My mattress is high, so when I roll out in the morning my feet dangle. That gives me time to check the toes and ankles and few muscles. I can check for a cat on the floor. Am I ready to plop down, do I need to find the Ben Gay, is this a stretching day?
In that moment of suspension, I am a bit vulnerable. Things can happen. Yesterday I had a flashback, a vision that invoked every one of my senses. I suddenly remembered, and immediately craved, a chocolate cookie from deep in the past. A soft, plumpy, cakey cookie topped with a hard chocolate glaze.
I could see it, I could taste it, I could hear the crunch of the glaze. But there were issues. I could not remember its name, or where it came from, or how to make it. I wanted it.
I am not a detective, but I watch Law and Order. It’s all about eliminating the suspects. With 3000 cookbooks, I had a lot of suspects. It might be called profiling, but I decided I could eliminate the Chinese and Japanese cookbooks. South American, Mexican, and Southeast Asia, too. Appetizer-to-dessert cookbooks were out. This had to come from a real baking book. And I had this cookie before I met Suzen, so it to be pre-1985. My fingers trailed over the books on the shelves, rejecting most, pausing now and then, moving on.
And there it was. The usual suspect. It had to be this book. This author. Once again Maida Heatter was the, well not a real culprit, just the rediscovered author.
I turned each page of Maida Heatter’s Cookies, seeking a morsel both chocolate and glazed. Page 40 was the gold: Big, Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cookies. Reading the recipe I began to remember making this wonderful cookie, one mixed in a saucepan with milk to generate the fluffy puff of chocolate. I don’t know when I last made it. Twenty years ago?
So, yesterday, I made it, I tasted it, and it’s everything I remembered. Down to the crunch.
If you don’t have any of Maida’s books, get one. She’s one of this country’s most important and prominent baking mavens. Her books elevated the quality of cookie cookbooks and she has been nationally acknowledged for her contributions.
Twenty years ago I went to book signing she was holding. She asked my name. I said, “Brian.” She signed and stopped. She opened the book to a recipe and said to me, “You should make this for your nice wife.” I was wearing a wedding ring, but how she knew Suzen loved rugelach I’ll never know.
Now that I’ve found my old chocolate cookie, this weekend it’s back to the rugelach.
Big, Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cookies
Yield: 30 cookies
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup milk
Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line cookie sheets with parchment.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. Cut the butter into ½-inch slices and place in a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Add the chocolate and cook over low heat until melted. Remove from heat and with a wooden spoon, stir in the sugar. The mixture will look curdled — it’s okay. Add the egg and vanilla to the warm chocolate mixture and stir until smooth. Stir in half of the sifted dry ingredients. Then, very gradually, just a few drops at a time, stir in the milk. Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir briskly until completely smooth.
Use a heaping teaspoonful of dough for each cookie. Place them in even mounds 2 to 3 inches apart on the sheets.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, reversing sheets top to bottom and front to back to ensure even baking. The cookies are done if the top spring back firmly when lightly touched with a fingertip. Do not overbake.
Let stand for about a minute or so and then, with a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to rack to cool. Prepare the glaze.
1 ounce (1 square) unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 ½ tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup strained confectioners’ sugar
Over hot water, in the top of a small double boiler, melt the chocolate with the butter on moderate heat. Remove top of the double boiler and stir in the 1 ½ tablespoons of hot water and the heavy cream. Add the confectioners’ sugar and stir until smooth. If necessary, adjust with a bit more water or sugar to make the consistency similar to a heavy cream sauce.
With a small metal spatula, smooth the glaze over the tops of the cookies, staying about ½ inch away from the edges.
Let stand for a few hours to dry.
Source: Maida Heatter’s Cookies