Make Mama Look Good
It's All Relative
In an amazing, unbelievable and almost incomprehensible coincidence, it turns out that someone barely related to me by marriage happens to live on our street, that she and her husband have become some of our favorite relatives, and that one night they and some of their family members (including my step-brother, who lives in Colorado) came over for dinner.
There were a dozen of us. One of them subsists entirely on breast milk, so with her we were off the hook, but the others were ours to feed. After a very full day of birthday parties etc., I knew that if I was going to be able to make dessert at all, it would have to be simple. (And that if I didn't make dessert, there would be hell to pay after the guests left.)
Fortunately, the amazing Nicole Coady, executive pastry chef at Boston's only all-dessert restaurant, Finale, sent me a recipe for Double Chocolate Cookies. They sounded great, but when I looked the recipe over, I immediately spotted a few small issues:
Let me say up front that if I were to prepare this recipe exactly as it was written, I have no doubt that it would approach perfection. But unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control (and which are always present), it's essentially impossible to strictly follow any recipe that calls for six ounces of bittersweet chocolate and 17 ounces of semi-sweet. In my previous life I probably could have handled that, but these days, when it comes to cooking (and really, all of life), my policy is to round off. I also don't believe in double boilers, which is usually fine as long as I don't turn the heat up high and then walk away. (That was almost really bad.) And when the batter is supposed to sit in a cool place for three hours before baking but the guests are due in less than two, my motto is: improvise.
Finale's owner said that after trying these cookies, "I'd never make brownies again." My more immediate thought was: Can this recipe withstand me making it? That's always the most important question. Fortunately, BD and E offered to go to the store for the chocolate. They got back looking - harried. They reported that after a trying few minutes poring over options, BD had picked out bittersweet Callebaut with 60 percent cocoa solids, semisweet Callebaut with 54 percent cocoa solids, Valrhona caraque 56 percent, Valrhona caf noire ... I was secretly glad I'd been napping on the couch with my sweet little girl instead of hunting and gathering impossible ingredients from Whole Foods. "I'm so sorry for the hassle," I said to my husband. I was 57 percent semi-sincere.
I didn't have time to get worked up about how much of which type of chocolate to use; I was just grateful I had chocolate at all. So, as usual, I eyeballed it. (To make matters a wee bit more complicated, I also decided to halve the recipe. In my head.)
Making the cookie batter took about 15 minutes total. I then put the pan in our back hall - it's easy to find cool places when you live in New England since life in general is pretty cool around here for most of the year. I would have waited longer than just half an hour, but we needed to cook the chicken, too. It would have to do.
Finally, dinner was over and it was time for dessert. I listened intently as my guests said the cookies were "so incredible, fabulous, delicious, oh my god - " things like that. People were sneaking seconds. I could see why. These babies were crispy on the edges, soft and melting in the middle, and obviously very chocolatey. It turned out that in the end, all my lackadaisical ways hadn't hurt the cookies one bit. I was thrilled.
On the down side, I knew I shouldn't have told E about the brownie comment; it totally got his hackles up. He said he liked the cookies, but ... and gave the universal so-so sign. But the truth came out the next night when he was furious I'd given the last two cookies away.
Even better than all the praise for the cookies, though, was looking around at this houseful of people, none of them related by blood, and feeling that we were surrounded by family. I got to hold my neighbor's gorgeous sleeping newborn for almost an hour. Things really couldn't have gotten any better - not even if I'd weighed the chocolate.
Finale Double Chocolate Cookies
By Nicole Coady, executive pastry chef
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
17 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler until blended. In a separate bowl, whip eggs, sugar and vanilla until thick and light. In another bowl, sift all dry ingredient together. Slowly add chocolate mixture to egg mixture on low speed. Fold in flour mixture slowly. The cookie batter will be liquid (like cake batter). Allow to sit for three hours in a cool place.
Scoop heaping tablespoons onto cookie sheet that has been lightly sprayed with a non-stick spray, at least 3 inches apart. Bake on a doubled cookie sheet (one sheet inside of another) at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until the center of the cookie is firm to the touch (cake-like firmness). Finale Double Chocolate Cookies should be baked as close to serving time as possible. Yields 3 to 4 dozen cookies.
Tips: Finale says to make sure that you have high-quality chocolate, and that while it is indeed a large amount, that's no mistake. And by the way, for me a half-recipe only yielded a baker's dozen oversized cookies. Just so you know.