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.

Matcha Coconut Adzuki Bean Tart

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The week in a nutshell?

Well.

Perhaps an abundance of small happenings and details that cumulated to form the realisation that the smallest changes can indeed lead to drastic changes. Things like goal setting and reading affirmations out loud (even if just in a whisper) have a tremendous impact on how you start and go through your day. Meditation. Another thing I’ve gotten into again, more recently. So many things which, just 2 years ago, I may have scoffed at, brushed aside as heeby-jeeby, loco, substance-less stuff. An amazing Harry Potter exhibition at the British Library, and finally becoming a member of the Wellcome Library. Delicate, lasting pleasures.

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I here conclude that centre of mind should be centre of gravity. Slip-ups happen, a day isn’t always that great, and that’s ok. Walk off the woes. Write. It’s about returning to those small, good things, and staying confident in their life-giving properties which may only be discovered upon closer inspection. Like pouring tea into your teacup, or savouring your first bite of dinner, or reading without your phone buzzing. There is a secret bonhomie even in the most inane things, or inanimate objects.

So I made this tart on Monday, and there is one last slice in the fridge. Waiting there for me, as I sit here typing in Waterstones. Stiffened just to the right degree, with a thin blanket of coconut cream gently melted before the drizzle, and lovingly homemade sweet red adzuki beans. Can you tell Japan is still on my mind?

With matcha, coconut, black sesame and adzuki bean, there’s a lot going on, but there’s a lot going on well. Ecstasy possessed me upon my finding these beans in a health shop near where I stay. They take quite a while to cook but the result is so worth it. These rigid, dark beans are harder, darker and smaller than your normal red kidney beans, and add a nice firm texture to any soft, sweet dessert. Dense and more earthy in flavour. In fact, you could throw these guys into your lunchtime salad or pasta and it probably wouldn’t be half bad (here’s to a new idea for tonight). The filling is not too rich, achieved by mixing coconut cream, coconut yoghurt and plant milk in the right ratio. You could do it all just with coconut cream, but that would totally overwhelm the addition of matcha. The light blend ensures all the flavours come through at the same time. As I wrote in my journal that day, it is ‘so sweet, matcha-y and creamy…!!’ Clearly I was too excited to English properly. Also, no baking needed! Just a little fridge hibernation, so make this the night before to enjoy the next day, or in the morning if you’re the sort who has time at home, and enjoy later on.

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A creamy matcha coconut tart with a black sesame crust and sweet adzuki beans (Japanese red bean)

Matcha Adzuki Bean Coconut Tart (makes one 7/8-inch tart)

Ingredients

For the crust:

35g roasted black sesame seeds

2 tbsp (50g) tahini

8 large medjool dates (120g)

100g raw cashews

 

For the filling:

2 tbsp matcha powder

150g coconut cream, from a package or scoop out the solid bits from a tin of coconut milk, and save some extra to drizzle on top

150g coconut yoghurt or any other plant-based yoghurt of choice, e.g. soy/almond etc

120ml almond milk (or any other plant milk)

50ml (45g or 3-4 tbsp) maple or agave syrup

4.5g (about 1 tbsp) agar powder or vegan gelatin

half a teaspoon of fine salt

 

For the bean topping:

100g adzuki beans (pre-soaked for 2-3 hours, or you can soak them while your tart is setting in the fridge)

5 tbsp granulated/coconut sugar

water

Directions

Using sesame oil or any other oil/margarine (sesame works well here because it matches the flavour of the crust but you don’t have to, really), liberally brush the base and all corners and crevices of your tart tin. Your tin should have a removable bottom. The liberal oiling is important because it’s easy for the sticky crust to stick to the sides! Now in a food processor, blend together all the ingredients for the crust. Wet your hands to stop so much of the batter sticking to them, and press the mixture evenly into your tart tin. Use the bottom of a glass to help, if you want. Set aside for now.

In a saucepan, whisk together the ingredients for the filling. Place on high heat and bring to boil. Once it is boiling, immediately reduce heat to low, let the mixture simmer for 30 seconds, then take off the heat. Pour this on top of the prepared black sesame crust and spread evenly. Place the tart into the fridge to set nicely.

Meanwhile, make the adzuki beans. Wash your saucepan. Take your pre-soaked beans and place them in the saucepan. Fill with water until the beans are just covered, then cook on medium-high heat for an hour. Now go read something, chat with your mum or watch an episode of Friends. When you come back, the beans should be relatively soft. If not, cook for another 10 minutes. There should still be a little resistance when you use a wooden spoon to break a few beans. Now add the sugar and stir until everything is dissolved. Take off the heat and set aside.

Finally, drizzle some extra coconut cream on the tart, then top with the cooked beans. Et voila! Serve cold from the fridge and enjoy with some green tea or coffee.

And to end on an inspirational quote…

‘Consistency is the playground of dull minds’

Rye Matcha Pillow Pancakes

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The weekend was high in spirit, holding hope, a promising virtue and nighttime sin. Last night was spent with some people I love most, reunited with the family, a boy I could have only dreamed of meeting (more than a year ago now), relatives, simple, delicious homemade food.

Having the chance to show someone around my own town is most rejuvenating. There is no better way to appreciate and undertake fresh perspective on your roots. Dig deep into why you may think and behave the way you do. There is something deeper to uncover about oneself, something untouched when smothered by the happenings of everyday life, necessary communication and work.

A few travel shots from a recent trip to Bangkok and more Singapore fun before I proceed any further with my recipe for these glorious pancakes, which are like a fudgy matcha brownie in pancake form.

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Another Hound café nestled in the busyness of Siam Paragon, Bangkok. Draping lights and my favourite colour scheme.
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And our favourite drink there– earl grey lime iced tea. There was a frigid ball of pure tea and syrup which melted to constantly produce a refreshing, distinct flavour.
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We visited a plane cemetery far away from the city on a highway. It was magical and unbelievable to see dangling oxygen masks and half open overhead compartments, ravaged by the natural course of time. 

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The apple speculoos affogato at The Affogato Bar. Soft, small chunks of cinnamony apple and a strong hit of espresso. An almost acidic strength is necessary for a good affogato, I believe. 
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Fun at The Bakery by Woodlands Sourdough (shoutout to Charlie for introducing this gem of a nook to me). I especially appreciate how they have vegan specials (usually on the weekends) and freshly baked, delicious, well-risen sourdough loaves every single day. Well-crafted sin.

Pancakes. That’s where it’s at. Usually tops a Saturday or Sunday for me, with that little bit of extra time permitting for lavish topping upon topping, pillowy layer on pillowy layer, dense and juuuuust done in the middle. Height and splendor. Maple syrup, coconut yoghurt and tahini are my favourite final touches. Maybe tear them up into shreds and douse with milk in a bowl. That’s just the sort of thing I would do, but mind you there are no obligations, because you would be the more rational human being.

Each rye pancake is hearty without being heavy, and I decided to inject mine with a little protein powder, the sort of bodybuilding stuff I would never use in a million years, but the kind folks behind Jimmyjoy’s Plennyshake offered me some and I’m not turning back because this stuff is definitely worth it. Check them out, I implore ya. Neither too sweet, nor does it feel unnecessary. It adds a nice prick of protein without any weird artificial flavour. All vegan, all good. The earthy matcha complements the moist and earthy offering of rye. Rye can tend to be a little sour if used too much, but the flavours here are balanced and refined.

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Rye Matcha Pillow Pancakes (makes 5 medium pancakes)

Ingredients

90g dark rye flour

A half tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

2 heaped tsp protein powder (optional)

2 tsp matcha powder

2 tsp coconut/ white sugar

14g melted vegan butter, plus some extra to grease the pan

half a banana, mashed

100ml plant milk of your choice (I used almond)

 

Directions

In a bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Dollop tablespoonfuls of the batter onto a pan heated on medium heat. Flip once the underside is done and cook the second side for another minute before removing and letting rest on a paper towel. Top with whatever you wish– I topped mine with vegan chocolate ice cream, crushed rice cakes I hauled from Bangkok (YUM), more matcha and strawberries.

Kaya Apple Cake

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These patches of bright light on my desk are rare, taking on sharp edges, hurting and twisting against the grim dark wall that is my computer screen shadow. A rare occasion, this sunlight. Its splendour screams safe but isn’t as unassuming and comforting as the 8am spillover of soft winter light, which funnily enough I do miss. Soft and unassuming. Just like the pot of homemade kaya sent all the way from Singapore. I can imagine my grandmother churning away with those pandan leaves on the weekend, thinking about how I would find her new recipe, sugar ratios in tow.

With school inevitably comes times of doubt and stress. I carefully pulled apart the bubble wrap neatly taped around the large tub of green. The smell of home propped my spirit on an invisible high horse and sent me straight to her kitchen thousands of miles away for a good 30 seconds. School didn’t exist for a good 30 seconds, too. Just standing there, one could believe nothing more than the present and past. Let the worries fade, let the senses of Now take over, and bake a cake.

There would seem to be a worrying mildness about kaya, yet when put together in a sea of cake batter and soft apple, its head pops out above the rest, an unmistakable coconutty hit serving well to blunt this seed of nonchalance.

A soft, cinnamony kaya apple cake, sandwiched with kaya, to be eaten only with something deliciously cold and creamy, as per pretty much everything I make. 

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This is an incredibly soft cake, more so than any of my other previous recipes. I suggest upping the amount of sugar by a few tablespoons for a more robust edge and crust, and feel free to use any sort of kaya; it need not be your traditional green kaya, for I envision the brown Hainanese sort works just as well, tailing along a more honeyed depth of sweet. And of course, the raisins are not de rigueur..

As usual, all substitutions are optional and vegan.

Kaya Apple Cake (makes one 9 inch cake)

Ingredients

200g plain flour

125g applesauce

60g butter (sub: flavourless oil or vegan butter)

100g kaya+ 100g for the fun sandwiching bit

1 egg (sub: one banana)

200g sugar

pinch salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda (eliminate if using self-raising flour)

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g raisins (optional)

190g chopped apple, peeled and cored (around 1 1/2 apples)

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 177C and grease a 9-inch pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, sugar and salt. In a separate heat-safe bowl, heat the applesauce and butter together, either in a microwave or on a stove. Whisk in the egg, 100g of kaya and vanilla. Tip your raisins and chopped apple into the dry mix, before tipping in the wet applesauce mix. Mix everything together until just combined, then pour into your pan and bake for 35 minutes.

Once out, let cool for at least 10 minutes and ready the extra kaya. Cut the cake down the middle of the pan. Spread the remaining kaya onto the first half, sandwich with the second half, then cut everything into bars. Serve á la mode!

 

Rice Cake Molasses Granola

The kitchen seems to have closed upon the death of last week’s get-up. But the smell lingers. It’s rich, dark, carnal. I sit here now recalling the life-giving things of everyday. After making this last Saturday, I hopped over to a new cafe which I implore all of you to check out for some downright good, authentic Danish bakes, then to Piccadilly’s Waterstones for a good 5 hours just to read my heart out, the perfect excuse for not doing work I was meant to be doing. How sad it is to find joy in the unruly, yet how perfectly OK with it I am once or twice a week. It’s true that meaning and mental enlightenment can arise from nothing when given work to do, yet there’s a wild freedom only found in self-direction, reading and exploring things one would only find outside of a lecture theatre, as exciting a lecture may be.

With granola-making on the agenda last Saturday, I shook off the morning grog and effortlessly persuaded myself to Waitrose. Right opposite, to get some oats and rice puffs for a little bit of fancy. I came across a most moreish-looking granola recipe in Honey&Co’s cookbook just earlier in the week, overcome with fiery instinct. Rice puffs are something I always took for granted. Child’s play, too light to be in anything except standard mass-produced granola or cereal bars. This, however, seemed to take granola to something of a new level, choked with Mediterranean spices and a sultry undertone of rarity. Just as I was about to leave the house, my peripheral vision caught sight of these chocolate rice cakes I brought back from Germany just the previous week, and I knew something had to be done with those babies. A mini brainwave hit– why not crush those and chuck them in the granola instead? So I chucked off my shoes and got to work. It was going to be fun.

Starts off all sticky after everything is incorporated, and even seems a bit ‘leaky’ once taken out of the oven, but success is trust. Cooling will let the clusters form, and that’s where all the fun’s at, right? Each huge, outrageously crisp cluster is a thing of dreams. A heavy hand with the molasses will do the caramelisation process, and you, too much good. And of course, like all granola recipes, this is so easily customised. Raisins, nuts, chocolate, add and subtract as you will. How to granola: douse in milk, languish, enjoy.

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Rice Cake Molasses Granola (makes one large batch)

Note: all bracketed substitutions are vegan

Ingredients

80g unsalted butter (sub: vegan butter)

120g blackstrap molasses (sub: a rich, dark honey)

110g light brown, soft sugar

100g chocolate-covered rice cakes, chopped into thick chunks (sub: 70g plain rice cakes and 30g chopped chocolate)

70g oats or muesli

150g nuts of choice , chopped (I used walnuts)

100g dried fruit of choice (I used torn dates and raisins, though if you abhor either like many a friend of mine, then feel free to substitute with whatever else you would like, and this recipe works well even without any dried fruit!)

1 tsp cinnamon

optional: 1 tsp ground ginger

 

Directions

Preheat your oven to 190C (375F) and line a large baking tray with parchment. Combine the butter, molasses and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Take off heat, then pour in the rest of the ingredients.

Transfer to the pan and flatten a little so everything will cook more evenly in the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, then take out and let cool for another 10. You will notice a bit of molasses leakage, almost like a liquidy mess at the size. Not to worry, for this is expected. Leaving the pan to cool will rest everything and harden it all up nicely. Use a spoon to break everything up a little, but not too much– leave the large clusters! Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy with liberal drizzles of milk, topped with fresh/frozen fruit for a good adjacent tang.