Sometimes when I tell people that I have a blog and I write a lot about food, they think that I’m A Food Blogger. You must be good at cooking, right? Well, no. I very much love to eat, but when it comes to cooking I am often lazy and impatient. This works out well in China. Unlike in the US, where pre-made meals are mostly confined within the walls of clean, certified restaurant establishments, the streets of China are paved with food. Row after row of noodle shops and hot pot eateries vie for space along the main drags, while smaller alleyways are choked with barbeque stands, fruit stalls, and people selling potatoes, dumplings, and even more elaborate meals like noodles and fried rice off the backs of rickshaws and bicycles. Most of this food can be had for under a dollar, which nicely suits both my laziness and my budget (although not always my stomach).

Yesterday, however, I found myself craving something homemade. It was one of my first lazy Sundays in a long time, and I wished I could bake. I’m not very good at measuring things or following complicated recipes, which means that when I bake at home, I’m likely to make the same chocolate orange cookies over and over again instead of trying something new. In China, however, even the simplest of my favorite recipes are out of the question. First of all, I don’t have an oven. Second of all, I only have an electric hotplate and a thin metal pan that insists on burning everything unless it is boiled in copious amounts of water. Finally, many of the most crucial baking ingredients (i.e. chocolate chips) are difficult to find in China, and in a place like Lijiang might not exist at all.

Inspired in part by this recipe for no-bake cookie truffles, I decided to get creative. That recipe calls for cream cheese, which of course I cannot buy. Instead, I assembled a ridiculously small list of easy-to-find ingredients, as follows:

  1. Crunchy cookies—Oreos, wafers, whatever. I used walnut biscuits.
  2. Chocolate—I used Dove bars, since this is the only chocolate reliably available in China for some reason
  3. Milk—Don’t think too hard about Chinese milk
  4. Mix-ins (nuts, chocolate chunks, etc.)

I can’t even really call this a recipe, since the process was so simple and required no measuring whatsoever. First I melted about two small bars of chocolate in a bowl placed inside a pan of simmering water. I say “about” two bars since, you know, I had to sample them beforehand. I added a little milk to the chocolate and mixed until it was smooth and creamy. Next I crumbled up about seven cookies and folded these into the chocolate mixture. I love the idea of using crumbs from pre-made cookies like flour in a no-bake recipe. It’s incredibly simple and logical—the dough doesn’t need to be baked, because it’s already been baked.

When the chocolate-crumb mixture was cool enough to touch, I formed this dough into balls and flattened them onto a plate. I would recommend covering the plate in waxed paper, since I needed to pry the cookies off the plate later with a very sharp knife. Press a few nuts or other toppings into the cookies, and place them in the refrigerator for about an hour to set. This would be a good time to watch an episode of Game of Thrones, do something productive like laundry, or just sit and polish off any chocolate that didn’t make it into your cookies. If you don’t feel like waiting, you could also just eat the cookies while they’re warm and gooey—I won’t judge! But once they’re chilled, they have a satisfying fudge-like texture that I believe is well worth the wait.

I made two varieties. The first were plain tea cakes made with walnut biscuits and white chocolate, topped with chopped almonds.

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My second variety were fudge spice drops, made with walnut biscuits, milk chocolate and cinnamon, topped with whole almonds.

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I’m hoping to experiment with the ingredients and come up with many different possible flavors. Here are a few more I want to try:

-Mud pie cookies made with Oreos, dark chocolate, and instant coffee powder

-Chunky trail mix made with almond cookies, white chocolate, peanut butter, and lots of nuts, raisins, and other mix-ins

-Key lime pie cookies made with vanilla wafers or other plain cookies, white chocolate and lime juice, topped with lime zest

Do you have any other ideas for flavors, or other recipes that could be adapted for use in China? Let me know in the comments!

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