Call me the Cookie Monster.
Since recovering from my latest nasty cold, I’ve been on a cookie kick. I live in Japan, in an apartment the size of a bed, with one burner and no counter space. I can fit my finger in my toaster oven, and that’s about it. Therefore, cookies are pretty much my go-to thing.
And I just really, really love cookies.
I also really, really love chocolate, but it’s rare for me to find a chocolate cookie or cake that I can appreciate. I love brownies like no other, but when it comes to cakes and cookies, I am taken aback.
But these…these cookies are brilliant. They have such a flavor that I can fully appreciate, a kick to remind me to be myself, and when I eat them, I’m reminded of the assorted boxes of cookies I would discover on the kitchen counter when I was younger. The very same cookies that I would steal away to my room and devour on my own.
Sometimes, you see a flavor combination and you’re like wut. But sometimes you try the flavor combination, and you’re like oh my. This is one. Spicy chocolate is just such a combination. It has intrigue, mystery, and a swift kick in the face. I go crazy with the red and black pepper when I make spicy cookies, for a stronger, more assertive kick.
Taking that one step further, these are salted. In most pastries, salt serves to enhance or deepen flavors by contrasting them, hence the popularity of salted caramel and saltwater taffy. A recipe will usually say to put salt in with the flour mixture, but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith, and save the salt for later in the process. If you sprinkle a pinch of salt on these cookies right before you put them in the oven, your taste buds will orgasm. First, you get a whiff of the salty, then you get the sweet and dark chocolate, and finally a red pepper wake-up call. They’re also a great texture: soft and chewy as cookies should be.
However, they burn quickly, so take them out early.
salted, spiced chocolate chocolate cookies
based on recipe by A Thought for Food
makes two dozen small cookies (2 tsp), or one dozen medium cookies (1.5 Tbsp/4 tsp)
Note: You can substitute coconut oil, melted, for butter (1:1 ratio), and they’ll still be amazing, and lighter. I’d recommend cutting back on flour in that case. The dough gets a little stubborn. You can also substitute other “kicks” for the cinnamon and peppers listed below, such as peppermint extract (1 tsp), peppermint liqueur (~3 tsp), ginger, herbs, and so on.
120 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or red pepper
18 g unsweetened cocoa powder
4 oz/8 Tbsp butter, softened and at room temperature
165 g granulated sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c chocolate chips
extra add-ins, such as white chocolate chips, nuts, and so on
1 Tbsp kosher or sea salt, to top
If using a conventional oven, preheat to 350 F/ 180 C. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, baking powder, spices, and cocoa powder.
In a larger bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Slowly beat in the sugar and keep beating until it becomes pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract, mixing for 2-3 minutes.
In small additions, beat the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Stop occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and scrape off any stubborn dough/batter from the beaters.
Once all the dry mixture is combined into the wet, beat or fold in the chocolate chips and extras, if using.
Using a medium cookie scoop, or two spoons, scoop the dough onto the cookie sheet in spheres approximately 2 inches or 4 centimeters in diameter, and spaced the same distance apart. If using coconut oil, flatten them with your hand. They spread more with butter than coconut oil.
Salt the cookies lightly.
Bake for 10 – 15 minutes (15 if using coconut oil), until they spread, puff up, and become dry on top, making sure they don’t burn. If using a toaster oven, toast for the same time at 740 W.
Remove finished cookies from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. The cookies should be around 3-4 inches wide (~7 – 10 cm.)
When cooled, you can eat them or save them in a sealed container in the refrigerator. They harden a little as they chill, so they’re best enjoyed warm or at room temperature, when they’re a little softer.
I was again trapped in my apartment for 2 weeks, when I caught a cold in October. It’d been brewing for a few weeks before it finally hit, and I could tell, but Stupid Headstrong Me did nothing about it. I went out and made myself busy every Saturday and Sunday for two weeks, and I woke up one morning in the middle of it. But Stupid Headstrong Me couldn’t let it slow me down, so I went out for the day, then went to work for 6 days straight, and finally realized I needed some rest. Well, realized I had no choice but to rest.
All work and no rest makes Nick a sick, sick boy.
I needed the rest, but I hated it. I can’t sit still for an hour, let alone three and a half days. Every day, I thought “I’m a little better. I can go outside for a little bit.” And every day, I melted more deeply into my couch. The cold mostly passed, but I still coughed up my lungs for a week afterwards, and that was the most frustrating part. I finally had the energy to do things, but I couldn’t quite enjoy them. I’ve been getting slowly better since then, and should be in tip top shape (what does that mean? will I feel like a top? can you tip me over?) within a few days.
When the internal medicine doctor guy saw me walk into his clinic the second time in a week, only to ask him for sleeping pills because the coughing was making it impossible to sleep, he figured something was awry. He ran a bunch of tests and even took an X-ray of my chest.
And he said I’d caught pneumonia. Or rather he wrote the words “asthma” (which I don’t have) and “pneumonia” in English and Japanese on a piece of paper, said something vague about my lung, and sent me home with five different drugs, and one inhaler. I did the research, but I’m still not quite sure what happened. For all intents and purposes, let’s say I had a minor case of pneumonia, but could still run, jump, and fall out of trees.
I would have felt better if my friends hadn’t kept recoiling in fear when I mentioned it.
But I digress: the Holidays are coming up. That time of year when I…I mean, they…play Christmas music for two months, instead of the appropriate three weeks, and everything is gingerbread or peppermint. In the spirit of the holidays, I promised myself I would work through some cookie recipes to prepare to impress at home, because it is really difficult to impress my family (sarcasm.)
Here’s the first of the season: easier chocolate chip cookies, that you can make in a toaster oven.
easier chocolate chip cookies
based on recipe by Averie Cooks
makes one dozen medium cookies
This recipe is especially useful if for some reason you can’t or don’t want to leave butter out to soften (eg., your apartment is too cold or you’re in a rush.) It takes a little more effort than the traditional recipe, but less precision and is far more forgiving. The original recipe uses coconut oil instead of butter, both favorites of mine. I included amounts for both, and you can substitute easily. They’ll turn out differently using other oils, because both butter and coconut oil are solids are room temperature, while things like canola or olive oil are not.
3/4 c melted coconut oil or butter (170 grams)
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp almond extract (play with other flavors, like orange or vanilla)
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 12-oz bag of semisweet chocolate chips
If using a convection oven, preheat to 350 F/ 180 C.
Combine butter, sugars, egg, and extract in a large bowl and beat using an electric mixer, for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
Gradually beat dry mixture into the wet mixture. If it becomes too stiff for the electric mixer, use your hands and knead the flour in. The dough won’t be sticky.
Finally, fold or knead the chocolate chips in.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment, and shape the dough into 12 – 15 medium discs. You can bake immediately, or chill for a few hours, but shape all the cookies before chilling.
If using a convection oven, bake the cookies for 11 minutes, until they just start to brown around the edges, then remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. If using a toaster oven, toast the cookies at 740 W for 11 minutes.
Chocolate chip cookies burn quickly, so err on the side of under-baked, rather than over-baked.