough. Mine was too dry at first and needed an additional tablespoon of the Guinness to get it to a workable consistency.
Divide the dough into two balls, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour (up to a couple days).
Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a large piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray. Place one ball of dough on it, smoosh with your hand into a disk, and then roll out until very thin. It’s ok if the edges crack a little, but if they are seriously ripping then let the dough warm up for about 10 minutes, then try again.
Cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Gently peel up the excess dough, leaving the cut out shapes on the foil. This way you don’t need to handle the shapes and risk breaking them. Move aluminum foil onto a cookie sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant. Gather the dough scraps into a ball and repeat on a new piece of foil. When the first round of cookies are done, wait a minute to cool, then transfer cookies to wire rack. You can keep using the same two pieces of foil, just re-spray with Pam each time.
Vegan Guinness Royal icing ingredients:
- 2 tsp egg replacer
- 2 tbsp reduced Guinness extra stout
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup powdered sugar
Whisk together egg replacer and Guinness until quite frothy and thick. Add the extract and powdered sugar. Place icing in a pastry bag or plastic bag with just a snip of the corner cut off. Wait until the cookies are completely cool to decorate. The icing dries quickly, so this amount will ice one half of the cookie recipe. Make another batch of icing if you are baking both balls of dough at once. (I made one half and froze the other ball of dough for later.) Once the icing is dry, keep the cookies in an airtight container.
Now this is my kind of cookie: thin and crisp, without being too crunchy, plus a big dose of spiciness! The Guinness adds an elegant malty bitterness that totally compliments the gingerbread flavor! Best of all, these are simple to make and the whole process is a lot of fun. I think if you use autumn cookie cutters like leaves, acorns, and turkeys, these would be super cute for Thanksgiving. (For some reason I have only compiled the most random and seasonally-useless collection of cookie cutters, like motorcycles and flamingos!) You could even ice names on the cookies and use them as place cards!
Be sure to stop by next week for more yummy and healthy ways to veganize your holiday desserts!