salted butter and chocolate chip shortbread

Dear friends,

Happy new year! I love a good round number like 2020 and am looking forward to Lunar New Year this coming weekend. I hope you all had a lovely holiday and got to make new memories with friends and family.

I don’t make resolutions nor did I make a birthday wish, but I’m feeling somewhat optimistic about this year. Yet, when I really think about it, things aren’t starting so well in the world. International politics, natural disasters, and new viruses are causing havoc in so many parts of the globe. Honestly, it can be too overwhelming and scary to talk about, but I’m grateful to still have a job that I love. A roof over me. My family and friends are healthy. My cat is generally happy….

Most of all, I am still learning and discovering things that I love. There are amazing books to read, fun shows to watch, music to bop to, and recipes to try! Please don’t be mad that I’m very late to the Alison Roman bandwagon. Naseem told me about her. Michelle told me about her. Our office cookbook club is basing lunch around Nothing Fancy. But you know what? She’s so freaking popular that I still haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy of her cookbook to read through.

However, the internet supplies. I freaking adore the New York Times YouTube videos with her. I wish they did one every week. Am I asking for too much? Every other week then. Go search for them and watch her cook and revel in her personality.

During my online searches, “the cookies” kept popping up. These famous cookies are all over the place, so I’m not doing anything new here. But I did want to give them a try to see what everyone was raving about.

Salted Butter and Chocolate Chip Shortbread
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes about 35 cookies

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2¼ sticks) cold salted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 large egg
Demerara sugar
Flaky sea salt

  1. Cut the salted butter into chunks or cubes. Add the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract into your mixing bowl. Using your stand mixer with the beater attachment, whip on medium to medium high until it’s light and fluffy and looks like frosting. You want to incorporate air into this so it’ll take about 5 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
  2. Add in the flour and mix on low until combined.
  3. Add in the chocolate chips. The original recipe calls for chopped up chocolate chunks, but I didn’t have any on hand! Don’t get mad. They still come out yummy.
  4. Take the dough out and separate into two. Roll out two logs about two-inches in diameter. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
  5. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Cover your baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill a plate or shallow pan with Demerara sugar. Beat the egg.
  6. Unwrap the dough, feel free to trim it to size so that it’ll completely fit in the plate or pan of sugar.
  7. Brush the egg onto the dough. Then roll it in the sugar.
  8. Slice the log into half-inch wide rounds. Place them on the parchment paper, about one or two inches apart. Sprinkle the tops with flaky salt.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes, the edges on the cookies should be lightly brown. Remove from the baking sheet and let it cool completely on a rack.

If your knife hits a chocolate chip and causes the dough to crumble and fall out. Don’t fret! It is supposed to do that! Just push it back into place. I had to manually fix many pieces and it molds back together easily.

Make sure you get that sugar to stick to the egg wash. It’s my favourite part to eat after it’s all done.

The Cookies

And please, please, please do not skip the salt!

The Cookies

These cookies are crisp! They snap, crackle, and pop despite the fact that there’s no rice in them.

Sincerely,
Syl

butter mochi

Dear Mom and Dad,

I still haven’t been to Hawaii yet, but this Hawaiian butter mochi recipe caught my eye. It’s a buttery and chewy coconut dessert that I thought you’d like as well since you’re both such fans of coconut flavours.

I showed it to Laura and she said it’s like nian gao that we make during Chinese New Year. I suppose every culture has their own version of a glutinous rice flour cake! I do appreciate the osthmanthus flavoured nian goa you two make for me. Or the ones we fry and scramble with eggs, yum!

Butter Mochi
Recipe adapted from Aloha Kitchen

4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups skim milk
One 1-pound box Mochiko sweet rice flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
14 ounce can coconut milk
½ cup sweetened shredded coconut
A few pinches of flaky salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with butter.
  2. Gently whisk the eggs, vanilla extract, and skim milk together. I did this by hand because in this video, Alana Kysar said it would incorporate less air bubbles in it. I don’t usually have skim milk at home, but I do have to agree when Alana says this is already a very rich dessert, we don’t need the fat from my usual 2% milk!
  3. Add the box of sweet rice flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Here, I did use the stand mixer to get it all nicely combined.
  4. Then, as the mixer is on the lowest speed, pour in the melted butter until incorporated. Then the coconut milk (the original recipe calls for less). Once it’s all mixed in, pour it into the baking pan.
  5. Give the baking pan a few raps on the table to make any air bubbles rise to the surface and pop them away with a fork, skewer, or toothpick.
  6. The original recipe calls for unsweetened shredded coconut, but I only had sweetened and I didn’t find it overly sweet. The flaky salt really helps with that. So you sprinkle both the shredded coconut and salt over the time. Making sure they don’t sink into the batter.
  7. Bake for 1 hour, the coconut will be nice and golden and the edges of the mochi will come away from the pan. That’s how you know it’s ready.
  8. Let it cool completely before cutting into it. It’ll be sticky, so you can oil your knife or wipe it down clean each time you cut.

It wasn’t easy to find boxes of Mochiko, it wasn’t at Galleria. I ended up finding it at Sunny Supermarket and Bestco Fresh Food Mart.

The batter looks so rich and creamy!

I was originally going to make coconut macaroons with my Costco-sized bag of shredded coconut, but now I’m way more into the mochi!

It looks like cheese!

Tastes nothing like a cheesy casserole of course. Just delicious coconut chewiness! The corners and edges are the best because they’re crispy. I stored it in an airtight container and found that the crispiness went away the next day. So keep that in mind if you’re serving it the next day. I hear you can also reheat it for more yumminess.

Now that I’ve tested this out, I can’t wait to make you one!

Sincerely,
Syl

chocolate chip cookies

Dear Megan,

Thank you for being obsessed with chocolate chip cookies with me. They’re the one thing in this world that can bring a smile to so many people. The soft chewy center and lightly crisped edges are just a delight of texture.

I write this as you’re a cookie master. I still remember the days at Sauble Beach where I first got to try your caramel cookies and peanut butter cookies. I think of them fondly and wonder when you’ll make them again. I was so naive back then, thinking I could just ask for your family’s cookie recipes. Ha! I understand now why people guard their secrets.

Which brings us to our (slight, small, tiny) obsession with Craig’s Cookies this year. I was first introduced to them when someone brought them in at work. Then they started popping up at Nordstrom on the weekend. Now, they’ve opened a second location (yet, so far downtown). I knew I had to secure you a dozen for your birthday this year. And as expected, they didn’t disappoint. Together we scoured websites and YouTube for any hints we could find. You courageously tried this recipe with high hopes, only to find out it was erroneous. The results were not the same! Then you showed me this video where we found out that each cookie dough was 45 grams. The bakery’s oven is set at 380°F for 6 minutes, but 12 minutes in his home oven.

While we are no closer to finding out how to make those cookies, I relied on a cookbook based on the restaurant we went for your birthday. Earth to Table Every Day has been my go-to cookbook this year (I’ve made the brownie, upside-down cake, Irish stew, and piri piri chicken from it) and there’s a wonderful entry for a Chipwich, a chocolate chip ice cream sandwich that I’ve made over a dozen times now without the ice cream.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe adapted from Earth to Table Every Day
Makes 24 cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup white granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups chocolate chips

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lay out parchment paper on your baking pan.
  2. Using a mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together on medium speed for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add in the eggs one at a time and mix until fully combined.
  4. Then include the vanilla extract, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix until incorporated.
  5. Finally, add the flour and mix on low speed and when it’s about combined, add in the chocolate chips to the batter and mix just until you don’t see the whites of the flour anymore.
  6. Using a 2-inch wide ice cream scoop, portion out the dough on the parchment paper.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes and then let the cookies cool before transferring them to a wired rack.

The chocolate chip cookie dough also freezes beautifully. You can save your scoops on a small tray and put them in a zip lock bag. I would recommend baking them for 16 minutes from frozen.

I also discovered that if you bake the cookies as is from scooping, they come out with more jagged peaks and cracks. But, if you take the time to roll the cookies between your palms so it’s all smoothed out, they come out like soft rolling hills. This is all just about how they look of course and doesn’t affect the taste!

Then, in December I bravely joined my company’s Makers Market to sell my version of chocolate chip cookies with candy bars. You get slightly more cookie since they’re all over 45 grams of dough, but they’re not as soft and chewy as Craig’s. I spent all afternoon and evening baking the night before, I might have finished 70 cookies by 8:30 pm? I actually only had 69 cookies in the end because I dropped a Twix one on my kitchen counter and had to eat that one myself.

They were well received and I managed to sell out of cookies, but that’s probably just my colleagues being super supportive and ever so kind in my first pop-up shop. They all had the nicest things to say! Caramilk and Reese were the first cookies to go and the last ones were Mr. Big and Wunderbar. My personal favourite is the Rice Krispies because the marshmallows turn golden after being baked for that extra nice flavour.

I hope that together, we’ll come up with an unstoppable chocolate chip cookie recipe in the new year!

Sincerely,
Syl

raspberry nectarine clafoutis

Dear PRHC Cooks,

Thank you for introducing me to clafoutis. It’s a genius dessert. Easy to assemble. Easy to bake. Easy to serve. And just fulfills all my flan and custard cravings. Plus there’s fruit. I brought this dish to a family gathering – a family that thinks that everything I make is too sweet. Well, guess what? They loved this because it was at the right sugar level for them.

Raspberry Nectarine Clafoutis
Recipe adapted from Bake the Seasons

¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup raspberries
4 nectarines, sliced

Note: The original recipe in the cookbook calls for apricot and raspberries, and 6 apricots for that. I swamped it out for nectarines!

  1. Butter a 9-inch round baking dish. Preheat your oven to 375°F.
  2. Pour the heavy cream, milk, vanilla extract, eggs, sugar, flour, salt, and nutmeg into a blender. Mix until combined. Let the frothy batter sit for half an hour.
  3. Wash the raspberries and nectarines. Slice the nectarines. You can keep the skin on the nectarines if you want.
  4. Pour one third of the batter into the baking dish and bake for 15 minutes. It’ll be puffy when it comes out of the oven, but that’s okay!
  5. Add in the fruit, you can even push some down into the batter at the bottom.
  6. Pour the remaining batter over. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the edges are golden brown.
  7. Take it out to cool, the clafoutis will deflate a little bit, but that’s normal. You can also sprinkle with icing sugar before serving if you’d like.

I mean, how easy is this? You only need a blender … or you can do this with a bowl and whisk. Easy clean up!

You might need a pot holder or pot trivet since the dish will be hot from the oven before you add the fruit and the rest of the batter.

Umm, I tried to do a pattern with the nectarines so that each slice would get one. I don’t know if you can see the spiral with all those raspberries in the way.

I love me the puffy golden brown edges. It’s like a pancake or cake or tart or pudding or flan or custard dessert all in one.

Sincerely,
Syl

San Antonio, TX

Dear San Antonio,

What a treat it was to visit you in April! The weather was perfect and things were budding and blooming along the river for spring. I’m trying to recall if this was my first time in Texas and I think it was.

Places to stay: I had the chance to stay at the Grand Hyatt for work. If you’re primarily there for the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, it is the best hotel to at as it’s a very short walk over. And it connects to the Riverwalk so you’re not far from other restaurants and attractions. I felt like it was a great location for downtown. Hotel Emma on the other hand was farther away in the Pearl district. However, it is also surrounded by great restaurants and scenic river walks! This hotel was absolutely stunning and beautiful, even if you’re not staying there, it’s worth a visit to look around.

Places to eat: Breakfast at Supper in Hotel Emma was delightful, we ordered cinnamon waffles, ricotta pancakes, and French toast and they were all delicious. Everyone wanted to return for lunch and dinner. If you want barbecue in Texas, we’d recommend The Granary. For the atmosphere alone, visit Mi Tierra, it’s open 24 hours! Plus, you’re going to visit Market Square, so you might as well stop by for something from their bakery or dining room. There’s so many more places, but we didn’t get to try them all. Sometimes it’s nice to save them for the next visit.

Places to see: I’m pretty sure the number one attraction is the Riverwalk and I must say that I’m charmed by it. Take a quick river cruise and do the stroll along the winding pathways during the afternoon or evenings. The Alamo is free, so you can go see and read about the history. Walk to Market Square and the Main Plaza. As I mentioned above, the Pearl district is a must see – it reminded me of the Distillery District here in Toronto.

I’ve been recommending San Antonio as a long weekend trip for everyone. If you go in April, you’ll get to see and participate in Fiesta!

Sincerely,
Syl