Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

5051011 Processed with VSCO with e3 presetNothing quite beats a café with ‘70s-‘80s music blaring everywhere. I do suck energy from my surroundings. A dearth of atmosphere, a tinge of something exciting, is sure to drain me. Don’t get me wrong, I love a deathly quiet, but I also like looking up from my screen sometimes, examine faces and bodies so different and unique, or sip a coffee without bothering the librarian. Here in London, the sun is shining. Yesterday it was pouring like every cloud was trying to squeeze out its last drops for all of eternity.

Diary excerpts:

9/6: Always looking for an excuse to start anew. But why not now? Why not on a Sunday? Isn’t Sunday the first day of the week in many parts of the world anyway?// dark turquoise is my new favourite colour.

10/6: Why does coffee everywhere in London have to be so expensive? Never mind, it’s worth it for all the café ambiences I soak myself in everyday// researchers can now use single-cell sequencing to detect differences in RNA expression in cells, thus showing when they decide to progress from neural crest cells to something more specialized.

After watching Chris Morocco speak sweet nothings in his video demonstration of Bon Appetit’s ‘best’ chocolate chip cookie, I decided to give it a go. The way he talked about the beauty of the mosaic made when ripples of unevenly chopped heap of chocolate melt and bake in a creamy batter, the way something as simple as a cookie is transformed upon a simple, short cook of butter… it was all too tempting. Having not made anything with browned butter in ages, I took the risk (I still tend to burn things, so yes this was considered a risk) and set to work. He states in this particular recipe to brown just half a cup of the butter first before adding the rest in, but I went ahead and browned all of it at once, which yielded (perhaps) not an identical result to Chris’, but nevertheless retained the toffee-like, smoldering notes of butter cooked down to an almost clear brown liquid.

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Secondly, the recipe specifies that one large egg and 2 egg yolks be used, but with exactly 2 eggs left in the fridge, I used that instead. Due to that alone, I was afraid of the cookies not turning out as dense and chewy as demonstrated, but I was proven wrong with my final, accidental amendment: So, Chris used dark brown sugar, and so did I. But unlike what I saw in the video, mine was dark. As in, straight-up camp molasses. Almost. It was therefore much harder to incorporate when mixing with the butter, because of how much stickier and clumped together it was. But that exact density and stickiness, although they did make the cookies darker in colour, also let them retain a most tempting, delicious density and chewiness all throughout its body.

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Brown butter chocolate chip cookies (inspired by BA’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies– makes 16 cookies)

*= vegan substitution

Ingredients

200g (1.5 cups) plain flour

1 tsp fine salt (leave out if you’re using salted butter)

1 tsp baking soda

170g (0.75 cups) butter (*vegan butter or margarine)

50g (0.25 cups) sugar

200g (1 cup) dark brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs (*2 vegan eggs, made by mixing 2 heaped tbsp. ground flaxseed with 5 tbsp water in a small bowl, and letting that gel up for a minute)

170g dark chocolate, chopped

Directions

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line two baking trays with parchment paper.

Place your butter into a saucepan and, on medium heat, melt the butter and continue to let it cook until it turns a toffee brown and looks almost clear. There will be some frothy, lighter bits on top. Swirl the pan occasionally while the butter melts. Once it is browned, set it aside for a while to cool. In a small bowl, briefly whisk together the flour, salt, chocolate and baking soda. Add the brown and white sugar to the browned butter and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Make sure there are no lumps. Add the eggs (or vegan eggs) and whisk to incorporate everything well, and you get a smooth, lump-free batter.

Add the dry mix containing the chocolate to the wet egg mixture. You should get a moist batter that still drops off a wooden spoon relatively easily.

Using an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, place dollops of equally-sized batter on your lined sheets, making sure there’s at least 2 inches of space between each circle of batter. As the original recipe states, let the flour hydrate by letting the batter sit for a while on the trays for 5 minutes. Then bake the cookies (one tray before the other, or both at the same time), for 8 minutes. Let them sit for a while before eating up. Alternatively these can be made and frozen ahead of a time you want to consume them.

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.

A Collaboration with Nilufer Tea, The Best Organic Tea (ft. recipe for the most ideal pairing)

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Title says it all. Bleary-eyed from 5 hours of sleep, a neatly wrapped bundle in the post set my mind and palate into gear for the day. It’s been ages since I last indulged in a cup of tea, breathing in a subtle fragrance, meditating on steam. Now that I’ve been back in Singapore for a while it hasn’t occurred to me to have anything hot; dinner is typically preceded by a frigid green juice or iced water. Nevertheless, tradition transcends change of climate, and so I settled down to a long lost habit. Sent so kindly by the folks behind Nilufer tea, an organic herbal tea brand I am so grateful to have become acquainted with the past week, I decided it was only appropriate to enjoy them with the chewiest, chocolate-pumped salted cookies, of which recipe I recently developed. The best organic herbal tea, I learned, is borne out of love, sweat, and quality. This is quality tea, I repeat, which uses non-pesticide herbs & flowers with premium dried fruits. How stunning is that.

Straight from the hands of independent Japanese tea farmers, Nilufer has put itself a head above the crowd of conventional tea brands by capitalising on ethical business, involving itself in every step of the tea-making process, from laboured harvest to artisan packaging. I was stunned by the simple array of complex flavours to choose from– red rooibos, chamomile, herbal fruit, rose and ginger rooibos tea. I absorbed its ethos in its entirety as I placed a delicate ginger rooibos teabag into my mug.

Going vegan, as I have mentioned before, is not just about the food, but a keen awareness. Of where I am, what I’m doing, what is happening all around–I am now sitting outside in our little garden, feeling the cushion beneath me, beige and smooth, still learning to live comfortably with the dense air, as if packed solid with noise that does not move, as Sebastian Faulks beautifully puts. That awareness naturally involves awareness of one’s use of resources, and so though I am not as tea-crazed as some of my English friends, with a cup of tea comes an appreciation of the here and now, instilling some sense of emotional granularity, and the lesser need to constantly compare oneself with everyone else, caught up and blind in the world of faster, bigger, better. Every second is your own. I was therefore excited to collaborate with a brand whose ethos resonates so well with this sentiment; Nilufer’s organic approach rooted in sustainability would similarly appeal to many other vegans in Singapore. Learn more about the best organic herbal tea before treating yourself. Revel in that rare authenticity.

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Their rose tea was alluring and fragrant, which, by the way, also restores female hormonal balance and peace of mind. Perfect after an insanely busy office day. A touch of hibiscus accentuates a heady floral aroma with a hint of strawberry. Chamomile, one of my long-time favourites, is mixed with orange, ginger and lemongrass in an exotic blend for a more revitalising, mid-work kick. Chamomile also stimulates the production of enzymes in the gut for efficient digestion, complementing my passion for a gut-friendly plant-based diet.

My personal favourite was the very first flavour I tried– ginger rooibos. Red rooibos and peppery ginger up the ante here with spice and tingling earthiness, red rooibos itself being a potent antioxidant to help fend off oxidative stress, burnishing your beauty routine with several minerals for rapid skin regeneration and hair growth. All sounds pretty wild, but after meditation on each flavour, I for one am more inclined to believe.

Scrolled starry-eyed through their website. Thorough health and beauty articles (on Nilufer Tea blog) are written to pad out their wellness ethos. Do also check them out on Nilufer Tea Instagram and Nilufer Tea Facebook.

Now for cookies. Which, in my opinion, are perfect with this tea. Before I went vegan I was hooked on one particular recipe, and I was swimming in the conviction that nothing, ever, could beat it.

Until I went vegan and developed this baby (haha).

The chew is what will get to you. The secret here is the resting time in the fridge and top quality chocolate. The idea is that this gives the sugar in the cookies time to mix into the other ingredients and so, upon baking the next day, the sugar caramelises more efficiently and you get a deeper caramel flavour and chewier texture. Your cookies also spread less because the chilled cookie would have more solidified that melted fat. That means making the batter the night before is most ideal if you want to wake up to a glorious, familiar wafting fragrance and cookies with the best shape, form and flavour. No need for any flax/chia egg or funny flour (though by all means play around with buckwheat spirulina charcoal flour if you feel inclined to). The ingredients shine through in their simplicity and natural affinity for each other. Salt and sweet. Each bite is chockfull of chocolate, of which varied size and thickness offers such complex mouthfeel. The middle is dense, dark and sinfully chewy.

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Chewy Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes 12 medium-sized cookies)

Ingredients

250g plain flour, or use half plain flour and half whole-wheat/oat flour

¾ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

200g good quality dark vegan chocolate (use Lindt’s 70% or another vegan brand), chopped into chunks

110g soft, dark brown sugar

100g white/coconut sugar

1 tsp salt

coarse salt for sprinkling (I use Maldon)

1 tsp vanilla extract

100ml plain vegetable/canola/sunflower oil

80ml hot water

 

Directions

Line two baking trays with parchment paper and set aside for the time-being. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and the chopped chocolate. In a separate medium bowl, mix the oil, vanilla, water and two sugars together with a fork. Tip this into the dry mix and stir with a wooden spoon until everything is just combined.

Using an ice cream scoop for consistency, scoop your batter onto your lined baking trays. There should be 12-14 even balls. Press the balls down slightly with your fingers and liberally sprinkle salt over each one. Place the trays into the fridge to firm up for at least 10 hours or overnight (important, as stated before these instructions!!). The next morning, bake the cookies in an oven preheated to 180C (350F) for 12 minutes, no more and no less. There will be a little raw better on a wooden skewer stuck into a cookie- fret not, that’s what you want! The first time I did this I was sure it couldn’t be that raw, but the insides do firm up a little once you take the trays out of the oven and let the cookies cool completely

I’ll repeat that- let the cookies cool completely. The cookies may have a bit of rise but they will eventually deflate. The result? Inch-thick, ridiculously chewy, stretchy cookies, loved up with hand-chopped chocolate for an intense flavour and complex texture. These can be stored in an airtight container for a few days, though I promise they won’t last that long.

Chinese Walnut Cookies on Meringue Nests

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The early morning light is my bolthole before the day’s heartbeat ramps up. Right now I hold a small morsel of chocolate shortcake from my school library’s café, ashamed it’s not exactly what’s featured in today’s post, but its texture is reminiscent of just that.

Chinese New Year is still in the works, but its official advent last week was all the prick I needed to get myself busy in the kitchen, playing and toying with random festive ideas to half fool myself into thinking, as the only Chinese in the house, that pineapple tarts, oranges, ang baos (red money-filled packets) and all sorts of goodies were right there with me, emanating a pink blossom-hued energy, a light.

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These walnut cookies are little gems. Based off your traditional Chinese walnut cookies, which are very literally melt-in-your-mouth, the dough bursting with fresh chopped walnuts, brushed with an egg glaze and topped with raw walnut halves.

Their characteristic crumbly, buttery state got me thinking: this could pair more than well with a slightly unforeseen texture. My penchant for anything chew and goo may not be known far and wide but that’s precisely what I thought would tie it all together, and the answer, I knew, lay in the all-exclusive meringue. It did take a few tries before the right meringue consistency was achieved– too hard a meringue nest would fail to complement the more robust nature of the cookie, and the whole thing would corrode and disintegrate easily.

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This was a perfect surprise, for myself and a few family members. You bite into what’s almost like a paradox of taste. the buttery, femininity cookies are maturely ground, hard-bred, by the earthy and almost indelicate walnuts. Teeth sink a little further and are welcomed by the soft crackle of just-hardened meringue nest, still filled with white chewy goo in their hollows. Perfect by themselves, or with teeth-cleaning mandarins.

Chinese Walnut Cookies on Meringue Nests (makes 6 cookies, scale up as needed)

Ingredients

For the cookies:

125g plain flour

1/4 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

pinch salt

40g butter, unsalted and at room temperature (sub: vegan butter)

40g sugar

1/2 a beaten egg, about 30g (sub: half a flax egg made by mixing 1 tbsp flax with 2 tbsp water, of which you can save half for later in the process, or 30g vegan egg replacement)

30g finely chopped walnuts (do this yourself or buy ready-made chopped walnuts)

6 walnut halves

 

For the meringue:

100g white caster sugar

2 egg whites (sub: vegan egg whites, and I have heard you can use chickpea water for this!)

 

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and both baking powder and baking soda. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. I just used a spoon for this; it’s easy when your butter is at room temperature. Tip this into the flour mix, alongside the chopped walnuts and half the beaten egg. The mix should be very dry and only just come together when you mix this by hand. I suggest using your hands here as it’s easy and you can feel when the dough just comes together.

Prep cookies on pan– grease a baking tray and take 42-43.3g of dough for each cookie. Roll each bit of dough into a ball, place on the tray, then press a fresh walnut half onto the top. You should get 6 cookies from this batch. Brush the cookies with the remaining egg, then bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes. Once the cookies are done, leave to cool on the counter and turn the temperature down to 100C (212F).

Make the meringue. In a clean bowl and with a clean electrical hand whisk, beat the egg whites until they go frothy. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until you get a glossy, opaque white meringue. Spoon tablespoons of this onto a silicone or non-stick baking tray and flatten slightly so you get 6 discs out of the volumes stated above. Bake the discs for 1.5 hours (90 minutes), and check that they haven’t burnt or anything, for sometimes ovens really do stupid things, at the 1-hour mark. The surface should be a pale pink-brown colour, cracking into one should have little effort and the middle should still be white and gooey.

Press each cookie into the tops of the meringues. These are best eaten immediately for optimum enjoyment of the texture interplay, though they can be stored for a few days in an airtight container.