Vegan Grain-free Vanilla Almond Shortbread Cookies


April’s Recipe Redux Challenge asked us to create a healthy recipe using one of our favorite kitchen tools. No brainer. Gram’s rolling pin.

In the pic below is the rolling pin Gram used for most of her adult life. It’s the one her mother, my great-grandmother Jenny, passed down to her. This rolling pin traveled across the Atlantic from Italy, with very few other possessions, when my Grandmother’s side of the family left Italy for America.

It’s the largest rolling pin I’ve ever used, and feels heavy at first. But once you get used to it, any other rolling pin feels so small and light. It’s made of wood, and is so soft from all of the oil, love, and care that has been applied to it over the last 100 years. 100 years! No conditioning needed on this beauty. She cleans so easily.

Gram’s rolling pin, which was her mother’s (my great grandmother’s), making it well over 100 years old, is so big, it spans my pie board.

The Rolling Pin that Will Outlive All of Us

Every time I use it, I can’t help but imagine all of the dough it has rolled out, from pies and pot pies, to cookies, to cinnamon rolls and sticky buns…Jenny, Gram, and I all love to bake. How could we begin to capture the history of this rolling pin? Will it outlive all of us? I wonder.

When I was a kid, and Gram was teaching me to bake, she would hand me this huge rolling pin. I had such a hard time rolling out pie crust. It felt so big and awkward. I’d watch her, and she worked with it like it was the most natural thing in the world, like watching Picasso with his paint brush, I imagine.

Earning My Most Prized Possession

It took me years to earn this rolling pin. I lived in Seattle for a few years right after college. The first year out there I couldn’t make it home for Thanksgiving. I called Gram to chat, and told her I was making pies, like I had done with her every Thanksgiving since I was a little girl. The first thing she asked me was, “What are you using to roll out your crust?” I said, “A glass water bottle.”

A few days later UPS delivered my first rolling pin to my door. From Gram.

It was smaller than hers. Obviously, I needed time to master the rolling pin. When I moved back east a few years later, and started cooking with Gram again, she re-introduced me to her rolling pin. I felt much more comfortable with it. That’s when she gave it to me, about 14 years ago.

It’s such a treasure, my husband hand crafted a special rack for it, that holds two other rolling pins. At the top sits the first one Gram sent me, on the bottom, the one that was her mother’s. If our house went up in flames and I had time to grab one thing, it would be Gram’s rolling pin.

This is the rack my husband hand crafted for my rolling pins. I only had 3 when he made it 14 years ago. At the top sits the first one Gram sent to me when I lived in Seattle after college. At the bottom sits the one that her mother used and gave her, then she gave to me. My favorite and most prized kitchen tool!

How Gram’s Rolling Pin Inspired Vegan Grain-free Shortbread Cookies

Gram’s rolling pin inspires all my dough recipes, especially when it comes to baking. Sure, when I learned to bake with Gram, she used butter, eggs, milk, and flour. But she fully supported my recipe recreations. As long as it tasted good!

I always channel Gram in the kitchen, remembering what she taught me, how to balance flavors, how to love the dough…most of all, to enjoy the food. Food without dairy, eggs, refined sugar, and grains is no different. It gets the same love and care, the same rich flavors, and the same joy.

Vanilla Almond Shortbread Recipe

Dairy-free, Egg-free, Gluten-free, Grain-free, Refined Sugar-free, Wheat-free, Vegan

Vegan Grain-free Vanilla Almond Shortbread Cookies
Serves: Makes 12-14 Large Cookies
  • ½ cup non hydrogenated palm shortening
  • ½ cup maple sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  1. On medium to medium high speed cream palm shortening, maple sugar, vanilla, and almond extracts until combined and smooth.
  2. On lowest speed add all dry ingredients: almond flour, coconut flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt. Mix until combined.
  3. Form into a disc, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes, or until firm.
As Your Dough Gets Firm
  1. Get out a board, rolling pin, with some extra almond flour for dusting.
  2. Choose your cookie cut outs. (I used spring/Easter for this season.)
  3. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment or a silicone liner.
Roll Out Your Dough
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Dust your board with extra almond flour.
  3. Transfer your dough from the wax paper to the board.
  4. Dust extra flour on top of your dough.
  5. Evenly roll your dough to desired thickness, about ¼" thick.
  6. Cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters.
  7. Use a spatula to pick up your cookies off the board and transfer to your lined cookie sheet.
  8. After you've placed all your cookies on your cookies sheet, gather your extra dough, and repeat your rolling process, followed by your cut our process.
  9. Continue doing this until all the dough is used.
  1. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned and firm, passing the nudge test.
  2. Let completely cool before decorating.
Copyright: Angela Marinelli, M.S., M.Ed., Nourishment Connection 2014

Note about Almond Flour

I use finely ground raw blanched, almonds, Honeyville brand. This is not a blend with any other flours or grains, and it’s finer than nutmeal. It also is completely white, containing no nut skins.

How to Decorate Your Cookies

Decorating is all personal preference, there is no wrong. I used chocolate icing because I love chocolate, with some melted vegan white chocolate as an accent. I opt for healthier icings and decorations, options that are less sugary, less processed. We all have our faves!

I create recipes and cook/bake. I’m no artist. My decorating could use some help. I honestly don’t know what happened to my poor bunny. I had a great concept in my head. Something clearly went awry. He looks politically incorrect. No offense meant. Total execution error. I’m sure you are all better decorators than me. ­čÖé

Here’s One of My Vegan Refined Sugar-free Chocolate Icing Recipes

Vegan Refined Sugar-free Chocolate Icing
Serves: Makes about ⅓ cup
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 TBS coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • ¾ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp espresso powder
  • Pinch coarse sea salt
  1. Heat coconut oil over low heat until it melts.
  2. Add maple syrup, vanilla, espresso powder, cocoa powder, and salt.
  3. Whisk together over low heat for 2-3 minutes, until it becomes smooth, thickens, and everything is well incorporated. (Larger batches will take a little longer.)
  4. Remove from sauce pan and pour into a bowl.
  5. Let cool to room temperature (can put in fridge to cool faster, but don't let it stiffen too much).
  6. Then Ice or glaze.
Copyright: Angela Marinelli, M.S., M.Ed., Nourishment Connection 2014

To Melt White Chocolate:

If you want to use white chocolate as an accent, melt 2 ounces of dairy-free white chocolate over lowest heat possible. It should be thin enough to spread. If not, add 1/16 tsp of coconut oil to thin it a little bit. It will harden back up on the cookie.

Let cookies set. Then store in an airtight container. Enjoy!


Here’s how your cookie dough should look when you roll it out:


Here’s how my cookies looked when I baked them, before I decorated them. They didn’t spread at all in the cooking process, held their shape well.


Here’s how my chocolate icing looks when it thickens and I take it off the heat.┬áIt will stiffen more as it cools. For a looser icing, use 1 1/2 TBS coconut oil. I like my icing to set a bit more on these cookies.


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