Thursday 15 October 2009

Chocolate cookies, bbq and mum’s sponge

I drove down to Geelong for my dad’s birthday on the weekend. When E and I left Edinburgh, quite some years ago, I had not driven much and found the multi-lane freeways of San Francisco scary when we stopped over there on the way back to Melbourne. Now I barely blink an eyelid at driving down some of Melbourne’s busiest freeways. As I tootled along the Prince’s Highway on the weekend I was thinking about how much of driving is intuition. A bit like cooking.

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that I am often foolishly fearless in changing recipes to suit what is at hand. Well when my mum got home from Europe recently she had stern words to me about baking a sponge. She had read with horror, my throwing caution to the wind in changing the ginger fluff sponge recipe. You can change other recipes but never ever in a sponge, she told me, not even the size of the cake tin. Well I am pleased to share with you a photo of her lofty fluffy sponge that she made for my dad’s birthday. (Recipe will follow some time in the not so distant future.)

As I have said, she often makes sponge cakes. This one was definitely one of her best. She thinks it might be because she made it in a lamington tin (jelly roll tin) and cut it in half to get two layers, which are sandwiched together with cream. She sprinkled jelly crystals on the white icing. Everyone loved it. Remember when I sometimes made it as a single layer cake in a lamington tin and then put icing and jelly crystals on top when you were little, mum reminded us. Maybe it was some subconscious memory that endeared it to us. No doubt the pink jelly crystal appeals to little girls who love pink nail polish (ably applied by Fran and modeled by Grace).

It was a great ending to a delicious lunch. I took down a variation on this lentil salad. Susie did a great garden salad (lettuce, carrots, capsicum, celery, tomatoes and avocado). There was potato salad, steamed asparagus, eggplant with feta and mint, cheese pastries, cucumber, bread and dips and vegetarian sausages for me. We also had little cakes, pavlova and Fran’s chocolate tarts. I was as full as a state school.

There was so much food on offer that it was probably just as well I didn’t take my chocolate chip cookies down. I may not have the knack of making a sponge but I do make a lovely chocolate chip cookie. I had asked E what he wanted me to make for him last week and he had asked for chocolate chip cookies and more of the vegetable crackers. As always, his wish was my command!

I was going to use an old favourite choc chip oatmeal cookie recipe but I decided to try something new. It has been some time since I have delved into my copy of Gwen Steege’s
The Search for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie. A quick browse found a recipe for Maple and Walnut Chippers. As maple and walnut seem to be the flavour of the month, I looked no further. My mum told me that when I was young I loved walnuts, so it is no surprise that I have come back to them after exploring so many other nuts.

The resulting cookies were superb. E declared they were the best I had made for ages – perhaps because I haven’t made choc chip cookies for a long time. But these had a light buttery taste with a little extra texture from walnuts, wholemeal flour, oats and coconut. They didn’t last long. I took some to a meeting of friends, served them with pear and chocolate when my work mate Penny came for lunch, gave some to E to take to work and impress his colleagues.

I was happy to see my cookie intuition kick in. My changes to the recipe were so effortless that it was a bit like days when you drive to a regular location on auto and you can barely remember the trip and all the decisions made to get there. I know that Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “life is a journey not a destination” but sometimes it is the delicious food at the end that I remember fondly.

Maple Walnut Choc Chip Cookies
Adapted from
The Search for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie, p 73
Makes about 6 dozen cookies

  • 250g butter
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ cups plain flour
  • ½ cup wholemeal plain flour
  • ½ cup oatmeal
  • ½ cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1½ cups choc chips
  • ¾ cups chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 190 C (375 F). Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Cream the butter, sugars, maple syrup and egg by hand using a bit of elbow grease (or use electric beaters if you wish) . Add dry ingredients. Drop in teaspoonfuls on prepared tray leaving some room for them to spread. Bake for 8-12 minutes (I did 10-12 minutes in an old oven but the recipe said 8-10 minutes). Cool on a wire rack.

On the stereo:
Mojo presents Island Folk - an acoustic led celebration (freebie) - Various Artists


  1. I love BBQs with lots of different salads! Your Mum's sponge looks yum. I'm terrible for 'mixing and matching' recipes, sometimes I take it a bit too far!

  2. A thoroughly enjoyable post! Your cookies look perfect. I had planned to make gingerbread cookies but after reading this, I want to try your chocolate cookies. Love the addition of maple!

  3. Oh my goodness, such heavenly cookies! I love how they have walnuts AND coconut to go along with the chocolate - yum!! :-)

    Your story of driving, cooking, and intuition is so lovely, and poetically written... I am always so inspired by your beautiful writing!

  4. I think pretty much any chocolate chip cookie is heaven, but these look particularly delicious! And yes, your mum's sponge sure is light and fluffy--and what a novel idea to sprinkle with jelly crystals (which I imagine are the same as Jello crystals over here?).

  5. Wow, that all looks amazing!

  6. Thanks Gab - lots of salad make a bbq - though in my family we can go a bit far in all making food for a meal

    Thanks Lisa - so many great cookies to try - I think the maple syrup made a difference but was very subtle

    Thanks Ricki - I agree with you about choc chip cookies being heaven - especially fresh out of the oven - and yes jelly crystals would be your jello crystals

    Thanks Lisa

  7. i'd have to agree with your mum - sponge making is a science
    the cake looks so pretty and light! and your cookies look and sound divine!

  8. Sounds like a great day of eating. :)

  9. Mmm maple, coconut, oatmeal and chocolate in a cookie sound like my perfect cookie!


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