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Berry Macaroons (or Bird’s Nests)

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I promised you a cookie recipe before the holidays, and had planned to have it to you earlier.  However, Robbie Burns’ “best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley” comes to mind, when it comes to managing a life with autism.  I can set intentions, but when they’ll come to pass needs to be, well, flexible sometimes.

Two Sizes of Coconut ShredsThese cookies are yummy no matter how fine your coconut is sliced or grated, but my spouse, Bill, has stated a definite preference for the texture of the cookies with the larger coconut threads, rather than the smaller shreds in the left of this photo (which pack together a bit easier when I’m making them).

Some of you may need to wait until next season to pick and dry your own organic berries and other fruit.  But many of you, I know, are already hyper-nourishing yourselves, along with your households or families. And some of you may have already sourced dried organic berries from somewhere like your local health food store, or an organization like the ONFC (Ontario Natural Food Co-operative).

Dried Blueberries RehydratingRegardless of your organic berry source, I start with a glass jar of about 3 cups of dried fruit.  I fill the rest of that jar with purified water, put the lid back on the jar, and soak it overnight to soften, but not fully rehydrate the fruit.  What I mean by this is that they shrink a LOT when you dry them, and they don’t expand larger than the jar as they soak up the available water.  To the right here are blueberries, soaked and ready to turn into cookies.

In the morning, I put the softened fruit in the blender with 1-2 tsp. of organic, alcohol-free vanilla, ending up with something between apple butter and baby food texture.  While vanilla is not strictly SCD or GAPS compliant, the extract has no more complex carbohydrates than the homeopathic medicines I use as needed, and they’re quite sparse for the sheer amount of cookie dough!  The liquidity of the fruit purée will then determine how long the cookies need to dehydrate.

I transfer the fruit purée to a large bowl, and start blending in coconut shreds until they begin to clump (stick together in blobs and lumps) nicely.  This usually takes roughly twice as much coconut shreds as I had fruit purée (about 6 cups).

Then I get out my organic parchment paper, lay it on the dryer trays with lots of gaps in between to encourage air flow, and begin to either roll the dough into balls or flattened balls (like the strawberry macaroons), or squeeze into oblongs or ovals (like the peach bird’s nests), placing them at least a few millimeters apart on the parchment.

This is a good activity to involve children, as they cannot avoid getting yummy ingredients all over their hands.  Stay close to a sink, so hand-washings can happen if (oops) a finger or two gets licked while forming the cookies.  Keep the cookies about 1/3″ at the thinnest dimension if the coconut shreds are small, or about 1/2″ at the thinnest dimension if the shreds are larger with more air spaces (to dry easier).

The trays then get popped into the food dryer, in my case a fanless convection model I adore from Living Foods Dehydrators (http://www.dryit.com/).  This dehydrator is blissfully silent, and thereby earns a place of honour (and frequent checking so food isn’t over-dried) in my kitchen.  Wood, being naturally antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial when not kept soaking in water, also breathes, so even in hot and humid summer weather, this dryer is a work-horse at removing moisture!

However, I know people who have dried these cookies in the oven on cookie trays using the incandescent oven light, and others who have dried small batches in their toaster ovens.  Don’t let the lack of a food dryer stop you!  If a blender is the challenge, keep your eye on your local second hand stores for an older Osterizer; they last like iron!

IMG_0232-1024x768About 12 hours later, start testing the cookies (kids are very helpful about this, grin).  Some people like these cookies to snap like a ginger snap.  Some like them a little chewy, similar to a fruit leather.  It’s very important to get the texture right for your household (and potentially picky eaters), so multiple tests (by picky eaters at the very least) are often in order.  By 48 hours at the outside, they ought to be done.

When they’re ready, pop them into organic-parchment-lined cookie tins quickly, leaving a plate out for snacking.  If you want some of the cookies available for a special occasion, you may need to disguise or hide the tins!  Since these are dried, they last up to several years in a dark, dry, cooler spot.  But in our home, they only last that long if Bill tucks a bag in a coat pocket for a snack, and forgets about them!

Happy, well-fed holidays to you and your family!

Berry Bird’s Nests (the fast version)

  • 3 cups dried organic berries filling a glass jar
  • purified water to top up the jar
  • 1-2 tsp. organic, alcohol-free vanilla essence
  • roughly 6 cups of coconut shreds

Soak the berries overnight to soften, then purée with vanilla in a blender.  Turn on the food dryer to preheat.  Pour the fruit purée into a large bowl and stir in coconut shreds until the thoroughly-mixed dough begins to clump.  Lay organic parchment paper on the food dryer trays with gaps to allow air flow.  Hand-roll the dough into cookies no more than 1/3″ thick if coconut shreds are fine, and no more than 1/2″ thick if coconut shreds are large and have more air spaces to dry out.  Space the cookies at least several millimeters apart, and dry for between 12 and 48 hours, depending on the dryness of your air, and the tastes of your eaters.

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