Tahini Chocolate Cookies

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A recent getaway. Copenhagen, Denmark. Krakow, Poland. Then cookies, to seal the whole package.

The getaway was exciting and almost necessary. Been feeling a little off lately and the short jetset abound with strange and foreign sights and experiences set my world into perspective– I’m just a small human being sitting on one tiny part of this huge amazing world with bigger problems to immerse myself in.

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Thin, crisp, and chewy like no other. An entire sweet day compressed into a disc, strewn with melted chocolate chunks big and small, aching in the wake of a heady river of tahini. And how easy!

I believe in the almighty simple chocolate chip cookie. But the twist of tahini offers something enigmatic and alluring. This alone will do you such good.

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Tahini Chocolate Cookies (makes 10-12 medium cookies)

Ingredients

120ml (0.5 cup) light tahini

1 egg (vegan sub: 2 flax eggs, make by mixing 2 tbsp ground flaxseed with 4 tbsp water and let set aside at the beginning)

115g salted butter, at room temperature (vegan sub: vegan butter). If your butter is really hard, microwave it for half a minute

180g sugar (I used a mix of light brown and white, you can do the same or stick to either or)

1 tsp vanilla extract

150g plain flour

0.5 tsp baking powder

0.5 tsp baking soda

150g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

 

Directions

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 180C (350F). In a medium bowl, using a whisk or electrical whisk, beat together the room temperature butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. This will take less than a minute if your butter is relatively soft. Then add the egg, vanilla and tahini, and beat well until you get a smooth, creamy batter that drops off your whisk easily.

In a separate bowl, briefly mix together the flour, chopped chocolate, baking powder and baking soda. If you didn’t use salted butter, add a teaspoon of fine salt to this dry mix, at this point.

Add this flour mix to the wet tahini-egg mix and mix until well combined. Scoop heaped tablespoonfuls of batter onto your lined tins, leaving at least 2 inches of space between each spoonful of batter to let the cookies spread and look less ugly (but ugly ones are still okay).

Bake the cookies, one tin at a time or both at the same time, for 15 minutes. They will look light-golden on top but still wet in the middle. This will continue to set after you take the cookies out. Take them out and, with both hands holding each end of the pan, lightly drop them on the counter-top to let gravity drop the bellies of the cookies. This technique will create crazy-chewy cookies with crisp, browned edges.

These are best enjoyed warm, and can be kept at room temperature for up to a week.

Chewy Molasses Cookies

Good morning, 2018.

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Today’s mantra is to foil the decrees of fate. It’s a new beginning. A time to accomplish or start something crazy, something you’ve never perhaps thought of doing, something that challenges and awakens you. Though I’m not all one for resolutions, I do believe in constant improvement, be it beginning of the year or just to try for a week, and some of mine include meditation and dedication to spreading some creative plant-lovin’, delicious inspiration. All harnessed by wild flavours, backed by both the sheer fun of it and the constantly evolving, growing fields of scientific research to justify the increased consumption of plants.

This is long-awaited, you and me both. The day is waning and the night, calling. Sitting here in the cutest café in Brick Lane, one that, as usual, I’ve been meaning to visit for quite a while. How I’ve missed the abundance of vegan foodthings and places in London. I’ve found it easier to accommodate and adapt in Singapore and Japan, some of the most vegan-unfriendly places yet in Southeast Asia, but it’s nice to come back to a haven of cheap rice and gourmet goods galore, all of which make this endeavour to be a little more kinder and connected way more convenient. One thing I learnt, especially in the past year, is that it’s ok to not care what other people think. Kein stress.

Japan, the family’s most recent adventure, was a wild chase of dreams. We were caught in a blizzard (not so fun), I had the most amazing vegan kaiseki (darn fun), where they fried apples and braised five different species of yam just for me. Pitied the poor chef, but hey, maybe I helped expand his own creative horizons. Every little course was a magical bonsai garden, bursts of flavour, emotional flavour. It’s this refinement and creativity I wish to recreate in my own sweet, plant-based endeavours.

And here is a recipe that heralds both Christmas and the New Year, from me to you. I made this at the start of the Christmas week, and made it again two days later. And again here, trying to preserve the fire of the festive spirit that is now withering like the sun each day at 4.

Chewy cookies aching with molasses, rounded and sugar-shelled. Spicy, hearty, dense. 

Here’s to defying gravity this 2018.

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Chewy Molasses Cookies (makes 8-10 medium cookies)

Ingredients

50g almond flour

60g cornstarch

pinch of salt

120g almond butter, store-bought or homemade

120g applesauce

50g coconut sugar

1 tsp ground ginger (optional)

1 tsp cinnamon (not optional)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp lemon juice+1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp sugar (I used coconut, but you can use white/brown)

Optional Icing: 1tsp lemon juice+ 5 tbsp icing sugar

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Tip all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk everything together with an electric mixer or a fork. Break off large chunks of the dough, roll into balls and place on the parchment paper. Press down lightly so that and bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes. Once done, leave to rest on the counter to cool; they should be quite soft to touch, but don’t do that too much else they’ll just crumble and fall apart. Make the icing and drizzle onto the cookies.

Blueberry Vanilla Bean Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Coconut Cream

Whipped, marshmallowy coconut lemon cream sandwiched between two chewy and tender blueberry-and-vanilla-bean-littered cookies. 

After returning from a trip to Penang with a friend who’s seen me through the best and worst of times (thanks for tolerating me Ruru, if you’re reading!), I felt like making something which would preserve a few key memories just that much longer. There was one night we were sipping cocktails by the beach, the undulating waves smoothing out the ridges of our minds left behind by whatever burdensome thoughts or happenings that inhabited its corners. Thought back to a creamy pina colada. Lemon and coconut. Blueberries. Beach and zen. The picture was made whole.

The trip was filled with laughter, food so good just thinking about it makes my heart beat a little faster, unanticipated hair-lightening treatments from the glaring sun, and ease apace with excitement. I remember waking up at 3:15am the last night at the hotel for no reason at all, caught in a mild trance, so happy to be alive. Surreal, but hopeful. Time spent with the right people and the accompanying in-depth discussions on anything and everything unleashes new takes on life and all it has to offer. When the glimmer of the world seems to disappear, a little getaway revs the psyche.

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The factors which elevate this cookie sandwich to a whole new level are:

– the right ratio of white to dark brown sugar. Dark brown sugar provides the desirable hit of molasses, but it’s also slightly more acidic so it reacts more with the baking soda, making it rise more. It must be balanced with the right amount of white sugar for the perfect combination of fudge and crisp.

– melted butter. This produces denser, chewier cookies; the creaming process incorporates too much air so I chose to do away with it, though it may be desirable in other cake-based recipes

– refrigeration. Yes, it makes a mammoth difference, and you can read more about it here. More on this a bit later.

– and finally, the almost pornographic smushing together of warm cookie and cool, whipped lemon coconut cream. The combination of flavours here just can’t be beat.

I mean, really.

Have the cookies by themselves, in which case you won’t be missing out on much. Each cookie is charmingly ridged at the edges, character obtained only by the mandatory chilling before baking. This serves to dry out the cookie dough a little, thereby concentrating the sugars to produce a chewier, more flavourful cookie. The use of dark brown sugar in this case means that you end up with a rich hint of molasses, and a moist interior devoid of excess ‘doughiness’. The cookies also spread a little less during baking because the fat is solidified during the crucial resting process, and though one would think this would reduce the chewy factor, it only does the opposite.

Or crown them with this divine lemon curd-flavoured cream. It’s a magical dance of pina colada-esque beachside vibes and the natural purity of a chewy cookie lucky enough to be on the sunny island in the first place. I might be getting a bit carried away.

Blueberry Vanilla Bean Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Coconut Cream (makes 11-12 medium-sized, or 3-inch wide cookies; adapted from my an old cookie recipe)

Note: Feel free to double this recipe! I halved and adjusted the quantities from my previous experiment just to test it, and the first trial turned out much better than I thought. So go ahead and multiply accordingly, if you so wish.

Ingredients

For the cookies:

95g (3/4 cup) all-purpose flour

half a vanilla bean with the insides scraped out, or substitute with half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

85g (half cup) white sugar

70g dark brown sugar

115g unsalted butter, melted

1 egg

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

70g (half cup) fresh or frozen blueberries

For the coconut lemon cream:

150g chilled, canned coconut milk (take a can and leave it in the fridge overnight, then open it to reveal a thick, more ‘whipped’ consistency)

50g (2 heaping tbsp-fuls) of lemon curd

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate, smaller bowl, rub the vanilla bean into the white sugar. Skip this step if you don’t have vanilla bean. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, dark brown sugar, white sugar speckled with vanilla bean, vanilla extract (only if you’re not using the vanilla bean, and the egg. Add the flour mix to the melted butter mix and stir briefly until just combined with a wooden spoon. Add the blueberries and quickly mix them in gently (sounds ironic, I know). A little pop here and there won’t hurt, but it’s better to let the oven to the work, creating those pockets of warm blue goo.

Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.While waiting for the cookies to cool, make the lemon coconut cream. In a bowl with an electrical whisk, beat together the chilled coconut milk and lemon curd. Beat on high for ~1 minute, at which point the coconut milk will look thick but the mixture is still pretty runny. Place the bowl in the fridge, during which time it will thicken into a more mousse-like texture. It’s quite magical.

Preheat your oven to 190C (375F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Once the cookies have rested, take them out of the fridge and use a tablespoon to scoop out the batter, then use your palms to roll gently into little balls. Place the balls on the cookie sheet and press down slightly to flatten them a little. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes.

Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the pan on a cooking rack before removing. Sandwich two with the chilled lemon coconut cream. Fear not, the cookie sandwich has made one hell of a comeback.