Dark Chocolate, Sea Salt, and Brand New Beginnings

CD0E0853-8CD6-4C81-93E9-5EEC1C8FB2E2At 11 PM on a Saturday night, I sat down to start on work for one of my four jobs. A few hours later, as I dipped a granola bar into a mug of watery hot chocolate from a package that’s been sitting in a kitchen drawer for over a year, I felt it might be time to reevaluate things. When I proceeded to scald my entire tongue on a sip of the aforementioned beverage, I decided it was time  time for a flat out reality check. The facts:

  • I am 24 years old
  • I am wearing size XL sweatpants from a college I did not attend, a mustard yellow fleece, a wool sweater, and fuzzy Eskimo slippers.
  • I just got home from a 12 hour shift working retail at a pop-up holiday market specializing in small batch, sustainably-sourced artisanal foods
    • I’ve probably used the phrase “small batch, sustainably-sourced artisanal foods” about 50 times today
  • For dinner, I ate ¾ of a frozen pepperoni pizza, to which I added a healthy does of salt.
  • I recently quit my job.
  • I’ve given up a salary, membership to a fancy gym, pre-paid T pass, health benefits, and paid vacation to enter the world of food writing, which is not exactly known for being lucrative.
  • My dream life is one in which I spend half the time cooking and baking and the other half writing, and yet
    • I have been using my roommate’s cast iron skillet for the past year and a half
      • I do not own a food processor, a stand mixer, a single baking sheet, cake pans, or a good knife
        • and am, in point of fact, an incredible mooch who has been reaping the benefits of well equipped friends since graduating college

And yet…I’ve never been this kind of happy. Armed with a well-worn wooden spoon, a hand mixer, and a Le Creuset stainless steel spatula, I am ready to take on the next adventure, whatever that may be.

DCC98F70-7F6D-4186-B0FC-1CC64CC0E06286A4CCAD-D065-4F6D-9A86-81D2B9C98D9BMost people imagine their lives as movies. I dream of mine as a cookbook. You know, the kind where after several pages of plum galettes, elegant cakes and heaping summer salads, there I am, looking ever-so-chic, stirring a shining copper pot without a care in the world. But realistically, a cookbook of my  life would involve meals like: yogurt straight from the carton with a few walnuts on every spoonful, eaten standing up at the counter. And maybe a short inspirational piece on how to eat Trader Joe’s potstickers in bed, dipping each bite into a bowl of soy sauce, all while watching Jane the Virgin on Netflix. The pictures would show me in bulky sweaters and my fuzzy slippers, squatting with my nose pressed against the oven door at 10 PM on a weeknight.

ED78E759-E0E5-4BEF-BBF5-84161E10FB33DEB1F89F-3CA3-4D90-89FA-E526E7A049B9So there you have it. I’m neither glamorous nor well equipped, but I’m one tiny step closer to defining myself in the world of food. After an incredibly educational year of e-commerce and site merchandising, I’m suddenly immersed in the world of freelance writing, working for a successful blog and artisan food company, and filling up every hour I can with odd jobs like helping a painter convert slides and negatives to a digital archive. I’m about to move from Boston to a rambling old house in New Haven, CT, where I’ll be living with 5 other people and a puppy. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? That’s 5 new subjects for my baking experiments…

2FB603C0-2191-44AE-9CE1-44EA073327A2AFD53546-5A97-4BAD-ACCF-27CD6A346F50Up until now, I’ve been coasting along, using cooking as a hobby, an antidote to a stressful day. Now it’s time to get serious. I feel like I should be taking an oath, one hand on my heart and the other on The Joy of Cooking.

25C81202-3C29-42CF-A818-F45E733F5F51A116D71A-CAAF-4DD8-9363-58E967099BC1Whoever you are, and from wherever you’re reading this, I’m so grateful and I can’t wait to keep sharing my haphazard culinary adventures with you. My goal is to inspire you to bake and cook. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you. I’m the one who up until the age of 10 refused to eat pie because I didn’t like the texture. Really!  So here’s a recipe that is incredibly easy and will guarantee ooh’s and ahh’s from everyone who takes a bite. Made with dark chocolate and sea salt, these cookies are rich, soft, crumbly, and sophisticated: perfect after any meal with a cup of coffee or tea. They’re from the inimitable Dorie Greenspan and Pierre Hermé, a fan of whose once claimed that a daily dose of these cookies would ensure planetary peace and happiness. It is physically impossible to eat only one.

Recipe for Dorie Greenspan & Pierre Hermé’s World Peace Cookies,
from The Splendid Table  (my notes in italics)
Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar (the third time I made these, I used organic brown sugar and I swear it made them better…)
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.
  2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more. (Really do the full two minutes–it makes a difference in the final outcome)
  3. Turn off the mixer. Pour in the dry ingredients, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface (it will look like a giant pile of crumbs), gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

Getting Ready to Bake:

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
  2. Using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.
  3. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

34839AD7-3A0B-4E71-BCBA-973CCF021A6B4A0D0F70-9796-4983-9916-01E16219E9C7Try them and let me know what you think!

Xo,

GraceED2FD2B5-1339-4FB5-B373-6E2BA65499A3

Comments

  1. says

    This was so beautiful, Grace! I’m so excited about your next adventure and I can’t wait to read all about it!
    xoxo
    Hannah
    P.S. World Peace cookies are my favorite too.

  2. says

    So excited for you Grace — this kind of chaos and uncertainty is exactly how great things start to happen. There can be no creation without it!!! I only wish technology were more advanced so I could literally click Send and Voila! I’d be munching on your fabulous chocolate cookies AND contributing to world peace. Have a delicious and restorative holiday, confident that you are living life in full integrity – no one can ask for more than that. MU-WAH — Katie

  3. says

    Grace- I chuckled through all of that. You are such an effective and authentic writer, much to my enjoyment. I just sent your link to all of my siblings and a couple of friends. I am at your Pop’s eating stale rice crackers and cheese and he is making dinner.
    Your course of action encourages us.
    Thank you.
    Cynthia

    • Grace Mendel says

      Ahh, yes. Always a stale rice cracker to be found in Pop’s pantry. So glad you enjoyed. Xoxo and thanks for reading and sharing, as always.

  4. Jennifer Dress says

    Dearest Cousin, your writing is so creative and I enjoy the photography! I can see your mom’s love for cooking was passed on to you. I can’t wait to try this recipe!

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