The Best Chewy Snickerdoodles

3245639 Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Processed with VSCO with v5 preset

I have made these cookies at least 3 times, all within the same week I realised these cannot be anything less than the best vegan snickerdoodles EVER. Really, I was so excited. Just sitting there, spatula in hand, the other covered in a greasy mix of cinnamon, butter and sugar. How could this be? These must be one of the best things ever to savour (in moderation, of course). Preceding the most wonderful vacation I’ve had in a while (Belgium, Germany and Austria, woot!) were these cookies. Just these, nothing more and nothing less, and nothing more was needed, to be very honest. Now I’m babbling, but clearly you can tell how excited I am about these. I considered sharing the recipe for these on a whim on Instagram, but realised they’re too special not to have a reserved spot in the archives.

The word ‘best’ of course elevates everyone’s expectations, and I promise these won’t let you down. All my friends who tried it said various things:

‘Better than Ben’s (with reference to the popular Ben’s Cookies here in London)?!’,

‘Oh my God I can’t stop’

‘Holy s***.’

But enough with the all bark and no bite. I’ll rat this one out, you deserve at least that. These are by far the most chewy, delicious, cinnamony snickerdoodles I have ever had. Loving the cracks and crags of these, which you can enjoy below, alongside some shots of the trip I just came back from, where every day ended with a full belly and fuller heart.

3111032 Processed with VSCO with f2 preset Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

4578569 Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
Munich’s harsh light that fine day
3756039 Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
Ghent, Belgium: That time someone actually cooked breakfast for me: Hot sautéed cinnamon apples on a bed of warm porridge. Mmmmm.
3988327 Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
Schladming, Austria: Where we dined on a dinner of fresh air, a view of the mountains, crisp white wine and a sweet potato eggplant curry

3187828 Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

Stiff and chewy all the way through. Rolling them in my ratio of cinnamon and sugar will yield incredibly chewy outer edges and a perfectly sweet bite each time. Cinnamon goes way back, and this love affair with this spice has no end. Cinnamon is able to prevent cognitive brain decline, whilst boasting many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Petri dish experiments, as reductionist as they sound, still have shown some potential anti-cancer properties. How cool is that?

Another day, another one-bowl wonder. It’s a simple matter of creaming together vegan butter and sugar, before adding the dry ingredients and mixing everything until you get a relatively dry mixture. But texture should not fool you– this recipe will yield the most chewy cookies after baking, as the butter melts and moistens everything. It is a true dream, I say.

3157501 Processed with VSCO with a5 preset Processed with VSCO with v5 preset3175756 Processed with VSCO with v5 preset

Snickerdoodles (makes around 12 medium cookies)

Ingredients

330g plain flour, or use half whole-wheat if desired (I have not tried the latter, but I guess this would yield a sturdier, more earthy-tasting cookie)

1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

pinch of salt

1 egg (vegan substitute: 1 flax egg– make it by mixing 1 tbsp ground flaxseed with 2 tbsp water and letting that gel in a small bowl for a few minutes before using)

1 tsp vanilla extract

150g butter at room temp (vegan substitute: vegan butter or margarine)

130g (around 3/4 cup) of white sugar

120g (around a packed 3/4 cup) of light brown sugar.

mixture to roll cookies in: 30g white sugar mixed with 1 tbsp ground cinnamon (you may realise you do not need all of it when rolling your cookie dough in this mixture)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter and sugar using a fork or electric whisk. I simply use a fork and spatula to cream it to save on some washing! Mix the butter and sugar until you get a smooth, fluffy consistency. Add the egg/flax egg and vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.

Next, add the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix everything by hand or with an electric whisk. The mixture will be quite dry and crumbly (don’t worry, they won’t turn out like this). Roll the mixture into 2-inch balls, then roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Place the balls at least 1 inch apart as they will spread a little.

Bake them in the oven for 18 minutes. Once baked, take the cookies out and use the bottom of a glass to lightly tap on the tops of the cookies to flatten them just a little. This evens out the conduction of heat and makes the cookies incredibly chewy and less raw in the centre. The cookies will look slightly pale and perhaps a little raw once out of the oven, but leave them to cool on your counter and they will stiffen and cook a little more. Resist if you can (I can’t). Enjoy on their own. These last quite a few days in an airtight container.

 

Fig, cinnamon and apricot whole grain loaf

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

“There is no science without fancy, and no art without facts.”

I’ve lately been fascinated by the whole idea of intellectual promiscuity. I came across it on this Brainpickings article the other day and was intrigued by the term, which basically means not to limit oneself to one academic field, and instead embrace both science and the arts, something I fully agree with after my own educational experience. Two fields which complement and enhance each’s developmental stages, instead of diminishing the importance of one or the other in any way. I’m still young and have much to learn about the world, but the paradox of finding creative genius outside of these constructed stereotypes (just think of Da Vinci– horses and formulas and planes galore!) is something to appreciate.

It’s been rather a long time since I made a loaf. It’s usually something simple and easy to put together like banana bread or a moist orange cake I made at the end of last year. All bing bam boom and poof!, it’s done in the oven within the same hour. However, a few days ago, I thought it would be lovely to indulge in the old-fashioned labour of kneading, of being a little more physical with the ingredients, bestowing them with more TLC if you know what I mean, instead of taking embarrassing shortcuts. I just wanted it to be me, some flour, these hands, and the oven. I came across a gorgeous recipe for cinnamon swirl bread on the Smitten Kitchen blog, run by the most hilarious and passionate lady ever. It was the original inspiration for this recipe, so check it out if you can. After fiddling about with the ingredients and measurements, I came up with my own version. What I love about her method is the kneading-then-wait-then-knead-again method, which sounds horribly tiresome and unnecessary now, but it really helps in developing the gluten, chew and resulting flavour of a good, well-risen loaf.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I was a little hesitant to add figs, but no regrets existed when they turned into the sweetest pockets of thick goo strewn throughout the cooked loaf. The bread itself is sweet and hearty with the benevolent addition of whole grains, cinnamon and figs, so it’s wonderful toasted on its own, or topped with good salty butter and a selfish drizzle of honey. It’s my favourite way to have it. It tastes almost nutty, since I use ground flax and whole wheat flour (which, by the way, can be exchanged for your classic all-purpose, promise!). The best part without a doubt is the outrageously crackly, hard crust, best relished with even more butter and honey on the side. Thinner and slightly drier than what you would get from a banana bread loaf. It’s what I’ve been looking forward to every morning the past few mornings, if I’m being completely honest. I mean my mind is always filled with thoughts other than food (believe me), but some things are annoyingly irresistible, cutting off sense and sensibility, and this is one of them.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Fig, cinnamon and apricot whole grain loaf (makes 1 standard 9×5-inch loaf)

For the loaf:

320g whole wheat flour (or a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose)

80g whole grains– I used 15g of ground flaxseed and 65g rolled oats. If you wish, use 80g of either, or try experimenting with oats ground in your food processor.

7g instant yeast

1tsp (7g) fine salt

25g brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

40g unsalted butter, melted in the microwave (use 20-second bursts)

150ml tepid water

150ml milk, microwaved for a while so it’s not fridge-cold

extra flour for dusting work surface

For the filling:

50g white caster sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

half a cup of chopped figs and dried apricots (you can use anything really. If you have nuts/ dried cranberries/ raisins/ currants, then go for it). It should all amount to around 65g.

one large egg, beaten with a splash of water

In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, milk and sugar, then whisk in yeast. Add the egg and butter, and whisk again. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, flax and salt. Using a large wooden spoon, stir for around a minute. The mix will immediately turn darker but will retain a coarse texture. Let the mix rest for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, mix a little more with the spoon. Just briefly. The dough should look supple, and less ragged. If it’s still obviously wet, add a tablespoon more of flour. Mix more for 3-4 minutes.. and this is where it gets tricky. The gluten really starts to develop here, making the mix more robust and less malleable. 3-4 minutes doesn’t sound long, but the time does get to you when you’re constantly trying to churn power from your two poor biceps. Power through!

Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead a few more times, just twice or thrice, before forming into a ball and placing into your mix bowl. Place a damp towel on top and let rest for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the towel, dough and use your wooden spoon to work the dough again briefly, and leave to rest and cover again for 10 minutes. ‘Kneading’ this way avoids some between-the-fingers mess, and keeps the dough in the bowl. Is that lazy? Ha. Repeat the knead-and-cover process just one more time.

To proof, transfer the dough into a clean and lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel again and let this proof for an hour. If you’re pressed for time, you can leave the dough in the fridge overnight! If you do it this way, make sure to remove the dough 2 hours before you start working with it again. During the hour or after taking out your chilled dough, mix your filling ingredients– cinnamon, sugar, figs and apricots. After an hour, check to see if it has doubled. If it does not look quite as voluminous, leave in the bowl for another 10 minutes.

Dust your work surface and turn out the bread. Press the dough into 10×5-inch rectangle, then brush the dough with the egg and water mixture. Sprinkle on the filling, then roll from the shorter edge. Nothing careful or meticulous here. I didn’t create a swirl like Smitten Kitchen’s version, however the rolling does make sure that the filling is nicely distributed throughout the body. Press the edges closed, then gently place the loaf (I needed spatulas to help me!) in a lightly greased loaf pan.

Now for the second proof: Cover the loaf pan with a damp towel and let rise for 30-45 minutes. Whilst waiting, preheat your oven to 177C/ 350F. Bake the loaf for 40-45 minutes. Mine took 40 minutes and came out a lovely golden colour.

Cinnamon sour cream coffee cake

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

 

I delight in this cake for two reasons.

Firstly, it’s got this ridiculous cinnamon sugar crumble magic on top, and it was the hardest thing (well, not as hard as if I were to make brownies), to stop picking at the stuff. Secondly, the flavour eagerly showcases the use of sour cream, which I love, so it’s not too mild and airy-fairy like a typical sponge cake. It’s a slightly denser cake than normal, and goes wonderfully with even more sour cream or vanilla ice cream, perhaps topped with a dash of cinnamon and in this case, a good drizzle of manuka honey.

I adapted this recipe from Entertaining with Beth which can be found here. Made quite a few alterations because my first experiment with it yielded too dense a final result, the crumb not as tender as I hoped for. Cinnamon is the vice of Man. The earthy sweetness rounds off many other traditional flavour notes. I added a little brown sugar to the cake mix because the slight tinge of molasses goes well with the cinnamon filling in between the two layers, and changed the cinnamon filling and crumb topping recipe completely because the melted butter used in the original recipe just didn’t work as a nice streusel topping in this temple-banging, sun-raging weather. Curse this humidity.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

What I like best is how you don’t have to make two separate layers before getting down to some sandwich business- what’s one to do with just one 9-inch pan? We make easy for the world. Saving on some dishwashing liquid too, actually. Moving on.

 

Cinnamon Sour Cream Coffee Cake

 

For the cake:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

115g salted butter at room temperature (unsalted is fine, just add more salt later)

2 room temperature eggs

half cup white sugar, half cup light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cups sour cream (you may substitute this with Greek yoghurt, not anything low-fat or plain)

1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract

 

For the cinnamon filling and crumb topping:

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar (this has a high molasses content and will thus yield a more earthy, sultry flavour, but light will work fine. You might have to add an extra tablespoon or so, though)

1/2 cup plain flour

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon (yum)

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

57g (4 tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into one-inch pieces. Stick this in the fridge right before use.

optional– chopped pecans/walnuts/almonds

 

You ready? I am. So. Dead. Easy.

Firstly, get all the dry stuff together. Then preheat your oven to 176 degrees C, or 350 degrees F, with the rack in the middle.

In a big bowl, cream together, either using an electric mix or your good old biceps and a sturdy whisk, the butter, two sugars and vanilla extract. Crack in the eggs one by one, whisking after each addition.

In another smaller bowl,  whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Fold the sour cream into your sugar-butter mixture (I almost said complex) halfway, then add the flour mixture. I switched to using a wooden spoon at this point. The resulting batter should be sticky, smooth pale yellow, with a thick dropping consistency. If it’s too thick, add 1-2 tablespoons whole milk, but careful as this might alter the final taste of your cake. Whatever you do, don’t overmix!

How easy was that? Grab and throw. Done and dusted.

Now for the lovely crumble. Mix together the flour, sugar and cinnamon, then get in there with your hands and rub in the cold butter. Slightly larger-than-normal clumps are ok. If you wish, add more or less cinnamon, and play around with chopped nuts. If you do so, chop them up finely so as to keep the traditional texture of a streusel.

Spray a 9-inch cheesecake pan with a removable bottom tin with cooking spray. Don’t overdo it or else you’ll risk making the bottom unnecessarily greasy. Turn out half the batter into the tin, then sprinkle half the cinnamon streusel on top. Turn out the remaining batter and sprinkle on the rest.

Bake the mixture in your preheated oven for 55 minutes, after which if you insert a wooden skewer it should emerge clean, with a few dry crumbs sticking to it. Remove the bottom tin and place on cake stand, and if you want to be all fancy, sprinkle on some icing sugar. Don’t be afraid of excess and lather on the sour cream and honey on a warm slice.