a little something for my little self

Looking at how inept I am today around the grocers, it must be surprising to hear that I had been quite the company for my mother as a child, traipsing around wet markets, listening to her getting great bargains over the day’s catch, requesting for the specific concoction of spice blends, all these after having rolled up my pants so it won’t get wet as we walk by the butchers.

I must admit, however, that I wasn’t that big a fan of the wet market. Many mornings on the way to the market, I’d ask if we were going to the wet part. Some days she would give a reassuring ‘no’, while others she would reply with a vague ‘maybe’, leaving the 5-year old me with a scrunched up face.

Fortunately for my mother, though, it doesn’t take long (nor much, come to think of it) to bring the glimmer back into my eyes again, denoting a seemingly non-verbal promise of my best behaviour.

You see, the journey to the market involved us crossing a tiny road (where the mother had taught me to recite my bismillah loudly over and over again upon crossing till we get to the ‘safe’ side) facing a housing estate, and the market (along with my kindergarten/pre-school the next two years) lies behind that block of apartments. Now that particular block was nothing short of amazing wonderment to the younger me. We fondly called it ‘rumah tinggi’ meaning ‘tall house’, for reasons unfathomable to the older me, since all the housing estates (including ours) in the vicinity were tall.

But what made this particular block different from others was the enchanting smell of fresh bakes that would greet me every morning we went by. There was a small bakery there that offered a myriad of breads, doughnuts, cookies and other sweet treats that seemed much too magical to have come out of the dimly-lit humid kitchen at the back of the store. Each time we were there, I would secretly be hoping that one of the bakers came out of the kitchen with a fresh tray, just so that I could get a glimpse of the big machines residing at the back. But most times, I would just be elated holding a packet of my favourite checkerboard cookies (we call it biskut dam), which had been my only choice of snack from the whole bakery for many years to come.

Seeing how nostalgic those cookies are for me (mind you, they were my choice of afternoon snack to bring to kindergarten every single day), I still have fond memories of its taste. There was something wholesome about it. Not overly sweet, the chocolate flavour was deep with a tinge of warmth to the palate, a grainy somewhat sandy texture, firm on the exterior, moist with every bite, leaving you with the most comforting aftertaste. And while I may have never found the taste replicated in any checkerboard cookies, these chocolate shortbread cookies literally brought tears to my eyes after having had my first piece.

And after 20 years of last having biskut dam (I just turned 27 last week!), I’ve finally found my own version that would’ve only made my younger self smile with glimmer in her eyes.

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies
(adapted from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts)

2 cups flour
1⁄2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 sticks (226g) butter
1⁄4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla essence

  1. Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F).
  2. Cream butter. Add in sugar, salt and vanilla essence.
  3. On low speed, add the flour and cocoa powder until the dough holds together.
  4. Form the mixture into a ball, and flatten slightly.
  5. Flour a pastry cloth or your work surface, along with your rolling pin. Place the dough on the floured surface, turning it to coat both sides of the dough with flour. Roll the dough into a square of about 1⁄2 inch thick. Cut the dough into 1 1⁄2 inch squares. Prick the surface with a fork.
  6. Bake for 25 – 30mins.

37 thoughts on “a little something for my little self

  1. the mister

    I love reading your prose, dear.

    You do have a lovely flair for the written word… 🙂

    And these were my delicious lifesavers during my stint on that Island last month!

    As JupJup would say, “NOM!NOM!” 😛

  2. overconcerned

    Amazing. I love how simple but scrumptious shortbread can be, and just with the simple addition of cocoa powder it becomes something else just as amazing. ❤


  3. ovenhaven Post author

    the mister: Did Jupjup have any? I sure hope not; Schmelly would’ve been so jealous! I’m glad you liked them, love. I know I still owe you World Peace, but these tasted similar, so boleh lah tu 😛

    Wei-Wei: I can’t agree more. Shortbread is typically rich and buttery, perfect for the afternoon tea, but these chocolate shortbread cookies are just addictive, for the lack of a better word 😛

  4. mynakedlunch

    Aww, I was smiling to myself reading your entry! I hated the wet market too when I was younger, the only thing that I looked forward too was the donuts from the bakery opposite Prime. Hehehe. 😛

  5. ovenhaven Post author

    zurin: Hope you’ll like it, sweetie! 🙂

    mynakedlunch: Hehe, I guess we all have our lil ways to comfort ourselves while trudging through the wet market!

    cookie: Awww thanks, dearie! 🙂

  6. Maya

    Awww this is such a sweet post. Brought me back to marketing with mom during my childhood days 🙂 I guess most of us wld get some kinda treats since going to E WET market wouldn’t be something that we looked forward to! 😛 E shortbread looks great btw. Maybe I should make some for my nieces when I visit ’em next week. Thank u for sharing!

  7. ovenhaven Post author

    Maya: Not a problem. Hope your nieces will like them! Feel free to add chocolate chips to make them sweeter for the lil kids 😛

    SufiyahNurFitrah: Hey you! Hehe, yerp it sure was yummy; all diet plans out the window with this one!

  8. ovenhaven Post author

    Avanika: I totally agree! And now that I’ve gone the chocolate shortbread way, it’s going to be quite a task to lure me back to shortbread purist lane 😛

    Carolyn Jung: Awww, you’re so sweet, Carolyn!

  9. fuzzygreenlights

    I used to hate going to the wet market too! Now that I’m older, I’m starting to appreciate it. I’m always wondering if they’ll be long gone when our generation have kids. That’ll be sad!

    Your cookies look yummy! The little holes make them look cute! Hehe! 🙂

  10. ovenhaven Post author

    I wonder about that as well. But with the increasing attention on organic produce, perhaps the wet market will simply be replaced with organic markets. That is, assuming commercialism doesn’t take over, and these purported organic markets crumble under large air-conditioned corporations overcharging homegrown produce. Oh the thought!

    And thanks sweetie! What’s a shortbread without lil holes, right? Hehe 😛

  11. orange

    Thank you for sharing your story and recipe!
    The shortbread is really delicious. Made it to accompany a cup of vietnamese coffee 🙂

    Best wishes from Germany…

  12. amy

    ahhhh! i must admit at first glance, i thought you made shortbread using the recipe from dorie greenspan because your shortbreads looks just as perfect as the ones in her book:) i have never made shortbread but i know yours must taste as yummy as it looks!

  13. ovenhaven Post author

    orange: Thanks for dropping by, orange! Glad to hear you enjoyed the shortbread as much as I did 🙂

    amy: It sure was yummy, and oh-so-easy to make! You should give shortbreads a go, and since you’re a citrus fan, lemon shortbreads ought to be refreshing! 🙂

  14. Saira

    I think I know which cookies you’re talking about. Did they have a little chocolate glaze dot on them? You’d get those n thinking about my young self too;) Just saw them as ‘tea cookies’ at Whole Foods and thought of this post…I must make these soon…so much to bake so little time!

  15. ovenhaven Post author

    Hi Saira, thanks for dropping by 🙂 Nope, mine were plain ol checkerboard cookies, though I reckon they’d be splendid with a chocolate glaze! And yes, you should give these a go! And while you’re at it, perhaps a glaze wouldn’t hurt either 😛

  16. Pingback: Chocolate Shortbread Thumbprints with Dulce De Leche (And Pistachios!) » The Novice Chef Blog

  17. Black Ice

    I made these yesterday for a family gathering, and they were lovely! I cut them into heart shapes, and drizzled them with white chocolate for an extra special treat. Thank you for the recipe!

  18. Meg

    These look wonderful. I’m planning on adding them to my Christmas boxes (instead of cards) this year. Can you give me an idea on how many cookies each batch makes so I can plan accordingly? Thanks!!!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s