On Mother’s Day, while strolling along Venice’s Main Street, my father in law abruptly stopped in front of an ice-cream parlor and suggested we all had ice-cream.
“I need to point out this is a vegan shop” I said.
“The ice-cream is made with coconut cream and no sugar added. I don’t think you will like it.”
But he surprised me by soldiering on, proof that one can still be adventurous at 80 or that ice-cream cravings can be that strong. I was the only one who joined him. I tried as many tastes of $4.50 scoops as I could, wanting so badly to find something I liked: vanilla sweetened with honey; brown looking mint; coffee sweetened with dates. I am all for vegan options and no sugar but there is a limit to what you should be allowed to call something. That was not ice-cream. Or gelato. There was no creaminess and the flavor profiles were all wrong. I wasted $9.00 on something I threw out after a few licks.
Some experiments in healthier substitutions can work – others, not so much. I would rather never taste ice-cream again if my only option was that sorry (and expensive) excuse.
The kind of experiments I like have to do mostly with unexpected ingredients in common dishes.
For instances, I never make chocolate chip cookies anymore because there are no kids around the house and I am not a cookie person – I would rather waste my calories on something more interesting. But when I saw an Israeli recipe for chocolate chip cookies that called for tahini I was sold. Or, at least, intrigued enough to make them for my Italian book club.
This is essentially a standard recipe cookie with less butter and tahini added instead. And then fleur de sel on top that ties it all together and makes it even more grown-up. The sesame taste doesn’t come through until the cookie has cooled completely, and even more so the next day. But it marries so well with the dark chocolate, in a way I hadn’t expected. Proof they were delicious was had when the cookies were consumed liberally before lunch. It could have been the intellectual exertion of discussing a dense book but when a few people went home carrying leftover cookies in little ziplock bags, I knew I had a winner.
4 oz Butter (113 g), room temperature
1/2 C Tahini (120 ml)
1 C Sugar (200 g)
1 ts Vanilla extract
1 C 2 T Flour (150 g)
1/2 ts Baking Soda
1/2 ts Baking Powder
1 ts Salt
1 3/4 Bittersweet chocolate chips (230 g)
Fleur de Sel
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, tahini and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, egg yolk and vanilla and mix well until combined.
- Add all dries, including the salt, and mix on low until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips by hand, with a spatula. Refrigerate the dough for a few hours or, even better, overnight.
- When ready to bake, set the oven at 325F/160C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Use an ice-cream scoop or a spoon to form about 20 balls, evenly spaced with room to spread.
- Bake for 16 minutes or until the edges turn golden. As soon as they come out of the oven sprinkle them with fleur de sel.
Original recipe from Modern Israeli Cooking by Danielle Oron