Peppermint White Chocolate Cookies

I know Christmas was over months ago, but after Christmas came New Years', and then the new semester begun, and since then I've been swept up in a sea of Constitutional Law readings (endless!), trying to navigate my way around Corporate Deals, and staying afloat with Equity and Trusts.  2017 started off on a great note - dinner at a homely, yet classy, Mexican restaurant, followed by coffee and a dessert "buffet" at the St Regis lobby with my best takeaway from 2016. I say "buffet" because the cafe side had actually ran out of desserts by the time we reached (it was approximately 11pm), so they offered to let us take whatever desserts we wanted from their buffet selection as long as we could fit them on a single plate.  We had about three desserts on each of our plates. What a steal, and a wonderful New Years' it was. 

These cookies were actually part of a Christmas Dessert Box that the boy and I did up for our close friends and family members. Each box included a slice of a baileys white chocolate cake, a stack of these peppermint white chocolate chip cookies and chocolate chip oreo cookies, and a cute little cupcake holder of cinnamon-spiced granola! 

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These peppermint-white-chocolate-cookies are really a simple modification of my favourite chocolate-chip-cookies, and they have the same crispy-chewy texture but with a Christmassy feel to them.  Peppermint is a strong and potentially overpowering flavour, so I would recommend adding it with restraint - three-quarters of a teaspoon did the job for me.  Feel free to add more/less depending on your tastes, but always start by adding less than you intend to and taste the dough along the way as you do - you can always add more peppermint, but once it's in, you can't get it out! 

The sweetness of the white chocolate pairs wonderfully with the peppermint - sweeter than your regular milk or dark chocolate, it is perfect for cutting through the sharp mintiness (minty-ness? mint-ness?) of the peppermint.  I like my white chocolate in abundance; just add as much as you'd like.  Give this recipe a go - Christmas may be over but the spirit lives in us all year round, no? 

To make this recipe, just follow my Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe here, adding a three-quarter teaspoon of peppermint extract together with the vanilla, and replace the regular chocolate chips with an abundance of white chocolate chips. 

I hope everyone is having a wonderful 2017 thus far :-) 

The CCC Quest: Episode Four

... And the best chocolate chip cookies I've made yet!  I really thought I'd found the best chocolate chip cookie recipe when I made my cornflake-chocolate-chip-marshmallow cookies, but it's true that there's always room for improvement. 

It's nice to be back.  A year has passed and almost nine months since my last post (excluding my Shanghai Cafe Diary post, which I've been working on since July this year and only posted a few days ago).  Much has happened in the past year, but I think I'll keep most of it for my 2016 round-up post (and I will get it up... I promise)!  Honestly, I haven't baked as much as I'd like to, which is part of the reason why I haven't been around here much.   I've been hit by a dry spell - lack of inspiration, creativity, drive, and just general feels.  For the past semester (at least), all I've been making was granola - it was my go-to breakfast for a period of time.  I'll post the recipe for that soon enough! 

So the holidays are finally here, after an incredibly trying semester.  Year two is tough indeedles.  I kickstarted my holidays with a two-week internship, which I learnt a lot from!  It was my first proper internship (not counting my pro bono and pre-law internships), and I'm glad to say that this was my best internship experience yet.  It was fulfilling to be able to apply what I learned in school, but it also showed me that there's still a lot left to learn, and the learning never really stops.  It's a steep learning curve ahead, but at least it's pretty interesting and what we learn is useful!  You never know when something might come in handy. 

The festive season is upon us, and we are in THAT week between Christmas and New Years'! It's also the time for meeting up with old friends, and recounting the wonderful (or not so wonderful) year that has just flown by, as always.  One major highlight of my 2016 was meeting a really wonderful boy (though he really is a gentleman). Its' been just over six months since we met, and he makes me very very happy. 

I made these cookies when he brought me to meet some of his JC friends as an early Christmas gift! I made a test batch before the actual bake, and they turned out so well both times that I decided to include them in my Christmas gift box for my friends and family.  According to my favourite guinea pig, each batch has been better than the last! The main recipe's remained the same throughout though, and the only changes I've made has been the resting time and the baking time. 

Satisfied tummy = satisfied boyfriend :-) 

Satisfied tummy = satisfied boyfriend :-) 

So first up - resting time. It really does makes a difference, and I promise the satisfaction from eating a rested cookie will outweigh the pain in waiting for one! The good news is that you only need to rest the dough for an hour, as I've found that resting the dough for any longer makes a marginal difference and it reduces the cookie's spread. Why would anyone want a puffy cookie, I don't know. A one hour resting time gives the dough a richer flavour, and allows the cookie to retain its lovely thin shape and texture. One hour is also enough time for you to wash up and watch an episode of the mentalist, which is perfect. After the dough is rested, bake it for 14-15 minutes. This is long enough for the edges of the cookie to crisp up nicely, while the inside remains nice and chewy. Very chewy, in fact. A caveat though; the cookies will be rather soft when you remove them from the oven. What you need to look out for is that the edges are of a deeper brown than the center of the cookie, and they should have set a little. Most importantly though, trust your instincts! 

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies YET
Adapted from here

Ingredients: 
❄︎ 226g brown butter
❄︎ 220g brown sugar
❄︎ 80g white sugar
❄︎ 2 eggs
❄︎ a splash of vanilla extract
❄︎ 220g bread flour
❄︎ 80g plain flour
❄︎ 1 tsp baking powder
❄︎ 2-3g sea salt
❄︎ a pinch of cinnamon (optional, but recommended)
❄︎ chocolate chips (as much as you'd like) 

Steps: 

Brown your butter, and leave it to cool while you prepare the other ingredients. 
Whisk the bread flour, plain flour, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon (if using) together in a mixing bowl. 
In another mixing bowl, whisk the sugars together, breaking up any clumps in the process. Whisk your brown butter in next. Your butter need not be 100% cool! Whisk the mixture vigourously for a minute. Next, whisk in an egg at a time, followed by the vanilla extract. 
Using a spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Incorporate only half the flour mixture before adding in your mix-ins (chocolate chips and whatnot). Once added, continue folding the flour mixture (and the mix-ins) until all the flour has been incorporated. Be sure to fold from the bottom of the mixing bowl so that there's no remaining bits of flour there! 
Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it in the fridge to chill for an hour! While the dough is chilling, preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius. 
After an hour, use a tablespoon to scoop clumps of dough onto your baking tray. Send them off to the oven for 14-15 minutes. The cookies should be a lovely golden brown, with slightly darker edges. They should also smell really good. Remove from oven and let them cool for about 10 minutes, before transferring them over to a wire rack. 

I hope you enjoy them as much as we do! xx 

Shanghai Cafe Diary

Nine years ago was when I last made a trip to Shanghai - it was a school trip and unfortunately, I don't remember much of it. All I do remember was taking the maglev train, buying rolls of sticker tapes and spending a lot of time just trying to fit in. Fast forward nine years and the maglev train is still there, the  sticker tapes are still sitting somewhere in my cupboard (untouched, I may add) and I do believe I worry a lot less about 'fitting in' nowadays. Ah, those childhood days. 

I never really thought about making a return trip to Shanghai until it started making its rounds on social media - I saw images of its cafes and streets on instagram, and I was amazed by how its hipster value has shot up in the years. So when my mom offered for me and my sister to make a trip up to visit our uncle there during our summer break, I was more than open to the idea. 

This post is a few months late, I know, and my memory is a little hazy by now. But thankfully, I took some notes down when I was there so there is a little bit of reliability in what I write and 'remember'. :-) 

A good majority of my days in Shanghai were spent in cafes, inhaling cup after cup of coffee as I tried to keep up with the sheer volume of work I had back then. Coffee became a necessity as I worked through 4am nights and 8am mornings, managing multiple deadlines in a single week. On the bright side, I managed to try out a range of cafes around Shanghai while my uncle and sister went around doing what tourists do! 

1. Seesaw Coffee 

Seesaw is one of the more popular cafe-coffee places in Shanghai, with numerous outlets around. My uncles brought me to the one on the fifth floor of the Reel mall, where a large window on the ceiling lets in an abundance of natural light and peace and quiet abound. The shop itself is small and somewhat dark, but there are seats outside for customers, right under the large window. They do espressos and single origin brews. Food is limited to pastries and cheesecake. Unfortunately, the cheesecake was gone before I could get to it, which I was somewhat upset about as I had heard great things about their cheesecake. Oh well. 

I opted for the Yunnan cold brew because, when in China. According to Seesaw's Facebook, Yunnan is the only place in China that produces coffee! The coffee had a rather earthy flavour to it, and it was rather smooth. I tried my sister's iced latte and it could have been good, if only it had a little less milk. 

Address: Fifth Floor, Reel, 1601 Nanjing Xi Lu near Changde Lu, Jingan District
Opening Hours: 10am-9pm daily 

2. Uncle No Name Espresso 

This cafe is, quite literally, a cozy little place to be. It's rather small - seats are limited - and I would imagine most people simply grab a cup of coffee to-go in the mornings before they rush off to work around the area. Inside, however, there are magazines for browsing and a short row of sofa seats, good for whiling an afternoon away. The staff are even thoughtful enough to leave bottles of mosquito repellent for customers who decide to sit down - for some reason, there are indeed many mosquitoes flying around inside. 

We came here for a quick breakfast and coffee before starting the day, as uncle no name was rather near our apartment. The iced black was not acidic at all, and it had a lovely buttery aftertaste with fruity and chocolatey notes. The croissants were alright - very buttery but unfortunately rather limp as they weren't heated up/toasted to a crisp the way I like them, but they'll do just fine for a quick takeaway breakfast I suppose. The coffee makes up for it. 

Address: 227 Fengxian Lu, near Nanhui Lu, Jingan district
Opening Hours: 8am - 9pm daily

3. Sumerian Coffee Roasters

Sumerian is a bit of a mishmash. The bold colours and bright lights make you feel like you're in a trendy hipster hotspot, but it also feels like your charming neighbourhood cafe at the same time. I took the window seat, and fed off the chill European vibes (Shanghai has some lovely architecture around, heavily influenced by the French) as my ears were fed with pop music. 

Sumerian has a range of coffees available, including some really funky-sounding ones. I ordered a Sumerian iced coffee, not knowing that it came with milk and sweeteners. The caramel and vanilla flavours delighted the 14 year old in me, though I do wish I could have tasted the coffee properly - they are rather well-known for their coffee. 

The owners of Sumerian also run a place called boom boom bagels, and the bagels are boom boom indeed - they're fantastic!! My sister and I shared an egg, cheese and tomato bagel and a peanut butter and banana bagel. There was so much crisp and chew going on at once, and the pairings were on point. I liked them so much I even ate them with my hands. 

Address: 415 Shaanxi N Road, near Beijing Xi Lu, Jing'an district
Opening Hours:  
Mon 730am-6pm
Tue - Sun: 730am-730pm

4. One More Cup 

This was a random cafe that we stumbled upon while my sister was on the hunt for some stationery. On another note, I didn't know that there was a road in Shanghai lined with stationery shops; it would have been my 12 year old idea of heaven. One More Cup is a cute establishment with cookbooks for browsing and coffee served in teacups (see photo above). I had the cold drip coffee made with beans from Guatemala. It tasted faintly of vanilla, and had a bit of a dry aftertaste. It was good company for the two and a half hours I was there. 

Address: 346 Fuzhou Lu, near Shanxi Zhong Lu
Opening Hours: Daily, 930am-11pm 

5. Cafe On Air

Definitely one of my favourite cafes in Shanghai! The ambience and aesthetic is on point, and the vibes were so good! You'll have to walk a little way in to find it though, it's not on the main road. It's tucked into a little side street! It feels like a secret hideaway; a countryside haven - just look at that lovely garden and building opposite. 

The coffee was fantastic - I had two cups.  It reminded me of Liberty Coffee, a nice, homely blend with the milk really complementing it and adding a nice touch of sweetness to the cup. The cheesecake also deserves a special mention; my notes only say that it was a "really superb cheesecake". The blueberry teacake was not bad itself, but I'm more of a cheesecake girl. Cheesecake has my heart. Good cheesecake and good coffee have my heart. I was very productive here. 

Address: 634 Huaihai Zhong Lu, Huaihai Lu Zhongduan
Opening Hours: 
Mon - Fri: 10am - 6pm
Sat - Sun: 10am - 7pm

6. Baker & Spice

This place reminds me of Baker & Cook, and its not just because they both start with Baker... It's pretty common around Shanghai, and they specialise in bakes and breakfast. Like Baker & Cook, they make some pretty mean pastries and the food and coffee's safe and decent. The branch I visited was at Nanjing Xi Lu. My uncle goes there pretty often, and he likes it a lot. I think it's the kind of reliable place you go to when you're a little stuck and don't quite know where to go. 

We went there two days in a row hehe. There's your standard breakfast fare, on the left I had scrambled eggs on toast with bacon and brie. Great combination, and the bacon was extra crispy (which I always appreciate). On the right was eggs ben but I had it with avocado and didn't eat the asparagus, because I don't eat asparagus. Eggs are always a good idea, and the eggs here were done pretty well.

The coffee here was pretty yum, actually. A little on the weaker side, with a subtle aftertaste. A safe, standard iced black. I had it on the both times I visited. 

What really deserves a special mention, though, is this lemon meringue tart. I feel like I need to put it in bold because it was that good! That! Good! It had a shortbread crust but what really made it so special was that it was lined with chocolate. I love biscuits lined with chocolate, and it paired with the tart lemon curd just well. Combined with the lightly torched, fluffy meringue - it was so good, and I really miss it. It's truly my lemon tart goals (speaking of, I think I'll have a go at replicating it sometime this holiday!). 

Address: 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Xikang Lu
Opening Hours: Daily 7am - 10:30pm

7. Kommune Cafe 

Kommune is located in Tianzifang, a hipsterish maze of shops, art studios and food establishments. The area is filled with little alleyways lined with flowerpots and gorgeous architecture. It's located in the French Concession area, so there's no surprise it's got a bit of a European vibe to it. Kommune is like your cool indie-music-playing kinda cafe in the midst of it. I parked myself here while my uncle and sister went exploring (again, what a shame indeed! But there was work to be done).

While waiting,  I decided to try their signature drink - the Kommunest. Basically, it's a double espresso layered with foam. While the espresso was on the acidic side, the foam provided a touch of sweetness which really cut through the acidity. It was quite strong, and it was a good companion while it lasted. 

Address: Tianzifang, room 5, lane 7, 210 Taikang Lu, near Sinan Lu
Opening Hours: Daily, 9am - 1am

8. Egg

Aha, another really cozy and aesthetic cafe. It's a very workable space, but I didn't do any work here - I just had a really good brunch. The lighting was absolutely gorgeous! Just like its name, you can literally add an egg to everything on the menu (there's a "put an egg on it!" option on the menu, which I thought was adorable). 

I had the coconut cold brew, because I was feeling something interesting. The infusion of the coconut flavour into the coffee was interesting indeed, it tasted like a mixture of coffee and coconut water. I didn't really feel it though, I think I'll stick to drinking my coffee and coconut water as two separate beverages - coffee and coconuts don't really go together. It might be an acquired taste, but its not for me. 

The banana bread was so bomb (as it was, there wasn't a need to put an egg on that). The banana bread was moist and delicious, and the layer of peanut butter on it was perfect. It was topped with beautifully caramelised bananas which had the perfect sugary crunch to them. Every bit of this was perfectly executed, which made for a satisfying breakfast indeed. 

We also tried the cornbread muffin which had an egg inside - how cute! The egg yolk was still slightly soft in the middle, which is always appreciated. The muffin itself had a very strong corn taste to it (well, cornbread, duh) but it seemed a little underbaked in the middle. A little soft and gooey in the wrong way, but not completely inedible.

Address: 12 Xiangyang Bei Lu, near Juju Lu
Opening Hours: Daily, 8am - 6:30pm

Shanghai's actually developed a lot in the last few years, and it's really not the polluted, dirty city that some people may remember it to be. Its cleaned up a lot, and it's even kinda hip now. They even have a Disneyland which has a really great light show at night hehe. I'd definitely head back sometime, and cart out my taobao stuff when I do to save on shipping costs... 

Applying to NUS law

It's that time of the year for uni applications! We just had our open house at NUS Law today and I was manning the orientation booth with a few friends. Honestly though, very few people seemed interesting in finding out about orientation because they were more concerned with how they could get in so that they can come for orientation. After talking to some people about it today, I remembered that I'd done up a post about it some time last year after the entire application process, and here it is! I added in a few extra things based on the more ~common questions~ that came up/that I hear, hope it helps! 

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The initial application for NUS is a simple one. All you have to do is fill in your particulars + grades, rank your courses by choice (you get up to 8 choices, what even) and an optional 2000-character essay elaborating on how your activities make you suitable for the course or something to that extent. For IB students, it's a two-month long wait before you hear back from the school about shortlisting so just... Wait. You'll most probably get a text telling you to check your portal one fine morning. 

A common question is whether one needs straight As to apply to law school, and the answer is no! Of course, having a row of As on your transcript will help in getting you past the threshold requirement of decent grades to get to the interview stage, but it is not absolutely necessary. But I've heard that most people get at least 87.5 rank points (for A levels), and I think the threshold is around 40/41 points for IB to get to the interview. These are not absolute values, and I'm quite sure they change depending on the average grades of the pool of applicants in a given year. Also, you don't need an A for GP/7 for IB English to get here. You are also not at a disadvantage if you were from the science stream in JC/did a science-based IB combination! :-) 

When you get your interview and test date, you should receive a package in the mail with a form for you to fill out before your interview. The last section is a personal statement, basically detailing "Why I choose to read Law at NUS". You have a box to write your answer in, but you also have the option to type it out and attach it to the form. Do start on it once you get the notification for the shortlist, as the letter may get lost in the mail or take a while to reach you, - you never know, and you don't want to have to stay up the night before your interview rushing it. 

Advice! Keep your answer short and sweet - about a page would be sufficient.  Stick to the golden rule of honesty and being yourself. Try to think about why you really want to do law, and don't forget to mention the why at NUS part as well. Dig deep - go past the "i really want to help people" and "i want to make the world a better place statements" and think of the whys beyond the whys beyond the whys. Think of what you want to get out of this legal education at NUS and what you want to / would like to / can do with it but also what you can give back to the school. Try to connect the two. 

I've heard very mixed things about the interview. On the whole, I think they're just trying to see how you think and reason, and they want to make sure that you do have a (justifiable) opinion. So do try not to make bold statements without being able to support them. I've heard stories about how some interviewers really try to intimidate you and make you question your own views, I think it's important to be able to think quickly and stand your ground but don't be afraid to acknowledge if they make a fair point!! 

There will be two interviewers to one of you. I personally didn't think much of my interview (in the sense that I'm not sure if it went well or not). I liked how they let me lead the conversation, in a way, and I actually quite enjoyed my interview experience. I might have been lucky, but I thought my interviewers were quite nice. One of them even made a joke about me looking like a Sec 1 HAHAH but I'm used to hearing stuff like that anyway. We basically talked about free speech and the internet, and I related it to the Amos Yee case as it had just become a thing in the few weeks leading up to my interview. Oh, and we went into poetry a little bit. But I think the interview topics vary greatly between interviewers - my friend had to talk about Nazis or something history-related, so the topic you get is dependent on your luck as well. Just try to think as logically as possible I guess. I don't think there's really any way to prepare for the interview other than reading the news, or praying. Hahahah. Other friends of mine were asked about their personal experiences such as their time in the army and what they thought about it; others about rugby and the like. For some, it was simply centred around why they wanted to do law. So it really depends on your interviewers! 

I don't think there's a way you can really prepare for your interview, other than doing some self-reflection and reading the news. Also, just dress normally - a nice dress or something is good enough haha I saw WAY too many people dressed like lawyers (ie. white top black bottom) lol you're not going to court yet!! Just wear something comfortable but smart casual-ish? The most important thing is that you're relaxed and feeling comfortable and confident. Trust me, it helps a lot. 

The written test is usually held on the Sunday following the interviews. They give you a lot of pages in the booklet for the essay but don't feel like you have to use them all! You only have one hour and fifteen minutes, so remember, quality, not quantity. Basically, you need to write something like an argumentative essay, but with a legal aspect to it - they give you a scenario with some pieces of information for you to use as evidence, and you have to make a stand wrt to the case using things from every piece of information given to you!!! Anyway they explicitly say this in the instructions but at any rate READ THE INSTRUCTIONS GIVEN. 

My test was about a woman who was 28 y/o with the intelligence of an 8 y/o after an accident, leaving her parents in charge of making decisions for her legally. However, they want her to undergo a hysterectomy, which was not under the decisions that they are allowed to make for her and as a result, they have filed an appeal to the court. We were told more about her and the situation with her parents & decision-making, the law about mental disability (sth like that) and a wiki page and a news article of a somewhat similar case. So what we had to do was represent the woman's interests wrt to whether she should or shouldn't undergo the hysterectomy, or something to that extent. 

I think it's very important to have a conclusion for your essay, and to clearly stick to one viewpoint but acknowledge others. So, you can present counter-arguments and come up with a counter for that counter. Just don't go around in circles and get confused along the way! :-( Remember to justify, justify, justify. And think, obviously. ALSO practice writing before the test if you haven't written in a while. Like, take a sheet of paper and copy out sentences or something. You don't want to go in and start writing only to realise that your handwriting is completely illegible due to the fact that you've been doing all your internship work on a computer all year long. 

Results usually start coming out from the first week of May so just keep your fingers crossed till then! You'll get a text, again, of course. 

Okkkk ANYWAY i do hope this helps anyone who's reading this! All the best to whoever's reading this in hopes that it will be of some use for your application, and I do hope that it gave you some idea of what to expect from the application process. University applications are like a game, so just treat it like one (while casually pretending that your future is not on the line you know?) and play it well, play it right. Play to your advantage (which is to be yourself because it's the best advantage that you can have) and give it your best shot! However, don't beat yourself up if you aren't the recipient of good news at the end of the day - of course, it's easier said than done, but remember that you will end up at wherever you are meant to be. You never know how the seemingly worst things can be blessings in disguise. x

(p.s. feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions, or insta dm me or something!)