There is a reason you don’t see a whole lotta baking on The Gouda Life. Sure, maybe a yeasted bun here or a galette there, but for me baking requires great concentration and even greater restraint. Two skills I am sorely lacking in.
Recently a blog I helped co-found in 2014 with 4 other Canadian food bloggers, BAKED, has relaunched with an updated crew of contributors and a mess of new and drool-worthy recipes. Taking part in BAKED has always proven challenging for me as a non-baker, but each new recipe pushes me to learn more, work harder and reach new goals in the kitchen. Though the recipes on the blog are savory and sweet, I like to try and challenge myself with the latter as it’s something I shy away from if left to my own devices.
If you catch me getting down with a cookie or a slice of cake, it is likely a very good cookie or slice of cake. And if I happened to, by the grace of someone holy, bake it myself, I probably followed along with a cookbook or blog that gave clear and concise instructions. Otherwise you would probably find me in a dark corner holding on to my block of cheese and shaker of salt, crying like a scared child.
This is why I am perfectly smitten with Sweet, the latest cookbook from famed Ottolenghi & longtime friend and contributor Helen Goh. Sweet features simple treats such as Chocolate Banana and Pecan cookies and Rosemary Olive Oil Orange Cake, alongside recipes for showstopping sweet treats like Cinnamon Pavlova with Praline Cream and Fresh Figs and Flourless Chocolate Layer Cake with Coffee, Walnut, and Rosewater. The exotic flavour profiles that Ottolenghi has become celebrated for are present still, but this time with a sweet twist that transforms them into something alltogether new. I appreciate that it has a little bit of something for every type of baker, those who burn toast and those who build magnificent structures out of sugar. Aside from that fact, it is quite simply a stunning piece of work to have in your collection of coffee table/cookbooks. I’m so looking forward to cooking my way through some of the more advanced recipes to challenge myself (deep breaths).
I wanted to start somewhere simple so I decided to go with the decadent and gooey Chocolate Banana and Pecan Cookies from the book. The cocoa and dark chocolate chips provide a hit of bitterness against the sugar that’s both in the cookie batter and hugging the cookies themselves (giving them a thin crispy sugar coating. yuuuu-hum!).
Truly, I love this recipe; when the cookies are baked properly they are just barely set in the centre so still a bit oozy when fresh from the oven – begging for a hot cuppa something to wash them down with. The banana and nutty pecans that toast lightly during baking scented the air like banana bread and daaaang, I wish I could have bottled it up for a rainy cold day and spritzed it all over myself. All in all, these cookies are W I N N E R S and I’ll be making them again and again and again.
Chocolate Banana and Pecan Cookies
makes approx. 2 dozen
8 tbsp room temperature butter (unsalted)
1/2 cup + 2 tsp granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 1/2 tbsp Dutch-processed Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips or 3 1/2oz dark chocolate, chopped
2oz (1/2 small) ripe banana
1 1/3 cups pecan halves, finely chopped
3/4 cup + 1 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachement (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer). beat on medium speed until the butter and sugar and light and fluffy. Add the gently beaten egg little-by-little until incorporated.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt and then add to the butter/sugar mixture. Mix on low speed for 15 seconds. Beat in the chocolate chips and banana and then place the bowl in the fridge to firm up for at least 2 hours (I left mine overnight).
When it’s firm, use your hands to roll the mixture into 1″ balls. You may have to wash your hands a few times during this process as some of the chocolate will stick to them and start to build up. Place the finely chopped pecans in a small bowl and roll the dough balls in them, pressing so the pecans stick into the dough. They should be completely coated in pecans.
Line a baking sheet with parchment and place the dough balls on there, no need to space out, before placing in the fridge for an hour. They can stay like this until you’re ready to bake (for up to 2 days in fridge, 3 months in freezer).
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 and line two baking sheets with parchment. Place the confectioners sugar in a small bowl and roll the cookie balls in the sugar, rolling around and pressing gently so it sticks. Place on your lined cookie sheet 1″ apart. Flatted the cookie balls to 1/3″ and bake for 10 minutes in your preheated oven. Gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool, they will be soft to the touch and are best eaten warm so dive in after they’ve had a few minutes to cool down.
Copyright ©2017 by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. Photographs copyright ©Peden+Munk. All rights reserved. Published in Canada by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Random House LCC.