Hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookies (with black currant jam)

Hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookie

Hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookie

Yesterday was a bright, blustery, bewildering day. The leaves are all gone from the trees, but the wind shook the dark branches, and the light came white and strong at such an angle that it was always in your eyes. We walked the boys to school, and in about five minutes I got a call to pick Malcolm up, because he had a headache. An hour later I got a call to pick Isaac up, because he felt like he was in an oven and someone was playing ping pong with his head, and because he felt a little noxious. They spent the rest of the day flying around the house singing. They were fine, mostly. They’d sit down every once in a while and say they felt queasy, but it never lasted for long. I’m perpetually dizzy, myself, so we made quite a trio. It was a strange, nice day, the time passed in odd leaps and it felt like an in-between day…not quite sick, not quite well, not quite dozing, not quite awake. We don’t have too many days home together once school starts, with me gone at work all weekend, so it felt like a needed day. Malcolm and I went to the grocery store, which sounds dull, but is one of my favorite things to do, and one of the things I miss most about summer. He was very quiet, and said he felt a little funny, but he also said he was fine. We talked about what might be worrying him, what might be giving him a headache that sends him home from school. He’s had lots of academic stress lately, and today he’s at sleepaway camp for the first time ever. We talked a little about those things, but mostly we just drove through the slatted white bright sunshine and it felt good to be with him not talking. At the store he asked for a bag of mints, and I said sure, because he’s not feeling well and he was being so thoughtful and kind. It was on the top shelf, and when he brought it back to the cart he said, “You can always reach something if you really want it.” We came home and I was confused about the time of day so I was useless for anything but baking cookies. We made pizzas and packed Malcolm’s bag. This morning I had a brief moment of panic, a sort of lost slipping feeling, that I wasn’t packing Malcolm’s lunch for school, that for two-and-a-half days I wouldn’t be there to make sure he had enough to eat and was warm enough and got everything he needed. But he’ll be alright. If he really wants something, he can always reach it.

hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookies

hazelnut chocolate chip thumbprint cookies

These are the cookies I made yesterday. Hazelnut and chocolate chip shortbread with black currant jam in the center. Of course you can use any kid of jam you like, but I recommend black currant, because its tartness sets off the sweetness of the rest of the cookie in a nice way.

Here’s Dizzy by Tommy Roe.

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Alfajores

I suppose this is the first stop on the super bodega express. I had thought about making this series well-planned and carefully organized. It’s not going to be that way. It’s going to be how I actually travel – vague and meandering. Wandering. The exciting thing about food, for me, is that one thing leads to another – one flavor makes you think of another, and combining them sends you off in different directions entirely!

I bought some guava paste at the Super Tropical Food Market. I’m very taken with it! I’ll tell you why. I’d read that when the Portuguese had trouble finding quince in Brazil, with which to make their membrillo, they fixed upon guava instead, as an acceptable substitute. I love quince paste! And I’m fascinated by the way foods changed as people moved throughout the world, according to the ingredients available and their needs at the time. That’s partly why I’m so intrigued by savory pastries, after all. And guava paste is lovely. It’s glowing and rosy and pretty, and I can think of a million ways to cook with it!

guava paste

Let’s start with these cookies! First of all, they’re not officially alfajores, they’re just my odd version of them. It all started when we watched a beautiful Uraguayan movie called Gigante. It made me curious about Uruguayan food, of course! And I read about a pastry that combines quince, dulce de leche and chocolate. Which sounds perfect, doesn’t it? And then I read about this cookies – alfajores, which are thin shortbread discs, connected with dulce de leche and enrobed in white or dark chocolate. Well! I had to make some! The description reminded me of the empire biscuits that my scottish mother-in-law makes, so I adapted her recipe for the cookie part – adding a bit of cinnamon and vanilla, because I thought they’d be nice with the guava paste and the dulce de leche. And then when I found the guava paste at the good old super tropical, I knew that would be in there as well. I made them tiny, because they really do combine a lot of very sweet flavors, if you think about it! They’re almost like little candies. And they taste wonderful! Everything combines to some mysterious taste that’s much bigger than the sum of its parts.

dulce de leche

I made the dulce de leche myself. (And very proud of myself I am, too!) I’ve always loved dulce de leche…it seems to combine elegance with the childish pleasures of warm milk and sticky caramel. I’ll include the recipe for that after the jump.

Here’s Carita de Alfajor by Fidel. I like the song a lot, but I don’t know what he’s saying. I should learn some languages!
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