Parents of three year-olds, I salute you!
We have house guests this week, our friend Celia and her three year old daughter, Johanna. And while I’d been told that the terrible twos are nothing compared to the terrible threes, that really had no significance for me since I don’t have children, I just have a cat and she’s 14. But Johanna is three and very adorable and fun (last night she tried to read me a bedtime story and confessed, midway through, “I don’t quite know how to read”) but also prone to screaming tantrums. And when she arrived at our door on Saturday, she was in the middle of a fierce one. “She just woke up from a nap,” explained Celia. Thankfully, I had cookies on hand to sooth the savage beast.
The other night I was very cold so I made a hot chocolate. My method for a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants hot chocolate is pretty simple: I warm milk, whisk in unsweetened cocoa powder and a bit of sugar. I taste and allow it to thicken a bit at a simmer. Then, at the last minute, I add a quarter of a Ghiardelli Bittersweet Chocolate bar. Suddenly it’s like you’re drinking a hot melted chocolate pudding and everything’s wonderful. Now imagine sprinkling in some cayenne pepper and cinnamon and turning that hot chocolate into a cookie. Say what? Allow me to explain.
I took a tumble outside of Joe on Waverly, the coffee shop that was a second home to me all those years that I lived in the big city. It was kind of embarrassing: rain was beating down, Craig ran inside the front door, and as I approached the first step, I totally slipped on the wet pavement and crashed down on my knee, slicing my jeans open and tearing the skin. I got myself up as quickly as I could but it was one of those disorienting experiences that made me feel like I was a stranger on my old turf: only a tourist slips on a wet New York City sidewalk.
It’s considered a hard and true fact in the food world that baking is a precise discipline and that cooking–sauteing, roasting, salad-making–is looser, freer, more of a vehicle for personal expression.
Why does that always have to be the case? Isn’t it possible that, if you know a thing or two in the kitchen, you can whip up a batch of cookies with as much freedom and joie-de-vivre as you might employ while making am omelet? I decided to challenge the status quo yesterday by making a batch of cookies without following a recipe.
Until I get a cease and desist letter from Kim Boyce, whose book “Good To The Grain” inspired me to buy six different kinds of flours last week (that led to a spelt olive oil cake with bittersweet chocolate), I’m going to keep blogging my experiences cooking from her book. The good news is that this particular recipe–a recipe for whole wheat chocolate chip cookies–has already had quite a life on the web. Molly blogged about it, as did Heidi (who made hers in a skillet!). And there’s a reason this recipe is so popular; Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies may sound wholesome, but the results are anything but.
Delaying gratification is an exercise few food lovers can comprehend. We nibble the hors d’oeuvres before the guests arrive, we gobble up the bread basket before the waiter puts pad to pen, we’re ready for seconds while most people are still on their firsts. Which is why I deserve some credit for not devouring the Corn Cookie from Momofuku Milk Bar on my walk home from the East Village last week.
Once I was at Murray’s Cheese with David Lebovitz and he stopped to admire the butter from Vermont.
I’ll confess, up to that point, I hadn’t given butter that much thought. For years I’d been buying Breakstones–you know, the kind that comes in the red box–and using it pretty universally. But then, after David talked about baking with Vermont-style butter, I began to wonder: “What would happen if I switched up the butter in my baking? How would that change things?” It took a few more years before I put that question to the test.
Tomorrow (as you’ll see in the next post) I’m hoofing it to Baked in Red Hook so I can do a live-streaming interview with Eric Wolitzky, everyone’s favorite contestant from the debut season of “Top Chef: Just Desserts.” You probably didn’t know this, but I met Eric years ago at my friend Jimmy’s apartment. It was a holiday party and I remember Eric brought these divine chocolate truffles and I thought, “This guy’s got talent!” Even though he was just eliminated, Eric’s performance on “Just Desserts” was truly remarkable; he had fancy pants three-starred Michelin pastry chefs wowed with his “humble” (humble? hardly!) bakery treats. One such treat was this chocolate chip cookie.