Tahini Cashew Cookies

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.

The only way to eat it

Tahini cashew cookies (makes 8-10 medium cookies)

Ingredients

100g butter, soft and at room temperature

160g white sugar

1/2 tsp salt

100g light tahini

1 egg

150g plain flour (optional: substitute half with whole-wheat flour)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

50g cashews, chopped

Directions

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!

Review: Hamblin Bread, Oxford

My first Oxford review must be dedicated to Hamblin. Not by choice, but by instinct. As I smuggled bites of their cardamom bun into my mouth while walking all that way home, I knew I found quite a gem. The long walk there from home seemed contrary to the desire to make this a regular haunt, but honestly all that fitness just fosters a more reasonable state of mind to pick and choose the baked goods, while upping the excitement along the way.

Cardamom bun

My top pick here must be the cardamom buns. They also do a whole range of other buns, including cinnamon and custard (below), but this remains top of the list for me. The edges are perfectly browned and crispy without being flaky, characteristic of a traditional cardamom bun. The cardamom flavour itself holds its own.

Custard bun
Cardamom bread pudding

Leftover or stale cardamom buns are also used to make this cardamom bread pudding which is both genius and delicious. A harder, sugary crumb crowns the slab of soft, squidgy deliciousness.

Chocolate chip cookie

This very simple cookie is chewy all the way through to the edges. This is the perfect chocolate chip cookie to me- a cute and manageable size, not too sweet, rough chunks of dark chocolate, a hearty mouthfeel with the fresh, locally-milled flour, and doesn’t leave you feeling sick, either. Speaking of flour, their infamous sourdough (below) is all the rage for all the right reasons. The crumb is thick, robust and tender, slightly stiff but never dry. The terrain is perfect for spreading on soft, salted butter.

Sourdough
Potato cheese pasty

The potato pasty sounds like an unnecessary carb-on-carb affair but I see why it’s so popular. The sizeable chunks of potato are never mushy or mixed with a bunch of random, weird herbs.

I do miss London with all her cafés, but places like this bring her right back to Oxford. There are so many hardworking, independent café owners that know exactly what they’re doing with the magic they offer day-to-day, and I’m living to promote it.

Hamblin Bread

247 Iffley Road

Oxford

Rating: 5/5

Peanut Butter Sand Cookies

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.

Another one-bowl wonder!

Peanut butter sand cookies (makes 6-7 large cookies)

Ingredients

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 egg

135g flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

optional: 100g chocolate chips, and flaky sea salt for sprinkling on top

Directions

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!

Maxi Coffee Bar

A small space with a well-lit interior with a couple of chairs, and a bench outside. Come here to read a book or work for a while on a weekday.

If you didn’t know, I was really into reviewing cafés before I knew about a lot of other life things, like doing the dishes properly and folding clothes neatly. I just read this one and couldn’t believe how much time I devoted to these. I stopped doing these reviews years ago due to time constraints and it’s impossible to keep up with changing menus and me flitting between England, Singapore and Germany… Nevertheless, after visiting quite a few special/hole-in-the-wall ones recently, and now that I no longer use Instagram, I feel that it is time for a review comeback. It’s a way of documenting these experiences in greater detail, making them more special and less fleeting.

Iced cereal milk latte ($7.50), the star here (ignore the dry nails)

In brief, if I would come back for anything, it would be this iced cereal milk latte and the canelé (shown below). The foamy, sweet brew is still reminiscent of an actual caffeine drink with a smooth and mildly bitter espresso, and the twist of salt takes the whole thing to the next level.

That canelé must be consumed with the latté together for the real deal. A moment of crunchy sweetness, washed down with a refreshing milky brew. The outside of the pastry is beautifully crisp without a weird burnt taste, the inside bouncy, sticky and moist. Not too sweet, not plain and painfully dry like many others I have tried. I can’t remember the price ($5?) but it was so reasonable for its size and quality. They also have a range of sweet and savoury toast options, all made in-house.

Yup, I’ll be back.

Maxi Coffee Bar
6 Ann Siang Hill
Hours: Tues-Fri 8am – 5pm, Weekends 9pm – 5pm, closed on Mondays

Cream Cheese Marmalade Brownies

Stop, this combination is insane.

There is plenty to love about a fudgy brownie, and more so about the combination of tangy cream cheese with sweet yet slightly bitter orange marmalade. I do recommend orange marmalade here for that reason, but any marmalade you have will work. One of my top 10 recipes is this brownie pudding, which formed the main inspiration for today’s recipe but is not in the blog archives. I guess it’s a little bit of a secret, and I don’t know if the word pudding is a good enough excuse to get away with such a runny centre. Language is everything, isn’t it. A classic one-bowl manoeuvre wrapped in a delightful flavour contrast.

A classic fudgy brownie with an edge that’s only slightly chewy, with jammy bits studded here and there due to the marmalade. You might think they’re the raw parts at first, take it from my initial disappointment.

Cream cheese marmalade brownies (serves 8-10)

Ingredients

For the brownies:

105g dark chocolate, chopped, or bittersweet chocolate chips

150g unsalted butter

1/2 tsp fine salt

2 eggs

70g brown sugar

130g white sugar

130g plain flour

For the topping:

60g cream cheese

10g sugar

6 tsp orange marmalade

Directions

Preheat your oven to 160C, fan off. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper so that two edges are longer and hang off the sides for easy removal. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave together the butter and chocolate or chocolate chips on high for a minute. Make sure your butter is at room temperature or slightly cold, and not rock-hard from the fridge. Remove the bowl from the microwave and use a fork or spoon to mix everything together until you get a dark, liquidy consistency and the butter and chocolate has melted together nicely. Microwave for longer if your butter is still a little hard. Let the mixture cool for 2 minutes. In the meantime, add your two sugars and pinch of salt into a separate, larger bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and use a whisk to whisk it in well. Then crack and whisk in the 2 eggs. Finally, add the flour and use a rubber spatula to fold it in well, then pour the brownie batter into the prepared baking pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth and homogenous. Add teaspoonful-sized dollops of the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter, then add teaspoonfuls of the marmalade just next to the dollops of cream cheese mixture. Use a knife to swirl the topping randomly into the batter. It should look slightly weird and messy. Sprinkle some coarse salt (like Maldon) on top if you’re fancy like that, but you can skip this step. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out with moist-to-slightly-wet crumbs. Leave the brownies to cool for 10 minutes before cutting. These keep at room temperature for up to 3 days, but you can freeze them if you don’t have many people to share these with!