Cornmeal-Lime Cookies

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I have a bit of a bad habit: whenever I look at the operating hours of a place, I end up planning to get there five minutes before they close. Then I run late (of course) and blindly hope that they’ll stay open a few minutes later so I can sneak in.

Back when I was in Boston, I used to love-hate going to Flour Bakery on Mass Ave. I loved going – if they were open. But half the time, I’d get there fifteen minutes after they closed and stare in longingly as employees packed away the pastries. When I finally got my hands on the Flour Bakery cookbook, I reveled in the fact that I would never have to be punctual again. All of my favorite Boston bakery recipes could available in large quantities (…within six hours).

Well it turns out lack of punctuality runs in the family. The other day, my parents drafted me to make desserts for a brunch with family friends. The brunch started at 10am…we got there at noon. Whoops. Despite the fact everyone had already eaten their fill and then some, these cookies were still a huge hit. They’re a tangy, sweet reminder of the good times I had in Boston, and best of all, they’re super easy to make :)

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_2615Though much has changed since I attended lower school – babies adept at navigating iPads, kids playing video games instead of board games, and an increasing concern with eating healthy – one thing remains the same. School cafeterias still serve terrible food.

I have choked down my share of cardboard-crusted pizza, tortilla soup made using yesterday’s leftover tacos, and slimy and grey cold cut sandwiches. However, there was one thing my school got right: the chocolate chip cookies.

From a young age, I learned to love cookies, if only because they were the only food option at school that didn’t activate my gag reflex. Every day, I would take one or two bites of my meal, then relish my two chocolate chip cookies. I switched schools after middle school into a totally different environment – an all-girls high school – but the food quality remained the same, if not worse, and the only thing worth eating was, you guessed it, the chocolate chip cookies.

People often embark on somewhat quixotic pursuits of the “best” vanilla cupcake or the “best” yellow cake or the “best” chocolate chip cookies. I’m of the opinion that it’s all rather subjective, and for me, the best chocolate chip cookies will always be those soft, under-baked cookies served at my lower school cafeteria. They did not have sea salt sprinkled on top or fancy chocolate disks, but they were moist (hopefully with butter and not shortening or lard or some weird chemicals), sweet…and they were the only game in town.

But some childhood memories are better left unsullied by attempts to recreate them. And so, I turned to the New York Times best chocolate chip cookie recipe to see if I couldn’t achieve something a little more sophisticated. With two types of flour, neither of which are all-purpose, chocolate disks instead of chocolate chips, and refrigeration time of 24-36 hours, these are quite the project.

Whether they represent something more “adult” or is simply an overly involved variation on something that should really be quite simple, I’ll leave for others to decide. They came out quite good, with a chewy, slightly cakey texture at the center, and a crunchier edge. They don’t quite measure up to the chocolate chip cookies enshrined in the memories of my youth, but then again, I suspect that no recipe, even the original recipe used by my school, ever will.

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Madeleine

IMG_2576When I was ten, my family chose Paris as our big summer vacation destination. After flying to Hong Kong every summer, you think we’d be used to grueling flights and jet lag, but we suffered terribly that first afternoon in Paris.

After arriving, we found ourselves at a small cafe overlooking a river, facing a menu written entirely in French. My dad recognized select words, but not enough to really understand what the dishes were. The waitstaff could not, or would not, speak English. So we just ordered blindly, and of course, some of the dishes were total misses.

I had never really been in a situation where nobody in my family could speak the language of the native population – though my sister and I understood zero words in Hong Kong, my parents had grown up there and navigated the streets and language flawlessly. In Paris, my mom and I tried to find a chocolate shop and even with a map, we soon lost ourselves in the labyrinth of cobblestoned streets. We gesticulated wildly at strangers and they gesticulated back, every person we asked pointing in a different direction. Three hours later, we finally stumbled into the shop.

Our half day of wandering and questionable food left us all crabby and drained. In our cramped, dark hotel room, we quickly fell asleep (then woke up at 4am, and spent the rest of the night fruitlessly tossing and turning).

The next morning, we came down to an airy lobby filled with light. Outside, the bustling sounds of chatter, cars, and mopeds could be heard, and in the center of the lobby was a large, circular table with a platter of madeleines. Our first half day in Paris faded like a nightmare as we sampled our first madeleines, then quickly reached for seconds.

Each morning started with that first madeleine, its light sweetness holding promises of the adventures to come. We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower like good tourists, and wandered the halls of Musée d’Orsay for an entire day, not realizing how sore our feet were until after we had left. We came across a fair in a park close to our hotel, and rode what felt like the biggest Ferris wheel ever. We ate seafood and duck and pigeon, all cooked impeccably, and delicious French pastries that have since haunted my memory.

Since that trip to France over a decade ago, I’ve eaten copious quantities of croissants, brioche, and macarons, and yet, I never returned to the madeleine, perhaps because I had built it up to such an unattainable symbol of unbridled wonder that I had experienced as a child in Paris.

However, I recently flipped through a cookbook that nobody in my family remembers buying, and came across a madeleine recipe. I felt like fate must have intervened just a little, so I ran out and bought a madeleine pan that night. And these little cakes were sweet morsels of sunshine, a perfect start to our mornings in Paris and at home.

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Nutella-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I can still remember the first time I ever had Nutella.

I was in sixth grade, attending what amounted to summer school (what can I say, I’m Asian), and my French teacher brought in délicatesses françaises that she had purchased directly from France. It was my first time experiencing soft cheese spreads, real French chocolate, and of course, Nutella.

Believe it or not kids, when I was young, you couldn’t just buy Nutella from the supermarket. It was a specialty item. Only one girl had ever had it before. When she squealed with excitement, I wondered how some nut-based spread could inspire more reaction than the spread of pain chocolat and fruit tarts.

Anyways, I calmly spread a dollop of Nutella onto my baguette, placed it in my mouth, and experienced a revelation. Because of this one French class, because of that bite of Nutella, I began my delicious descent into food snobbery.

Okay, so maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But Nutella is worth the adulation. And so are these cookies, chewy chocolate chip cookies with a sprinkle of salt and a gooey Nutella center.

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Chai Tea Cookies

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I’m a tea girl all the way.

This is partially because coffee makes me go legitimately insane: I experienced coffee for the first time at a Starbucks in Times Square. I subsequently couldn’t stop laughing and collapsed in the middle of the square. Oh and basically my entire grade, many tour groups of Asians, and annoyed native New Yorkers were there to witness it. Definitely ranks in the top ten most embarrassing moments of my life.

I also just absolutely love tea. When I was a kid, my mom would make me a mug of chamomile tea, then read to me until I fell asleep. And because I was sick so often, I was able to explore life on the frontier with Laura Ingalls Wilder, explore secret gardens and beautiful moors, and journey through Narnia with a magician’s nephew, English children, and a cast of awesome fantasy creatures as my guides. Despite the sore throats and fevers, it made being sick worth it.

So today after going to bed at 4:30am, I had to wake up at 8am for work. It was hell amplified by a terrible sore throat. After hours of teaching small children piano (aka texting aka passing out quietly in the corner), I hiked to the supermarket to buy granola bars and ended up buying all the ingredients for chai tea cookies.

Obviously, it was meant to be. These cookies are thick, soft, and spiced deliciousness crusted in cinnamon sugar. And best of all, they do taste like chai tea :)

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I’m Back, Bitches.

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I thought I knew what busy was. I thought that stress was a familiar concept.

Oh how wrong I was. How woefully wrong.

It started this weekend when my friend found a white hair, and I realized that perhaps for the first time in my life, I felt truly stressed. Let me give you the rundown: 5 midterms in the next two weeks and 1 conference on sustainability that the garden club is hosting, which means calling just about every place in a 10-mile radius to make sure we have everything before this Saturday. It’s been tense.

There have been some silver linings along the way. I’ve discovered that I actually can be productive, as all this stress has guilted me out of even attempting to procrastinate. And miraculously, I’m now ahead of schedule.

So how did I use this extra time? Well I sat around for a bit, reveling in this completely foreign concept of being “ahead,” then I procrastinated, productively. I say productive because, well, now I have like three dozen oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and this rambling blog post. And let me just say, these cookies are worth the fact that I’ll probably be up again past 3AM. I make these whenever I feel stressed because they are the perfect comfort cookie: chewy but not too dense, deliciously full of chocolate, but also healthy (or so I tell myself) because of the oatmeal.

So you can call it a relapse to my addiction to sweets, to my impressive capacity to not get work done, you can call it whatever you want. I prefer to see it as a positive evolution of a bad habit.

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My Drunk Kitchen(whimsies)

Chocolate Chip Cookie…Muffins?

As a 20-year old, I would like to think I’ve become a mature young adult. And just what exactly does that mean in real life? Well for one thing, after a few drinks, I no longer want to go out and dance until the sun comes up. No, I much prefer dancing until 2am, then pulling out my flour, sugar, and chocolate chips and baking some cookies.

Aren’t I mature?

A friend staying with us this weekend helped me in this endeavour, but had to leave halfway through. Not knowing what exactly he had already put in, I threw in some more salt and baking soda, just in case. I also don’t actually own a cookie sheet, so we ended up using a muffin tin.

We popped them in the oven and prayed that our efforts wouldn’t end in disaster. I could see it already: a puffy, gloppy mess of saltiness mixed with disappointment. But fifteen minutes passed and, with some trepidation, we pulled beautiful golden cookie-muffins out of the oven.

My Drunk Kitchen(whimsies) Episode 1: Success!

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