I grew up going to Hong Kong cafes (cha chaan teng) at least once a week with my family. We would go on Sundays after my mom got off work and it was a highlight of the week for me. Chan chaan tengs were Hong Kong’s response to the growing demand of Western-style food with a more affordable price tag in the 1950’s. Prior to this, Western cuisine in Hong Kong had only been available in full-service restaurants that mostly catered to the upper class. As Hong Kong’s appetite for British-style afternoon tea grew, cha chaan tengs grew in popularity; the menu was made up of dishes that fused Western and Chinese elements.
It was never a tough decision for me when it came down to the food — I would usually get the baked spaghetti bolognese with chicken cutlet or the baked seafood on rice. My dad would always order from the ‘Western’ page of the menu while my mom always gravitated to wards the dishes on the pages usually at the end of the menu book labelled ‘Chinese.’ When the waitress asked what I wanted for my complimentary drink I would have a hard time deciding between Hong Kong milk tea, Horlicks (if they had it), or Ovaltine. Horlicks usually won and I was always so happy to get the creamy, malty drink right after we place our orders and would go for sips throughout the meal. I still go to cha chaan tengs but not nearly as much as when I was younger. Whenever I go now, I always make sure to order the Horlicks because with every sip comes a big wave of nostalgia.
These chewy Horlicks Ovaltine cookies are inspired by my love of weekly cha chaan teng visits with my parents as well as my ongoing dilemma of Horlicks or Ovaltine whenever I visit a Hong Kong cafe. These cookies are constructed like my matcha neapolitan cookies but I had to play around with the ratios a bit to get them perfect. The drink powders made the the cookies spread lots and after adjusting the ratios of all the ingredients, I’m proud to say that this cookie encapsulates how I feel about cha chaan tengs.
Chewy Horlicks Ovaltine Cookies
- 227 g (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 225 g (1 cup and 2 tbsp) granulated sugar, and more for coating
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 275 g (2 cup and 5 tbsp) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 32 g (4 tbsp) Horlicks powder
- 28 g (4 tbsp) Ovaltine powder
- 2 tsp cocoa powder, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set the baking sheet aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until they are smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to combine.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until just combined and no more streaks of the flour mixture remain, about 45 seconds.
- Divide the dough into two equal portions. Add Horlicks powder to oneportion and add Ovaltine powder to the second portion. Optional: add a 1 – 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder to the Ovaltine portion to increase chocolate flavour.
- Take a heaping tablespoon of each dough and combine the dough by rolling between the palms of your hands.
- Toss the dough balls in a bowl of granulated sugar until dough ball is coated.
- Place the dough balls on the prepared baking sheet, leaving 2 inches between each ball. Bake the cookies for 10 to 13 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are light golden brown. Do not overbake the cookies. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.