Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I suffer from the curse of the restless baker: however much I like a recipe I’ve borrowed or created in the past, I am wildly tempted to venture a little further, tweak it some more, or walk another path entirely, just to see what will happen.

This makes every opportunity to bake an adventure, and although I sometimes kick myself for not simply going for the tried and true — I do have to live with the occasional disappointment — most of the time it’s a chance to learn something new, expand my repertoire, and of course, share a novel recipe with you.

Crisp on the outside with a moist and tender heart, they’re big on the chocolate flavor and moderately sweet, just the way I like them.

And I am particularly excited to bring you this one, born out of a craving for chocolate chip cookies. I could have gone for this ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe, which I’ve made again and again to sighs and swoons from all involved, but I wanted to try something different this time and make a vegan chocolate chip cookie instead.

With almond butter as the fat, some ground chia seeds, a mix of rice and wheat flours, and unrefined sugar, I like to think these are a little better for you than the conventional cookie (or at least they’ll bring some ingredient variety to your overall diet) yet they are just as satisfying. Crisp on the outside with a moist and tender heart, they’re big on the chocolate flavor — I threw in some cacao nibs as well — and moderately sweet, just the way I like them.

So this one is definitely going into the cookie rotation. I’ll try not to mess with it further, though I can’t promise I won’t try different nut butters (peanut would be great in there too) or a handful of chopped nuts, maybe pecans or hazelnuts.

One final note: as always with anything chocolate, the devil is in the brand you choose: going out of your way to buy a high-quality bittersweet chocolate will pay dividends beyond what you can imagine. I myself like to use Valrhona’s Manjari 64% couverture chocolate, which I get by the kilo (two-pound) bag at G. Detou in Paris, but is also available online.

Join the conversation!

Are you a compulsive tinkerer as well, or do you enjoy making your classics again and again? And what is your favorite chocolate for baking?

Hand-crafted mini cutting board from my friend at Earlywood!

Hand-crafted mini cutting board from my friend at Earlywood!

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June 2015 Desktop Calendar

At the beginning of every month in 2015, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of your computer, with a food-related picture and a calendar of the current month.

The desktop calendar is available in two versions: a US-friendly version that features Sunday as the first day of the week, and a French version (shown above) that complies with international standards, featuring Monday as the first day of the week.

Our calendar for June is a photo of my quick nori rolls with cucumber and avocado, one of my favorite lunchtime treats ever, and so easy to make!

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

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Around the World in 30 Food Expressions

"Just blueberries", a Norwegian expression illustrated by Melina Josserand.

"Just blueberries", a Norwegian expression illustrated by Melina Josserand.

Whenever I host a giveaway, I strive to craft a question that will encourage creative and thoughtful responses: this is both so you’ll feel engaged in the conversation and, more selfishly, so I get to read through your entries and learn and smile and be inspired.

When my latest book Edible French came out last fall and I gave away copies, you were entered by submitting your favorite food-related expression in any language you liked.

I know you share my love of languages so I wasn’t surprised to see you come through with dozens of curious and delicious expressions. Since then I’ve been meaning to draw a short selection to highlight in a post, and this is it! Many thanks to all who contributed, and feel free to share more in the comments!

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Edible French

Poland: Letting someone in the raspberry bushes (Wpuścić kogoś w maliny) means that you knowingly set someone up for difficulties, getting lost and confused, losing their way, etc.

Korea: Someone is described as chicken skin (느끼해) when they’re super cheesy. The expression refers to super oily and greasy bland foods that make you feel gross.

Poland: Being served duck blood soup (Czarna polewka) means being rejected romantically. Duck blood soup was served by the parents of the young woman to the man whose proposal was being turned down.

Holland: Having an apple to peel with someone (Hij heeft een appeltje met hem te schillen) means having a bone to pick with someone, i.e. bringing a complaint against someone.

Germany: Having raisins in one’s head (Rosinen im Kopf haben) means having big ideas.

Germany: A freshly baked mom (Frisch gebackene mama) is used for a woman who’s just had a baby.

Spain: Being even in the soup (Estar hasta en la sopa) is said of someone who’s overly present, such as a celebrity appearing in every talk show.

Pakistan/India (Punjabi): You are like a blob of soft butter, a bowl of fresh cream and a crystal of sweet sugar (Makkhan de pedeo, malaai de duneo, mishri di dali) is a flirtatious expression for a pretty village belle.

"One day honey, one day onion"

“One day honey, one day onion”

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Caramelized Sesame Chocolate Bar

Not long after my second son was born, I received a message from Audrey, a reader I’d been conversing with via emails and comments, who wanted to recommend a recipe drawn from the French blog La Belle au blé dormant*. It was a recipe for dark chocolate bites garnished with squash seeds, sunflower seeds, and caramelized sesame, which both she and the blog’s author Nolwenn had found instrumental in surviving the first few weeks with a newborn.

I read through the recipe and at first the idea of my finding the time and brain bandwidth to make something like this seemed laughable, but it turns out my appetite for chocolate is strong enough to move mountains: I could not get that recipe out of my head, and within a few days I was indeed preparing a modified version for myself — one with just the sesame — accomplishing one small step at a time in between maternal duties.

The smooth bitterness of the dark chocolate combined with the crunchy, nutty, caramelized sweetness of the sesame clusters made for a sublime combination, and already I knew that chocolate bar would not live to see the end of the week.

On one morning, I toasted the sesame seeds. Later, I made the caramel, mixed in the sesame, and broke up that (tasty, tasty) sesame bark into small clusters. The next day, I dug out my digital probe thermometer and tempered the chocolate (yes, tempered the chocolate, that’s how ambitious I was), stirred in the caramelized sesame nuggets, and poured the mixture into a narrow loaf pan.

A couple of hours later, when the dust had settled and the chocolate had set, I unmolded the thick bar, had a taste, and my eyes rolled back into their sockets: this was insanely! good! The smooth bitterness of the dark chocolate** combined with the crunchy, nutty, caramelized sweetness of the sesame clusters made for a sublime combination, and already I knew that chocolate bar would not live to see the end of the week.

I have since made several more batches of that chocolate bliss, and even invested in two silicone molds such as these to make actual bars with breakable squares (the faint swirls in that picture indicate I failed to temper the chocolate properly that day; I’m still not a pro at it, and the baby was crying). Some of these bars went straight into my belly, others were given away as gifts — one of them to a new mother — and I am happy to say they made a gratifying impression on the recipients.

I’ll note that if you don’t have the time or inclination to make the actual bars, you should consider making just the caramelized sesame: it’s extremely easy and a wonderful treat in its own right.

Join the conversation!

Have you ever made your own chocolate bars? What recipe did you use and how did you like the results?

PS: Make this wonderful Cinnamon Granola Chocolate Slab or these easy Ginger and Almond Chocolate Clusters, and make sure you know How To Taste Chocolate!

* Allow me to explain the pun: La Belle au bois dormant (literally, “the beauty sleeping in the woods”) is French for Sleeping Beauty, and the author of this allergy-conscious blog has replaced bois (woods) by blé (wheat).

** I use Valrhona’s Manjari 64% couverture chocolate.

Caramelized Sesame Chocolate Bar

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Homemade Croûtons

I hesitate to write this for fear of sounding like I’m bragging, but when it comes to baguettes I am spoiled for choice: within a five-minute walk of my house there are four boulangeries that have won the Best Baguette in Paris award at some point (including one two-time winner!) and three or four more whose baguette skills are very much on par.

This means we never want for a crusty, pointy loaf to go with our soups and our cheese and our spreads, but it also means the temptation of buying a fresh one often leads us to neglect the end section of the previous one, which soon goes stale in its kitchen towel.

Throwing out bread is out of the question, and my go-to trick to upcycle these leftovers is to make croûtons. It takes just about five minutes to cube the baguette and toss it with olive oil, dried herbs, a bit of garlic, and a touch of salt; another ten to bake the croûtons to golden perfection. To save energy, I usually season the croûtons when I have time, then set them aside and wait until I’ve fired up the oven for another use to slip them in.

The resulting croûtons are a treat in and of themselves, but I also like to keep a container at the ready to add to my clean-the-fridge soups, my grated carrots and beets salads, and whatever else would seem to benefit from a crunchy finish.

Join the conversation!

Do you buy or make your own croûtons? What do you like to flavor them with, and use them in?

PS: My very own sourdough baguettes, plus other uses for day-old bread: chocolate almond bettelman, panzanella and gazpacho.

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