I own a dangerous book called By The Book. It’s a collection of the By The Book column from the New York Times; a column where artists, musicians, and writers talk about their favorite books and what’s currently on their nightstand. It’s dangerous because any time someone sings the praises of a book, I immediately want to own it. (See: the stacks of books currently on my desk, coffee table, and nightstand.)
Not only am I susceptible to “By The Book,” I’m also susceptible to book suggestions in real life. Case in point: Nik Sharma came on my Instagram Live two weeks ago, and sang the praises of Samantha Seneviratne’s Sugar and Spice. It was on my doorstep three days later.
It’s a book that truly lives up to its title. Every recipe has a surprising trick up its sleeve: her sweet fig scones wake you up with black pepper. Her sticky apple date cake has six tablespoons of fresh ginger. But the recipe that caught my eye first is a traditional chocolate chip cookie that you make in a most untraditional manner. For starters, instead of butter (no butter?!), you use coconut oil. Instead of using a mixer, you do it all by hand. And instead of just chips, this one has toasted coconut and 1/2 cup of chopped pistachios. I was intrigued.
The first recipe you make out of a new cookbook is like a first date. You’re sniffing out the vibe, deciding if this is a quick one-night stand or something you could have children with (I wish I could have children with a cookbook). With Sugar and Spice, I knew I was in good hands when I tasted the batter.
The coconut oil doesn’t detract from the cookie’s cookiness (you don’t miss the butter). But the real star here is the toasted coconut: it adds a depth of flavor unusual for a chocolate chip cookie. I’d liken it to a candy bar: it’s in the world of Mounds (a far superior candy to Almond Joy because who wants a nut in their perfect candy bar?). Although, this candy bar cookie DOES have a nut by way of pistachios, which also lend their own texture and flavor.
Once on the cookie sheet (I used an ice cream scoop), the batter looks wetter than a typical cookie dough, but fear not. It’ll all work out in the oven.
And the resulting cookies are marvelous. They’ve got pluck, they’ve got personality. They’re not timid or overly familiar. They’re chocolate chip cookies that wake you up, that say: “Hey, look at me, damn it! I’m here!”
Which is all to say, if you’re thinking about buying Samantha Seneviratne’s Sugar and Spice, let me be an enabler. You need this book on your shelf. Or night stand, coffee table, or anywhere that doesn’t currently have a book on it.
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Toasted Coconut and Pistachios
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
- 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60 to 70 percent cacao), chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup shelled raw pistachios, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut, toasted Place on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350 oven, stirring every few minutes, until golden brown (about 5 to 10 minutes). Watch it, though, it can quickly burn!
- Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, using a wooden spoon (I used a whisk), combine the coconut oil, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together until creamy. Stir in the vanilla and egg. Add the flour mixture to the coconut oil mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the chocolate, pistachios, and coconut.
Scoop the dough in 2-tablespoon scoops and place on the prepared baking sheets, at least 2 inches apart. Sprinkle each with a bit of sea salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the sheets on racks for about 5 minutes. Eat warm or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Maple Cream Pie (Samantha Seneviratne, Food Network)
Banana Bread Scones (Samantha Seneviratne, Food52)