It is hard to believe that 2021 is almost over and that we are getting ready for the holiday season once again. Many of us enjoy the fun of holiday baking, especially if you have children to help. Visions of sprinkle covered cookies, bars, cakes, and cupcakes are already dancing in our heads! Unfortunately, up until now one thing that has discouraged us from participating in the baking madness is the chemicals – especially synthetic dyes, high fructose corn syrup and artificial colours that lurk in so many of the baking ingredients. Imitation extracts, poor quality spices and chemical laden sprinkles and coloured sugars are widely used in baking at this time of year and we just didn’t want to be a part of this anymore. But let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a gingerbread cookie with sprinkles on it? Or cupcakes with nonpareils? Or sugar cookies without vanilla icing? And… well you get the idea.
So we set off to find healthier and safer choices for these yummy treats so we can feel confident that our kids (and yours) are getting the best treats possible. Our journey led us to some amazing tasting organic extracts in vanilla, chocolate, peppermint, orange, lemon, almond and maple flavours. From there we added wonderful organic spices and spice blends, including the oft prized organic Ceylon Cinnamon. Then finally we found our favourite, the one that has us jumping for joy – sprinkles and coloured sugars. The kid in all of us let out a cheer when we found ones that are made with natural plant colour, natural flavours and non-GMO cane sugar.
Could the holidays get any better? Bring on the baking!
Below are some scrumptious recipes to get you on your way to a great holiday dessert-fest.
Holiday Sugar Coated Cookies
2 - 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon Tilia’s organic vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon Tilia’s organic peppermint or almond extract (optional)
Tilia’s Ruby Red and Emerald Green Coloured sparkle sugar
Directions: Heat oven to 375°F. Line cookie sheets with cooking parchment paper; set aside.
In a small bowl stir together the flour and baking soda and set aside. Place 1/4 cup of each of the coloured sugars in separate small bowls for rolling the cookies (one with red sugar and another with green sugar).
In a large bowl, beat 1 cup granulated sugar and butter with electric mixer on low speed until light and fluffy. Stir in the egg, vanilla and other extract if using. Stir in flour and baking soda. Shape dough into small balls (about the size of a tablespoon). Roll each ball in the sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until set. Remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 20 minutes. Store covered in airtight container.
Tilia’s Rainbow Sprinkle Brown Sugar Bars
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons Tilia’s organic vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup Tilia’s natural rainbow sprinkles (take 2 tablespoons out for sprinkling the top)
1 cup chocolate chips
Directions: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9”x13” baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Measure the flour, salt and baking soda into the mixing bowl whisking to combine. Set aside.
In a large bowl using an electric mixer (or a spoon and muscle power!), whip the softened butter, granulated and brown sugars on medium - high until the butter is fluffy, a light yellow colour and the sugars are well incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides.
Add in the egg and vanilla extract, beating at medium speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and add flour mixture and then turn on the mixer at a low speed. Continue mixing until the batter has come together and soft and slightly sticky. Measure in the sprinkles and chocolate chips, and gently fold them into the batter incorporating well.
Scoop the cookie dough out of the bowl and into the prepared baking pan. Use a spatula (or your hands if you prefer) to press the batter out evenly into the pan. Sprinkle additional sprinkles on top of the bars. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Let cool completely on a wire cooling rack before cutting. This makes 24 to 36 cookie squares (depending how big you want them!).
What’s the story on Cinnamon?
So cinnamon is cinnamon, right? Well not really.
There are actually two types of cinnamon that are generally used in cooking, Cinnamon Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia) and Ceylon Cinnamon (Cinnamomum vera/zeylanicum). They come from different varieties of the Cinnamomum tree and they are close cousins. Cinnamon cassia is widely grown in China, and Eastern and Southern Asia and is often referred to as Chinese cinnamon or simply Cassia. The Ceylon cinnamon, which is often referred to as “true cinnamon” and is native to Sri Lanka and now southern parts of India.
Cassia tends to be a dark brown-red colour with thicker sticks and a rougher texture than Ceylon cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon is considered lower quality and is quite cheap in comparison to Ceylon cinnamon. Cassia is the type most commonly consumed around the world and, in fact, almost all cinnamon found in supermarkets is the cassia variety.
The Ceylon cinnamon is a little more expensive and generally is a little harder to find at most grocery stores. When Ceylon cinnamon is harvested, the sheets that are taken from the tree are usually processed by hand and rolled into flat layers that are much thinner and finer in texture than those rolled from cassia cinnamon and are a lighter colour. Ceylon cinnamon’s flavour and aroma are milder and more delicate—it definitely tastes "cinnamon," but with subtle, almo