Peanut Butter Choc Chunk Cookies

Not too long ago, I was lucky enough to take up a six-week food styling and photography course at RMIT. The class is taught by Olivia Sparks, a super talented stylist who specialises in food, interiors, fashion and lifestyle. It was every bit as inspiring and insightful as I thought it would be, and, in addition to meeting some wonderful people, I also learnt heaps! Like how lighting can make or break a shot. And where to find the coolest props. And how stylists use lipstick to make strawberries look redder. And…yeah, I could go on all day! If you want to find out more about the class or are interested in taking it because, like me, you’re absolutely hopeless at anything that requires the flow of creative juice, here’s the link to the course page. I highly recommend it!

Of course, even having completed the course, I’m still a complete novice. But whenever I whip  my camera out now, I’m thinking about props and backdrops and surfaces and negative space and a bunch of other things I’d never considered before I took the class. So, I decided to put a little effort into today’s post. A little more than my usual ‘dunk it on a plate and take a photo’ method, that is. 🙂

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I thought I’d stick with something simple. But truth be told, I’ve never had much luck with cookies. In all of my tragic cookie-related experiences, I’ve always taken them out of the oven and waited eagerly while they cooled, only to find they had turned rock hard. Like eat-one-and-you-will-chip-a-tooth-rock-hard. Anyway, I woke up the other day with a massive craving for something – anything – peanut butter-flavoured, and the first thing that popped into my head was a big fat peanut butter cookie, oozy melted chocolate chunks and all. Promptly followed by me sledge-hammering my likely version of the poor thing to death.

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Lucky for me, Curtis Stone knows his cookies. These peanut butter choc chunk bad boys are everything a cookie should be – soft, chewy and outrageously addictive. The recipe is pretty straightforward, as well – one of those plonk everything in the mixer and watch it work its magic types.

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Ingredients

Yields approximately 15 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup (roughly 280g) peanut butter (I opted for smooth, but you’re more than welcome to go down the chunky route)

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/2 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup (125g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 ½ tbsp honey

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

155g semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (you can use chocolate chips, as well!)

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Method

Preheat oven to 350°F /180°C/160°C fan-forced.

Line 1 large tray or 2 medium-sized trays with baking paper.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Beat the peanut butter, brown sugar, caster sugar, butter, honey, egg and vanilla extract with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.

Add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture in 2 parts, mixing well after each addition.

Gently fold in chocolate chunks.

Spoon 1 ½ heaped tablespoons of dough for each cookie onto prepared baking tray(s), spacing them about 5cm apart. No need to flatten them, they’ll expand on their own in the oven.

Bake for 12 minutes or until cookies are slightly browned on top, but still very soft.

Allow cookies to cool on trays for 5 minutes (if you can wait that long, goodness knows I was chomping at the bit to eat one by this point) and then transfer to cooling rack once slightly they have firmed up a little.

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I’m slightly alarmed at how many I’ve already polished off, but like all the sugary treats I’ve come across lately, I’m just going to file this one under ‘to be worked off at the gym’. Besides, it’s peanut butter! And chocolate! All counter-arguments are invalid. 😉

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Enjoy!

– Erika x

Wonderbao

Shop 4/19-37 A’Beckett St
CBD, VIC 3000
(03) 9654 7887
http://www.wonderbaokitchen.com.au/

Were you ever one of those kids who brought lunch to school only to get baffled stares or reactions like, ‘dude, what is that?’ I, for one, generated many a baffled stare as I pulled out not a ham and cheese sandwich from my Hello Kitty lunchbox, but something completely foreign to my four square buddies. Every so often, my mom would send me off to school with a mammoth steamed pork bun with the works – Chinese sausage, quail egg, vermicelli noodles, you name it, it was in there. Needless to say, I tried to bolt that thing down before anybody noticed and started berating me with questions.

It’s crazy how times have changed. These days, Aussie natives twirl chopsticks around with dizzying technique (well, maybe I’m the only one impressed because I’m absolutely hopeless at using them). Chinese cuisine no longer simply equates to fried rice and spring rolls. There even seems to be some sort of bao revival in full swing, with up and comers Wonderbao and Bao Now winning over hungry Melburnians left, right and centre.

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My sister – who’s an interior design student at RMIT – had heard all about Wonderbao and was just as keen as I was to try it out, so, one Friday, we meandered our way through the city’s cobblestoned laneways to see what all the fuss was about. And to see how these bao or ‘siopao’ (as Filipinos like to call them) measured up to the ones we enjoyed growing up.

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The space is absolutely tiny! Even though it wasn’t particularly busy when we got there – which was about three in the afternoon – we still had to wait a while for the five or so stools by the window to free up. That… and we weren’t feeling hipster enough to sit on the plastic crates outside. 😦

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Wonderbao’s menu is simple but caters to just about everybody. There are vegetarian and sweet options to tickle everyone’s pickle.

Wonderbao menu

First up, we ordered two of the char siu bao (2.0 each), my personal favourite. I’m thrilled to report that they didn’t disappoint – the meat was deliciously sticky and sweet. On top of that, the ratio of BBQ pork to bao was perfect, and the bun itself was nice and soft. We followed these up with one of the braised pork belly gua bao (3.8). For anyone, like me, who has never had an open style bao before, behold – the Asian taco! The braised meat was beautifully tender and packed so much flavour, along with the pickled mustard, crushed peanuts and coriander sprigs. The super-thick layer of fat was slightly off-putting, though.

Braised pork belly gua bao (3.8), char siu bao (2.0)

Braised pork belly gua bao (3.8), char siu bao (2.0)

The roast pork belly gua bao (also 3.8) reminded me a little of the banh mi that we buy from our favourite Springvale bakery. Filled with cucumber, pickled carrots, daikon and hoisin sauce, this number played the sourness of the pickled carrots off the sweetness of the hoisin sauce nicely. The pork belly skin, however, was crazy salty for some reason. I had to slurp down the rest of my lychee F.O.B drink (1.6) – as the menu explicitly labelled it, not trying to be racist, promise! – like there was no tomorrow.

Roast pork belly gua bao (3.8), char siu bao (2.0)

Roast pork belly gua bao (3.8), char siu bao (2.0)

Overall, the tasty treats on offer at Wonderbao were  heaps better than I expected, despite a few hiccups. They definitely make for cheap, on-the-go snacks for RMIT students and commuters alike. About ten years too late, but who am I to complain? Pork buns for everyone, I say! 🙂

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