March 15, 2017
This is the story of a little cookie that looked humble and unassuming, but was actually a buttery, chocolatey killer in disguise.
I’m serious. This cookie has committed manslaughter. It has slaughtered my man for any other cookie. Every time I make them they disappear at a frightening speed, and now that DH has two cookie-lover-apprentices in the house, things are only getting worse.
There’s nothing to these, which is why they are so good. (I mean bad.) They’re basically a chocolate shortbread, but that makes them sound boring or something from a grandma’s tea table. (I love tea with grandmas, really.) The ingredients list has only eight things, and they’re simple.
But the result isn’t simple. The result is slightly crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle, with slightly bitter dark chocolate that’s buttery at the end. And the salt on the top somehow balances out the background sweet note. It’s amazing how something so easy and basic can provide so much enjoyment. And so many adjectives.
One last note that Little e would want me to mention: because these have no eggs, it’s fine to eat the raw dough. Which is what she calls them. The ones-that-don’t-have-eggs-so-I-can-eat-the-dough cookies. Also known as…
Salted Dark Chocolate Biscuits
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp table salt
35 g cocoa powder
250g softened butter
1 tsp vanilla
Sea salt or kosher salt for finishing
Preheat the oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment, or grease with butter. Whisk or sieve together the flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa in a bowl. Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) until pale and fluffy, then add the vanilla. Then turn the mixer down to the lowest speed and add the flour mixture. It will take a moment for the flour to be incorporated, but don’t worry, it will all combine into a dark, solid dough. Pinch off bits that you then roll between your palms and place on the cookie sheet; we make them slightly smaller than golf balls. They don’t spread much, so about two inches between them is fine. Once the trays are full, take a fork and press down on the balls, then sprinkle with a little sea or kosher salt.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, rotating the trays around halfway. The cookies don’t darken when they’re ready, but when they are slightly firm and can be gently lifted up to find the bottom not raw anymore, they’re done. They’ll harden up as they cool. Leave on the trays for five minutes, then transfer with a spatula to a rack. These are best at room temperature and on the first day, but will last about three days in an airtight container.
March 8, 2017
In a few days time I will be on a plane heading back to a place that has given me so much. Wonderful friends, my eldest child (“Made in China”, ahem) and a beloved career. Oh, and let’s not forget the unnaturally eager predilection for yum cha.
My last trip to Macau was in October. I took my two biggest girls back with me for the launch of the picture book, Marjory and the Mouse. Announcing the trip was a blast – two enormous fortune cookies with surprise messages inside – but the trip itself surprised me; it exceeded all my expectations. Travelling solo and long-haul with two kids make you think of that emoji face with the gritted teeth? I get it (I made that face many times before and during). But truly this trip was incredible for all of us. The girls got to experience a completely different culture, the sparkling lights of the casinos, the morning smogs, apartment living, fine dining, crazy taxi rides, heat and madness and a beautiful, heartfelt book launch with Marjory Vendramini, the inspiration and protagonist for Marjory and the Mouse. We were fortunate enough to visit Cradle of Hope, the orphanage Marjory founded and to which all the profits from the book go to, the day after the launch and the girls saw how the kids live and are cared for with all the love and support Marjory and her team provides them. Okay, so they still mostly remember the trip to Hong Kong Disneyland but perhaps, one day, the other experiences will be recalled and cherished. It was a joy, for me at least, to watch them experiencing so much for the first time. I didn’t expect to get such a huge buzz out of that.
But this time I am travelling solo. I have been invited by Helder Beja and his hard-working team to The Script Road – Macau Literary Festival. The festival schedule is jam-packed with authors, filmmakers and artists of all kinds; two weeks of dialogue, celebration and inspiration, which I am hugely honoured to be a part of. I am also very excited to be visiting two schools as part of the festival – International School of Macau (Monday, March 13th) and Zheng Guanying Official School (Tuesday, March 14th) as well as a public event with three other festival guests:
Writing from Within or Without – The Local vs the Universal
Sunday March 12, Old Court Building, Macau
I am really going to miss my two tiny travel partners-in-crime (they have placed their present orders) but returning to Macau, to talk about Marjory and the Mouse and the incredible role model Marjory Vendramini is for us all, being part of such a dynamic, ambitious, trilingual literary festival such as The Script Road is an opportunity I could not pass up. Extra bonus – going to the bathroom by myself. Yes!! (Parents are nodding)
If you are based in Macau (or Hong Kong!) I would love to see you at The Script Road. It’s worth scrolling through the festival schedule for events, concerts and performances that tickle your fancy. And if you’re not near Macau I promise to post photos. Here, on instagram and on facebook. Without my accompanying travel duo I will have free hands for taking snaps! Imagine that.
March 1, 2017
Here’s the thing: I generally don’t like recipes that announce they are something–cheesecake, say–and then swiftly reveal that they aren’t. I just don’t like the misrepresentation. Call it what it is! Don’t dash my hopes! Grrr.
Ahem. So here’s the thing. I’ve been making this cheesecake lately. Only it’s not cheesecake. It has no cheese, no eggs, no normal-cheesecake-crust. It’s one of those really healthy, no-sugar, whole food, good fats desserts.
And it’s really good.
You might actually think it has cream cheese, or at least something more than what it does have, to create that texture. It’s gluten-free and raw. It’s rich but not cloying. It’s fudgy.
February 14, 2017
Oh, the good advice we forget and forget and forget again. The things that cajole us out of a funk, that dust us off and yank us to our feet, that make life sweet again. Mum’s wisdom, your best friend’s sage counsel, the oldest of chestnuts. Sleep on it, take a walk, you need a rest, have a cup of tea, sit, breathe, just do your best and for goodness’ sake stop beating yourself up. You know the ones, don’t you? And yet, we forget.
I have a decent handful of these chestnuts, these tricks, for applying when the going gets murky and mucky. The remedial cup of tea is usually the first to be administered. But, like most of us, I’m really great at forgetting the things that are good for me when I am neck-deep in self-doubt and loathing. Of all the great tips I forget – taking a short break is a favourite.
February 8, 2017
We’ve been waking up to snow all week. This island on the west coast doesn’t get a lot of snowy days, and even though this winter has been colder and snowier than most, it’s still enough of a novelty that snowy wake-ups are awe-filled moments. Norman Rockwell moments, as DH put it this morning, watching Little e and The Tiger leaning on the back of the couch, heads together as they gazed out the window.
Last week also marked something I’ve been waiting for for over two years. Back then I started work on an old novel idea, reworking it for an older age group, and it morphed into a huge project, much bigger than my other two novels. It also took much longer to complete (something to do with now having two kids and house, I imagine). But finally, FINALLY, it went out to find a publishing home last week. Pushing art out of your life and into others’ can be terrifying, but this time, maybe because it seems to have taken so long (though I’m aware two years is not that long for a novel), I’m just relieved and excited.
Maybe nothing will happen. Maybe it will all be no, thank you. It’s not like I haven’t dealt with that before. But another voice says: who cares? It’s done. It’s out there. I did it. The feeling of achievement, the elation at having taken one sentence and grown it into a collection of thousands that make up a story that matters, is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had. On par with childbirth (maybe because it’s just another kind of birth). It’s floating and warm and grounding all at the same time. It’s yes.
So in celebration and affirmation, I naturally looked up yummy things to be made with our abundance of snow, and I came across one for frozen hot chocolate.
Snow Hot Chocolate
Adapted from this recipe
(makes about six full cups of snow hot chocolate)
10 oz good quality chocolate, chopped (or choc chips)
6 tsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups whole milk
1 cup whipping cream
Melt the chocolate slowly over low heat (or in the microwave if you’re good at that), then add a little of the milk and the cocoa powder and whisk into a smooth, runny sauce. Add the rest of the milk and whisk until combined. Chill in the fridge until cold. Whip the cream either by hand with a whisk or with a machine, adding a little sugar if you like a bit sweet. Collect a large bowlful of fresh (and clean) snow–I’d estimate my bowl held ten cups or so–once the chocolate mixture is chilled. Scoop a cup of snow into as many mugs or teacups as you’re using and then pour the chocolate mixture over, just enough to wet the snow. It will shrink down and look like the snow is absorbing the liquid; stir until you have a chocolate slushie. You can add a bit more chocolate sauce if you like it less solid. Dollop with whipped cream–and chocolate shavings if you feel so inclined. Eat with spoons or drink from straws. Expect that you’ll want a second serving.
So here’s to sweetness, now and in the future, both creative and culinary.