Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Eggs for Vegans

In my memories of coloring Easter eggs, the smell of white vinegar is the most vivid detail. Our dye pellets fizzed away in assorted coffee mugs as we waited with our allotment of eggs. We only bought white eggs once a year, for this purpose, which gave me the impression they were a luxury item.

Easter egg dyes, which came in only half a dozen colors, limited creative expression. You could pull off two-tone, with an ugly stripe in the middle of the egg where the colors overlapped, but disappointment was inevitable if you tried combine colors to create something new. If you dyed an egg blue, say, and then dipped it in the yellow hoping to create a shade of teal that would arouse admiration and envy in your less-creative family members, all you'd succeed in doing is turning your white egg the color of a bruise.

The dye tended to seep into our eggs, and when we cracked them we'd find bright blue streaks and alarming pink splotches. The year we used a sparkle tie-dye kit, our deviled eggs twinkled like disco balls.

Easter eggs in pictures were elaborately patterned, with zig-zags, stripes, and spots. My monochrome eggs felt amateurish; I wanted to create works of art like the eggs in National Geographic stories about Eastern Europe.

Since I'm vegan and I don't have any kids, I hadn't given Easter eggs a thought until earlier this week, when I saw this post about vegan marshmallow peeps and was inspired to create something adorable. Employing my hulk-like strength, I bent my round metal cookie cutter into an oval.

Frosted sugar cookies are not good for you by any stretch of the imagination, but these aren't as bad as they could be: the frosting is colored with fruits and vegetables instead of red dye #40 and friends. There are several types of natural food coloring for sale, but rather than getting in my car and buying something, I decided to see if I could make Easter-colored frosting with things I already had in my kitchen. Pink and purple were easily achieved with strawberries and blueberries. I saw online that a pinch of turmeric would produce yellow, but the look it gave my frosting was distinctly curry. When my husband saw it in the fridge he said "Ooh, what's that sauce? Are we having Indian?" After some trial and error, a mix of mango and carrot juice did the trick. I didn't attempt green, but I'm sure you could do something with avocado and a teeny, tiny bit of spinach.

The only helpers I had in decorating these eggs were my dogs, who cleaned powdered sugar off the floor, but I'm guessing this would be a fun project with kids, especially little vegan kids who don't decorate real eggs. You can tell them they're not missing out on much; frosting tastes better than egg salad, anyway.

Simple Sugar Cookies

(adapted from an old, old Mrs. Fields Cookie Book)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Earth Balance margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons plain or vanilla soy milk

Preheat oven to 325F.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt.

In a large bowl, cream the margarine and sugar with an electric mixer. Add the vanilla and soy milk and beat until well mixed. Add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.

Gather the dough into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out cookies, re-grouping and rolling dough as necessary. Bake the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet for 13-15 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookies are just beginning to brown.

Immediately transfer cookies to a cooling rack, and wait until they are completely cool before frosting.

Makes about 4 dozen small cookies.

Basic Icing

2 tablespoons Earth Balance margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons soy milk
2 cups powdered sugar

Beat the margarine, extract, and soy milk until thoroughly combined. Continue beating on low as you pour in the powdered sugar. Beat on medium speed until smooth. The icing should be thick, but spreadable. It will become thinner when you add coloring.

To make purple frosting, thaw about two tablespoons of frozen wild blueberries. With the back of a spoon, press the berries through a fine strainer, catching the liquid in a bowl. Stir the liquid into your frosting a little bit at a time, until desired color and texture are reached. Be careful: a little blueberry juice goes a long way, and it'll stain your clothes.

For pink frosting, follow the same procedure, thawing 5-6 frozen strawberries.

For pale orange, either follow the above procedure with several pieces of frozen mango, or puree a carrot. Carrots have a mild flavor; they will not make your frosting taste like salad, but they will make it irresistible to the Easter Bunny.

5 comments:

  1. Thank you for the recipe, I think I will try this with my vegan kids.
    SHIFTvegan.blogspot.com

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  2. I love the idea of using produce to color your icing! This will definitely come in handy some time soon.

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  3. Your cookies are super cute! What a perfect Easter treat!

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  4. This seems like such an easy sugar cookie recipe! I am going to try it out at my boyfriends next vegan potluck in a week! Or maybe "practice" making them before that...

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