Unemployment is time-consuming. You have to clean out your old office and set up a new one on your kitchen table, fill out forms, file your claims, and answer the phone…a lot. The phone calls come in 3 categories: commiserate, consult, and console. All 3 are welcome but while the flurry of activity helps me from growing despondent it also makes me feel agitated and without focus. How ya gonna figure out your next career move if your mind’s like that?
Many years ago, I was around 12, my sister-in-law Anne and I devised a plan to sneak up on my brother (her husband) with a tickle attack. The plan backfired; we scared the crap out of him and he turned on us in a rage. My brother is 6 foot 6, and a very powerful presence to this day. He shouted, “Somebody better bring me a bible or a basketball or else!” I’d never seen him so angry, but he knew exactly what it would take to get “right minded”, as he called it. I admired that.
What would I call for to settle down my mind? A cookbook or a…nope, pretty much just a cookbook. Working on a recipe requires such intense focus there’s just no room for angst or uncertainty. When I’m baking, it’s as though I’m deaf, to both the inner voices and any external sound as well. That silence is the stuff!
So last night, I grabbed another casuality of the new media explosion, Gourmet Magazine, December 2004 and baked the first of my Christmas cookies.
The recipe for Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies originally appeared in Mario Batali’s Babbo Cookbook. The cookies are simple to make but you’ll spend a whole evening shaping them into discs. Don’t be dissuaded; the results are worth it! Yum doesn’t cover it.
Serenity, and one of the deepest, darkest, most delicious treats you’ll ever eat: that’s my bible or basketball.
Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 5 oz fine-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts or sliced almonds, finely chopped (not in a food processor)
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar for coating
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a bowl until combined.
Beat together butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes in a stand mixer (preferably fitted with paddle attachment) or 4 minutes with a handheld. Add egg and vanilla, beating until combined. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture and mix until combined well. Add chocolate and nuts and mix until just combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough until firm, about 30 minutes.
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 325°F.
Roll 1 scant tablespoon of dough into a 1-inch ball, then flatten slightly with palm of your hand to form a 1/3-inch-thick disk and coat with confectioners sugar. Make more cookies in same manner, arranging them 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until they puff up and tops crack slightly, 8 to 10 minutes total, then transfer with a metal spatula to racks to cool completely. Recoat cookies with confectioners sugar.
Cooks’ note:Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.