Cook this: 6 ingredient chestnut jam thumbprint cookies

Having grown up in a very Italian family, I love roasted chestnuts in winter. Nonno used to make them for us when we were kids, and I loved sitting at their dinner table, digging my little fingers in the split in the shell, peeling the charred layed off those golden little nuggets, and eating them until dad said I couldn’t have any more because I’d be sick. So, when I found St Dalfour at the Good Food and Wine Show a few weeks ago selling chestnut jam, I got more than a little bit excited. I only bought one jar, and have been kicking myself ever since!


I’ve been using a spoonful of it to mix through my porridge, along with a handful of blueberries and a sprinkle of cacao nibs, but I wanted to make something sweet to eat with a cup of tea as it gets colder. I also wanted something quick and easy, that I could make whenever I wanted them without having to get changed out of my PJs to go buy ingredients for. Same base recipe as the lemon cookies I posted a few weeks ago, but the secret ingredient is absolutely the jam – find a way to get your hands on some!!

Ingredients:
– 100g butter, softened
– 100g caster sugar
– 1 egg yolk
– 200g plain flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– St Dalfour chestnut jam!

 

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 170° and line an oven tray with baking paper.

2. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and creamy, followed by the egg yolk until completely smooth and combined.

3. Stir in the flour and baking powder until combined.

4. Roll the dough into balls (about tablespoon size works well) and space them out on the oven tray.

5. As the recipe might imply, press your thumb into the centre of each cookie to make space for the jam, and drop a little jam in each thumbprint.

6. Bake for 15min, or until golden brown.

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Cook this: cacao nib & oat cookies (sugar, lactose & gluten free)

So, a flare up of stomach issues have necessitated a return to slightly stricter low-FODMAP regulations. Again. But that’s not as bad as it was the first time around – I know more know, and know what my body can and can’t deal with a little better.

I was browsing Instagram for recipe ideas the other week, and came across this gorgeous picture from @edgarraw – his Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. Ummmm yes please! I’m an oat addict, and an even bigger chocolate lover, so these looked pretty good even before I scrolled through to the recipe.

Once I got to the recipe, I also found it included other favourite ingredients of mine – cacao nibs, dried dates and almond milk. Despite the severe fructose intolerance, I actually stomach a little dried fruit (yay!), so while it might look like a LOT of dates in this recipe, remember it’s divided between the whole batch. This recipe is also sugar free, as the cookies get all their sweetness from the dates – basically makes them health food. I made some changes (as usual) and was stoked with the result! Here’s my version of Edgar’s cookies…

Ingredients:
– 1½ cups loosely packed dried dates
– ½ cup almond milk
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– ½ cup almond meal or gluten free plain flour
– ½ tsp baking powder
– 1 cup rolled oats
– ¼ cup flax seeds
– ¼ cup toasted cacao nibs
– ¼ cup shredded coconut

Method:
1. Soak the dates in super hot water for an hour.

2. After soaking, pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper.

3. In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients – the flour, baking powder, oats, flax seeds, cacao nibs and shredded coconut.

4. Drain the dates and place them in a food processor with the milk and vanilla extract. Blend until a paste comes together.

5. Spoon the paste mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well to combine completely. If it’s too dry, add a little water to help bring it all together.

6. Take tablespoons of the mixture and shape into balls, placing them on the oven tray with a little space in between.

7. Bake for 15 minutes, and cool on the tray. Enjoy!

Cook this: toasted walnut & cranberry stuffed shortcrust cookies

I saw this recipe on Sawsan’s site, Chef In Disguise, not long ago and saved the recipe instantly; the sound of a walnut stuffed shortcrust cookie sounded incredible, and her photos were mouth watering! I decided to put my own spin on it because
a) I really can’t stomach cinnamon, and
b) I love the walnut/dried cranberry combination.

You can find Sawsan’s original and more Middle Eastern recipe on her site, but here’s how I made it a bit more “me”  : )

Ingredients:
– 1.5 cups plain flour
– pinch of salt
– 1 tbsp caster sugar
– 100g cold butter
– ½ cup lukewarm milk
– ½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
– ½ cup dried cranberries, chopped

Method:
1. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and butter in a mixing bowl, rubbing the butter into the flour until it resembles crumbs.

2. Gradually add the milk while kneading to a smooth, soft dough – you may not need all of the milk, so only add it bit by bit.

3. Cover the dough and set aside for 30 – 60 minutes (I went with around 45min).

4. When the dough has been rested long enough, grab tablespoon sized chunks off the ball of dough and and spoon a bit of the mixed walnuts and cranberries into it. Mould the dough around the filling and gently roll it into a ball. Place cookies on an oven tray as you go.

5. Rest the cookies for a further 10 minutes, and pre-heat the oven to 180°C. After the second lot of resting, bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until golden.

 

The base dough for these cookies is absolutely phenomenal, and one I will be using a LOT now! It’s so simple and soft, and I think quite versatile. You can also obviously fill these cookies with anything you want – I’m thinking of trying one with citrus zest in the cookie dough next time… The other great thing is that they are SO easy to make, and require very few ingredients, all of which are usually kitchen staples. Given that it is Monday, you might want to throw a batch together after work this afternoon!

Eat here: Dominique Ansel Bakery, Tokyo, Japan

Dominique Ansel Bakery
5-7-14 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/en

A while ago I wrote about my January 2015 visit to Dominique Ansel in New York City; last month saw me visit another of their stores, this time on the other side of the world in Tokyo, Japan. You can read a little more about my New York experience here, but the Reader’s Digest version is that I was met with sass and attitude, sans cronut. Unimpressed, to say the least.

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Like my New York visit, I arrived at the Tokyo store around the same time, 9am-ish in the morning, not long after opening time. Also like New York, I was met with a wall of the most beautiful and colourful looking cakes and cookies and macarons. But, in complete contrast, the lady who served me this time around couldn’t get me my cronut quickly enough, or present it to me with a proud enough smile on her face! What a gem!

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Given that it was breakfast time, I’d already walked Takeshita Street, and had a pretty massive day ahead involving a LOT more walking, I decided to grab a beautiful green matcha cookie, too. I started on that, and it was perfection – a wafer like base filled with something closer to a dense cake than a cookie, the matcha flavour was every bit as incredible as you’d expect here.

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Then, finally, my much anticipated cronut. Which I’d been waiting 10 months for.
Every.
Bit.
Worth.
The.
Wait.

Wow. So, it was a sweet potato number spiked with whiskey and creme fraiche, with nutmeg spiced maple sugar. Rich and creamy with perfectly golden pastry. This is the cronut dreams are made of. This makes walking in the rain worthwhile. This is everything. When you visit, check out their Instagram for flavour of the month!

All in all, way better experience than the New York store, the offerings had a really disting Japanese flavour to them, the cafe itself was beautiful and light and fun, and the non-stop, smiling flow of traffic through the door was testament to how popular they are over there! Great move, Mr Ansel! Now let’s look at making the move to Melbourne!

Eat here: Levain Bakery, New York, USA

Levain Bakery
167 W 74th St, New York
http://www.levainbakery.com

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If you’ve been following me for more than a week, you may have noticed I’m a bit of a sweet tooth. It’s not my fault. I’m Italian. And I inherited it from dad. Uncontrollable. Anyway, I really love sweets. Unfortunately, I’ve also been pretty sick, on and off, for the past 12 months or so. Initial investigations have proven that my infant-lactose intolerance has returned, and my body also isn’t a massive gluten fan. Low FODMAPS investigations shall continue post holiday, in the mean time, I’m trying a bit of everything, sharing it all with the husband, and trying to note what I’m feeling crap after (this trip is kind of a last splurge for me, after much thinking and life analysing, I know I need to make a lot of changes after this trip, including my diet!). Chocolate and pastry is up there on the “feel shit later” list, but a sweet tooth can’t visit New York without trying a famous Levain cookie!

They do four types of cookies only, and they do them bloody well, which draws the well deserved crowds. When we walked in not long after opening time this morning, there was already a small queue, and the human traffic didn’t stop or slow up the whole time we were in there.

Because we hadn’t had any breaky before we got there, we grabbed a cup of tea each and decided to grab a pastry, too (they have a mouth-watering range on brioche/pastries/scones and what not to go with the cookies). The brioche with chocolate chips was rich, full of chocolate chips and really good.

The cookie I went with was the chocolate chip and walnut, the favourite of the people from what I gathered. Fresh out of the oven (the chocolate chips were still a little melty), it was every bit as perfect as the hype claimed; I’d struggle to think of another purchased cookie I’ve eaten as good as that one *slow claps it out* absolutely magnificent, wish my stomach could have tolerated another, totally worth feeling a little ill for!! Anyone else visited and tried the other flavours??

Eat here: Momofuku Noodle Bar & Milk Bar, Toronto, Canada

Momofuku Noodle Bar & Milk Bar
190 University Ave, Toronto
http://momofuku.com/

Yes it’s been around forever and already been blogged about by every man and his dog, but we don’t have this in Melbourne so it’s new for me! I’m also a big David Chang fan. And crack pie has been in my dreams for too long.

Anyway, we arrived into Toronto around 3pm this afternoon, picked up our hire car and found our way to our hotel. I’m finally getting over this damn flu that’s been kicking my ass for the past week, and my stomach problems have temporarily eased up; I was pretty excited to realise I was actually genuinely really hungry for the first time in two weeks! Yay! So husband was kind enough to treat me to dinner at Monofuku!

We got the pork buns to start because pork belly is my favourite thing and I’d be happy to drown in a vat of it. I’ve eaten a decent amount of pork belly in my time, and this was easily the best belly I’ve ever had; Momofuku may be old news in the foodie world, but holy wow that was some good bao..

We also had the ramen – probably doesn’t need to be said that this was incredible too. Easy to see what all the fuss is about now!

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After dinner, I dragged us upstairs to the Milk Bar… Oh my… I know I’m gonna have more variety in New York, but I figured I may as well get a head start 😉 compost cookie and crack pie. I have to be honest, the cookie was nice without being amazing (could be because it was cold rather than a more pleasant room temperature), but that crack pie… …. !!!! It was everything.. All buttery and sugary with that oaty crust.. Similar to a coconut-free ANZAC cookie taste, but even more buttery!

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My stomach has taken a rapid turn downhill now that we’re back in the hotel and relaxing, but it was totally worth it – the food was amazing! Wish they’d bring the empire to Melbourne next!

Momofuku Noodle Bar on Urbanspoon

Momofuku Milk Bar on Urbanspoon

Cook this: Melbourne Breakfast Tea Cookies

 

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

Hi, I’m Jess, and I’m a 28 year old nanna. I bake, I knit, I drink tea, I read books in my big, comfy reading couch under a blanket, snuggled up with my dog. Whatever, I have no shame, it’s awesome.

These cookies came to fruition last night, after going to my favourite tea shop, T2 Tea at lunch time to stock up on my two favourite blends – Melbourne Breakfast Tea, and Madagascan Vanilla (told you I’m a premature nanna). I was thinking to myself, “I probably already drink too much tea (around 3 cups/mugs a day)… but I reaaaaalllly love the flavour… what else can I do with it…?”

Duh, cookies.

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

I’m gonna be honest – I’m not really a recipe person, even when it comes to sweets. I know my basics, and I usually improvise off that. Here’s my made-it-up-as-I-went-along recipe for Melbourne Breakfast Tea cookies (I’m sure you could really use any loose leaf tea, and in fact I plan to experiment with French Earl Grey and coconut & pineapple green tea next!)!

Ingredients (made 50 small cookies, a little bigger than an Australian 50c coin)
– 100g butter, chopped and softened
– 100g caster sugar
– 1 egg
– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (should have used more!!)
– 200g plain flour
– 2 tbsp loose leaf tea of choice, finely ground (I used my mortar and pestle and it worked perfectly).

Method
1. Beat the softened butter (soft, NOT melted!) and the caster sugar on medium/high speed with an electric mixer for around 3 – 5min, or until really smooth, lighter in colour and creamy.
2. Add in the egg and vanilla, and keep beating until totally combined and smooth (another minute or so).
3. Sift in the flour and add the ground tea leaves, mix them in with a spoon until a thick dough comes together (you may want to use your hands to really bring it together) – roll that big clump of dough into a ball, wrap it in cling wrap, and sit it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 170˚C and line a big baking tray (or 2 smaller ones) with non-stick paper.
5. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out on a floured board to a thickness you’re happy with (they’re your cookies so make them as thick or thin as you like! Thinner cookies will have a bit more of a crunch to them, thicker ones will have a bit of a softer “bite” which is what I prefer!).
6. Cut cookies out of whatever shape or size you want – I used a shot glass to get little round ones, but obviously you can go with whatever you want.
7. Lay them on the tray (they won’t expand so you can put them fairly close together), and bake for 12 – 15 minutes, or until they are just getting a light golden edge.
8. Let them cool for a few minutes on the tray, then transfer them to a cooling rack.

ENJOY!

 

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

***Update 22nd April: I emailed the lovely people from T2 Tea, and the very friendly Jacinda emailed me back to thank me for the great feedback and link to my recipe; she also shared a baking tip – said she likes to use tea-infused butter to frost her cupcakes. I thought it might be worth trying this recipe again, this time using the tea to infuse the butter first before putting the cookies together. Basically, I just melted the butter, mixed in the crushed tea leaves, and put in it the fridge for 20 minutes. Then, I just followed the recipe as above!

And holy moly, it worked even better – the flavour was may more intense, it was brilliant!!! Highly recommend trying it this way if you enjoy a strong tea flavour like I do!!!