For anyone who doesn’t know, I was vegan for almost two years, not too long ago now. During that time, I discovered the versatility of the humble sesame paste. I stopped using it so much after moving to Oxford, but rediscovered how beautifully it blends into bakes just yesterday when I trialled these cookies for a third time. The taste just doesn’t fade, unlike a lot of other things like maple syrup, matcha or honey, of which you can end up using quite a bit of because the flavour is easily lost while baking. Anyway, this cookie…! It got all my flatmates’ seals of approval, much to my surprise, since tahini can very much be a love/hate thing.
The café near me actually does these amazing tahini chocolate cookies, which inspired me to make use of the stuff again. I have done tahini chocolate cookies before, but thought I would do a little twist with another earthy and grounding element- nuts. The result: fabulous. Definitely my favourite bake of June so far.
These cookies are light, chewy, not too sweet, and most importantly, the tahini is the main character of the show.
Tahini cashew cookies (makes 8-10 medium cookies)
100g butter, soft and at room temperature
160g white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
100g light tahini
150g plain flour (optional: substitute half with whole-wheat flour)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g cashews, chopped
Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line a baking tray with parchment paper. If you only have aluminium foil that works too, but bake the cookies for 5 minutes shorter. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soft butter, sugar and salt. Add the egg and tahini and whisk those in well too.
In a separate bowl, briefly whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and chopped cashews, then tip that into the wet mix and use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to mix everything together well. The batter should be quite sticky, not dry at all. Take heaped tablespoonfuls of batter and shape them into balls. If you want to get real precise, each medium cookie will be 52g. I did this and the yield was around 10 medium cookies.
Bake for 18 minutes but check at the 15-minute mark to see if the edges have browned slightly; once this has happened remove the tray from the oven and let them cool and set. The insides will be very chewy as they set, the edges nicely browned without being burnt.
Enjoy warm dipped into more tahini or with ice cream on top!
On today’s episode of ugly delicious, I welcome the peanut butter sand cookie.
Soft, crumbly cookie with hard edges and a distinct peanut flavour
Pretty much a peanut butter crumble in a cookie. I think I cracked these cookies the second time. The first time, I deemed them too dry, although a friend told me that they were just to her taste. The second time, they retained the typical chew of your denser peanut butter cookie, but also had a soft, almost melt-in-your-mouth crumbly consistency. I couldn’t help but think they resembled sand somehow, hence the name.
You can use processed peanut butter here, but the natural oils of natural peanut butter, when blended into the rest of the liquid part of the batter, makes for an extra smooth and delicious result. Definitely go ahead and use chunky peanut butter too, if that’s your preference.
It’s all about the texture here. My go-to cookie is rich and chewy with hard edges, but this is quite something, too. When you bite into the cookie, you get a pure peanut butter flavour dispersed through large, fluffy crumbs, and then as your teeth sink in, all that strong flavour concentrates into a grind of chew at the end of the bite.
Peanut butter sand cookies (makes 6-7 large cookies)
110g peanut butter (preferably natural peanut butter but use any sort you like)
110g unsalted butter
1/2 tsp fine salt
90g brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
optional: 100g chocolate chips, and flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top
Preheat your oven to 350F (180C) and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
If your butter or peanut butter is hard, place them in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or until soft to touch, not melting. In a medium bowl and using a whisk, whisk together the butter, peanut butter, salt and brown sugar until it looks light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and whisk that in too.
Add the flour, baking soda and optional chocolate chips. Use a spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet, bringing everything together until you get a sticky, thick batter. Use an ice cream scoop or your hands to scoop large golfball-sized clumps of batter onto your prepared pan. Sprinkle on the optional coarse salt on top. Bake for 10 minutes, then take them out and let cool and set for another 10 before eating. These cookies keep well for up to 3 days in an airtight container at room temperature, but you can also freeze them. Take out and microwave one for up to 2 minutes with a break after a minute, for a warm cookie. Best eaten with vanilla ice cream, or with a steaming cup of milky coffee!
The first of 2021, and the first of many to come. This cookie has a beauty that one must taste to find, much like how you have to look closer at someone to realise the delicate point of a nose or dual-toned eyes. A soft, even-toned cookie, the silent, good kid at the front of the classroom. An experiment born from the convenient coincidence of craving something simple and light, while lacking ingredients to make something more complex anyway. It is plain, without even a hint of vanilla. Just the slightly bitter, grassy notes of matcha laced into a cookie, sugar still painted with the earth from which it came.
I think I won over my boyfriend’s housemates with these soft, mildly chewy matcha cookies. Matcha is not a huge deal here in Germany, much unlike the overly priced matcha lattés you find in almost every café in London or Singapore. The amount of matcha powder added is just right for 12 small-medium cookies, about the same amount needed to make a potent cup of matcha tea.
Recently I re-discovered this matcha powder, which I first used 2 years ago after being introduced to it here in Germany. It is sharp and earthy enough, and works brilliantly in tea or baking, while being extremely affordable. Highly recommend.
Look at those juice insides. I hope you like these delicate, delicious matcha cookies as much as I do.
Soft and Chewy Matcha Cookies
Ingredients (makes about 12 small cookies)
1 tsp matcha powder
165g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
165g white sugar
113g soft butter (vegan substitution: same amount of vegan butter/margarine)
1 egg (vegan substitution: 2 flax eggs– mix 2 tbsp ground flaxseed with 5 tbsp water in a small bowl and set that aside to gel for 2-3 minutes before using)
Preheat your oven to 190C and line a baking tray with baking paper. You may need two baking trays if yours are thin or small.
In a large bowl, cream together the soft butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, using a whisk or spatula. I used a metal fork and then switched to a rubber spatula to really work the two into each other. This will take 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the pinch of salt and the egg.
Place a sieve over this bowl and sieve in the flour, baking powder and matcha powder. Using a rubber spatula, fold in your dry ingredients until you get a smooth, playdoh-like consistency. It may be easier to use your hands towards the end. It should be soft and pliable, the dough holding together easily when squeezed, neither too dry nor too sticky and wet.
Roll small balls of dough with your hands and place the balls on your prepared baking tray. You should get around 10-12 balls. Slightly flatten the tops with two fingers. The cookies will not spread much, so you do not have to worry about placing the cookies far apart. Bake them in the preheated oven for 10 minutes and let them cool for another 10 before serving. Best served plain, with black coffee.
It feels good to settle into routine in another country. The air is clean and fresh here, the experiences full. There are so many things that I easily take for granted on a daily basis, like walking in the public gardens nearby, or having access to clean water and delicious food at any moment. As much as I love the UK, Germany is beautiful, quaint and interesting in its own ways. Some things I’ve really been enjoying have been:
Grocery shopping in Germany. There’s always high-quality food at decent prices, even at the more ‘upmarket’ stores.
The app Freedom which has (finally) allowed me to melt into phases of deep work on a daily basis, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
This movie and this movie. I’ve learnt and remembered so much during each.
Making a page each, every month, for ‘Memories’, ‘Gratitude’ and ‘Recipes to Try/Recipes I loved’ in my bullet journal. They’re simple pages, lined at the border with the dates, 1-30/31, and it’s so fun to fill them in every day, even if there’s nothing or not much to write at all. The very act of putting it in the bullet journal is still fulfilling since it makes me want to fill up each day with something anyway. For the Recipes one so far this month, I currently have my boyfriend’s zucchini lemon pasta and these cookies on it…!
It’s a classic peanut butter chocolate party. I’ve played with many variations of this tight-knit couple over the years which you can find over at the recipe index. I have a lot to say about this cookie and I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s because I felt like a child making and eating it, with the simple use of white sugar and milk chocolate, no frills and no special ingredients. I didn’t even have baking soda, for goodness sake. But there I was standing in the middle of the kitchen, suddenly five again, happy to have made something delicious yet deceivingly simple.
My first bite was linked to this thought: wow, chewy reached a whole new level. Call me stupid or childish but breaking into one of these cookies was tantamount to tears-of-joy-ecstasy. I couldn’t explain it while standing there in a kitchen so I’ll just babble here. Made a small batch first to test and it came out beautifully, albeit one minor flaw, and I knew I had to share the recipe this week. Puddles of melted chocolate, a gooey, saturated, buttery centre, crisp and chewy edges. I originally planned to make something totally different, but I was craving and wanted to test this successful cookie again months after making them, and the happiness these cookies brought me sent me over the edge, so these are taking the cake this week.
The original recipe I wrote up uses brown sugar and olive oil, the latter of which I used for a more interesting depth of flavour. They’re less crisp around the edges and more of a dense, fudgy cookie, whereas these are slightly lighter with its use of the classic duo- butter and white sugar. The use of white sugar makes for a very craggy surface, which is both aesthetically pleasing and fun to bite into. In most of my recipes I like to use both white and brown sugar for flavour and a dense texture, but the use of solely white sugar here did not compromise on anything since the flavour focus falls on the peanut butter anyway. Try and use that natural, grainy, unsweetened peanut butter; the processed stuff would work well too but try and make sure it’s unsweetened. White sugar may be replaced with cane sugar and brown sugar, but you will end up with a less texturally complex cookie that’s less chewy overall. Finally, as with all good chocolate chip cookie recipes, coarsely chopping the chocolate will make for a more pleasurable eating experience, and the unevenly sized pockets of melted chocolate on a craggy white surface are a visual wonder to behold.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes 6 medium cookies, can be scaled up as needed)
*indicates a vegan or gluten-free substitution that is mentioned below the recipe
60g (1/3 cup) butter, unsalted (*vegan sub)
1 tsp fine salt
140g white sugar
1 egg (*vegan sub)
70g (1/4 cup) peanut butter (I used smooth, but you can use whatever texture you prefer)
130g (1 cup) all-purpose flour (*gf sub)
1 tsp baking powder
80g (almost a whole bar) milk chocolate, coarsely chopped (substitute with dark chocolate here if you prefer)
Coarse salt (such as Maldon) for sprinkling
*vegan sub: instead of regular butter use the same amount of vegan butter or margarine
*vegan sub: 1 flax egg: make this by mixing 1 tbsp ground flaxseed with 3 tbsp water in a small bowl, and let that gel for a while before you use it
*gluten-free sub: substitute the all-purpose flour for the same amount of gluten-free flour blend or 250g of almond flour (I don’t recommend using coconut flour here)
Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line a baking tray with parchment paper. In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter on high heat for 30 seconds, or until melted. Let that cool for 2 minutes. Then tip the melted butter into a larger bowl, add the sugar and salt and mix well with a whisk. Add the egg and whisk that in well too.
In a separate medium bowl, briefly whisk together the flour, baking powder and chopped chocolate, then tip that into the wet mix. Stir well with a spatula or wooden spoon until everything is just combined. You should have a sticky, thick, but soft and pliable consistency.
Use your hands or a large spoon to scoop batter into golf ball-sized pieces and place them onto the prepared baking tray. You should get 6 cookies exactly. Flatten the cookies slightly and sprinkle with coarse salt. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 12 minutes exactly. The cookies should still look soft when you take them out of the oven, but the edges should look slightly darker- that’s when you know they’re done. If not, bake for 1 minute longer. Leave them to cool for at least 10 minutes before digging in. These are of course best enjoyed warm but can be kept for a few days in an airtight container or freeze and reheat whenever you want.
“Life as we know it is merely an afterthought in the global scheme of the cosmos”- Avi Loeb.
It’s May and most of us are still under lockdown. It’s real easy to get caught up in the weirdness and pain of today, so estranged from the social entanglement, that milieu we are so familiar with. But as Avi reminds us soberly, we are a very small part of the universe and it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture– that is, the constant movement of the sun, of nature in general, the people who don’t have a roof over their heads (ever), the constant love we can show those closest to us, the constancy of human creativity which can be cultivated by indulging in our favourite hobbies– cooking, talking to friends, movies, knitting, whatever. This in itself is solace, to me.
Random thoughts and journal excerpts:
04/05: On a brighter note, pandemic solutions are also solutions for the environment. Prior to this current commotion, land clearing reduces biodiversity, which means that the species that survive are more likely to host illnesses transferred to humans.
24/04: Open your windows!! Virus aside, it’s very easy to have difficulty breathing because of too-high carbon dioxide levels in our own homes. Especially now of all times, when we’re all stuck at home.
03/05: There’s a new doughnut and sandwich place called Korio and they sell the fluffiest doughnuts (and cinnamon-sugar doughnut holes, the only thing I could get a hold of one sad Tuesday afternoon).
06/05: This girl’s channel is whack and I’ve started watching one of her videos after journalling almost every morning. I’ve really been savouring mornings, which are like pages of empty magic because nothing really happens yet, but I can sit and daydream and drink coffee and journal a bit before getting on with other things (exercise, work, etc). Talking about exercise, light weights can really transform a workout.
I know a few people have requested a gluten-free recipe, and since I know a couple of gluten-intolerant people myself, why not! It’s one of the easiest recipes I’ve played with and takes just 13 minutes in the oven. Like many of my other recipes, you simply have to chuck the ingredients in one bowl, whisk them together and be done with it.
These cookies have an incredibly chewy exterior and moist, air-light interior richly studded with dark chocolate. They’re rich with gooey chocolate, yet light and melt-in-the-mouth. I originally just used the vegan egg for this, then experimented with actual egg, then just egg white which yields the chewiest texture out of all three options. It also makes the cookies shiny and glossy, while letting the chocolate stand out as the main ingredient, both in the form of the cocoa powder and chocolate chips. The chocolate added at the very end is optional (but not really).
Chewy Gluten-free Chocolate cookies (makes 6 medium cookies)
150g (around 1.25 cups) icing sugar
60g (0.5 cups) cocoa powder
0.5 tsp salt
60-70g (large handful) chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
2 egg whites (vegan sub: use 2 flax eggs instead by mixing 2 tbsp ground flaxseed with 4 tbsp water and letting that gel in a small bowl for a few minutes before using)
Preheat your oven to 177C (350C). Line 2 large baking trays with parchment paper. If using vegan eggs, make that now with the ground flaxseed and water before using later. Whisk together the icing sugar, salt and cocoa powder in a bowl. If your icing sugar and cocoa have been sitting in your pantry for a while, then you’re better off sifting them together instead of just whisking. Add the egg whites/vegan egg and whisk together until smooth and glossy. Add the chocolate chips and use a spoon to fold those in until incorporated. Put heaped tablespoonfuls of wet batter onto the baking trays, leaving 2 inches of space between them because they will spread. Bake for 12-13 minutes, or until there’s a clear hard and glossy crust on the cookies. Enjoy alone or with a nice scoop of vanilla bean ice cream/yoghurt. Can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days.