French cake cookies
Here at The Ordinary, we feel that we are, perhaps, in a rut. As we’ve frequently stated, the task of cooking dinner is one of our favorite pursuits, and we think about it a ridiculous amount, and have a lot of fun doing it, and take great pleasure in eating it when it’s done. Well, we made a bad meal. Not an awful meal, but a strange, complicated and disappointing meal that yielded far more dirty dishes than it merited. We really cannot account for the level of crankiness that ensued. Our team of highly-trained rut-breakers have been doing extensive research to discover a way to take pleasure in the cooking process once again. This research, which seemed tangential at the time, exclusively consisted of a casual reading of Malcolm’s science almanac. Our attention was first drawn to a picture of a hibernating dormouse, cuddled up next to some hazelnuts that were almost as big as it was. That looks nice! But the true inspiration came a few pages earlier in a section called “Disgusting Diners!” I’m not going to tell you about the dracula ants, because they’re really too gross. But there were two animals that I don’t find disgusting at all. They’re really kind of beautiful. One was the star-nosed mole. An odd-looking creature, to be sure. But did you know that the mole can decide if something is edible in 227 milliseconds. Why is this? You ask. Well, it’s because the 22 tentacles on it’s face tell it whether or not something is food. Can you imagine having that sensitive of a tasting system? What would it be like? And, more importantly, would you eat worms and insects, if you did, because that’s what the mole eats, and it seems like a shame. Unless, of course, the flavor of earthworms improves with a more refined ability to taste. The other animal I’d like to tell you about is a certain moth. This moth drinks the tears of elephants. Other moths drink the tears of horses, deer, and even birds. They drink tears!! This kills me – it feels so mythological and lovely and a little disgusting all at the same time. I want to write a story about it! Here’s a bonus fact for you…all of the cattle in the world stand in a north-south direction whilst eating grass in an open field! It’s possible that they’re responding to the earth’s magnetic field. I wonder if the cattle are aware of this fact? I wonder if we, humans, have a similar unexpected force influencing the way that we eat, and what we taste, and we don’t even know about it! So maybe this is all we need – a completely new perspective on the way we actually taste the food, and our metaphorical alignment when we eat it. We need to move west-east.
Saltine chocolate almond cookies
Another good way to break out of food doldrums is to bake cookies with my boys. They’ll say, “Mom, we want something sweet!” And I’ll say, “okay, let’s bake cookies.” And then we’ll plot, fiendishly, to come up with a new way to bake cookies. Yesterday we made these ridiculously tasty saltine, almond and chocolate balls. I love saltines. They’re so simple, but they have malted barley flour in them, which is a subtle but lovely flavor. You don’t bake them, you just melt chocolate and butter and stir it into crushed saltines and almonds. The cookies were fun to make, and they turned out so good – salty, sweet, soft, crispy. I added a touch of drambuie, but you could easily add rum or kirsch or nothing at all. And the other cookies came about because Malcolm and Isaac found some old tubes of colored frosting and sprinkles from christmas-cookies and birthday cakes past. They wanted a simple cookie to decorate. I thought it would be fun to try to apply the french-cake-baking methods I’d learned lately to the cookie-making process. So we didn’t use leavening – we whipped whole eggs till they were pale and mousse-like. Then we added a touch of flour and some browned butter. They turned out very tasty indeed! Simple, but with a mysterious flavor that I’m sure any star-nosed mole would appreciate.
Here’s Lee Perry with Cow Thief Skank, complete with a chorus of mooing cows.
2 cups saltines (more or less) crushed (I think it’s about 1 sleeve)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
4 oz salted butter
1 t vanilla
1 t drambuie or rum or kirsch – optional
Combine the chocolate chips, vanilla, liqueur and butter in a small saucepan over a larger saucepan filled with water. On medium-high heat, bring the water to a gentle boil. Stir the chocolate and butter till they’re melted and smooth.
In a food processor combine the almonds and saltines, and process until they’re crumbly – not completely smooth, but no huge pieces. Transfer to a bowl. Pour the chocolate over and stir everything together. Then get your hands in and star mixing. The mixture should be crumbly, but you should be able to bring it together into balls that don’t fall to pieces. If it’s too dry, add a tablespoon or two of soft butter.
Form the mixture into balls about the size of grapes, and put them on a cookie sheet lined with foil. I found it helped to wet my hands before I formed the balls – the melted chocolate naturally seizes up when it hits water, so this helped to harden the cookies.
I made about 20 cookies. Once they’re all formed, put in a cool place (like the fridge) until they’re firm. Once they’re quite solid you can store them at regular temperature.
FRENCH CAKE COOKIES
1 cup powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
1 cup flour
5 T butter
1/2 t salt
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat melt the butter, and continue cooking till it’s a nutty brown color and has a toasty smell. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the eggs, powdered sugar, and vanilla and whisk or beat with an electric mixer till they’re pale yellow and mousse-like and have expanded a bit.
Carefully stir in the flour & salt and the melted, cooled butter.
Lightly butter two baking sheets, and preheat the oven to 375.
Drop the batter onto the sheets – it’s thin, so it will spread out. I used about a tablespoon for each cookie. Leave a bit of space between them.
Bake for 6 – 10 minutes until they’re brown on the bottom and no longer shiny on top.
Dust with powdered sugar, or frost in any crazy way you can imagine!