in depserate need of a little "peace"

it's been a rough week. to begin with, i haven't been cooking that much because i sort of exhausted myself from all of the matzo meal last weekend. walking home from work on monday night, i decided that what i really needed, above everything else, was a little bit of comfort food and that meant macaroni and cheese, dammit.

so yes, i caved on the whole passover thing a day early. but it felt SOOOO good to have the warm cheesy white sauce sliding down my throat as i read a miss marple novel and watched law and order reruns on TNT.

secondly, it's been sort of emotionally intense because after nearly half a year of being determined to quit my current job and find a new one, i finally did. on tuesday. just like that, and bam, now i have an entirely new set of worries: giving notice, finishing projects, performance anxiety, packing, cleaning, moving, finding and apartment and dealing with the PSYCHOTIC LADY WHO LIVES DOWNSTAIRS FROM ME.

i'm not her only target, i don't think, but i'm pretty sure i'm her favorite. ever since she "caught" me, over the summer, adding a bag of trash to a pile that had not--let me repeat, HAD NOT--been collected on time, she's been on a crusade to teach me about "respecting my neighbors" and "valuing my neighborhood" and making me realize that "we do not live in a slum."

yes, news flash, turns out dupont circle isn't a slum.

last week, for example, an amazon.com box got left behind by the trash collectors because, unbeknownst to me, they only take cardboard on friday. or something. at any rate, i came home to find a pile of neatly stacked cardboard and a note on top of a package that had arrived for me that morning. i took a deep breath, nobly refrained from leaving her a note telling her what she could do with the cardboard, and went on with my life.

until today. this time, it's the trash. tuesday morning, my trash got left out too late for pickup. not by me, please let me stress. my cleaning lady, who usually does an outstanding job of ridding my apartment of trash and dirt, took out the trash on her way out instead of on her way in and missed the pickup. i came home yesterday to a large note plastered on my front door, addressed to me specifically (because my psychotic neighbor had actually GONE THROUGH the trash in order to determine the culprit), reminding me that trash goes out on tuesdays and fridays. and something about rats. (in my own defense, it was an accident. and i know all about rats. i used to live in new york city. and baltimore. walking in flipflops after dark on my street used to be unwise, there were so many rats) fine. i took a deep breath. i walked upstairs. i crumpled the note in front of her door, and i decided to bring a little peace into my life.

this is all by way of saying that my only solace last night was the batch of dorie's "world peace" cookies that graced my oven racks before i went to sleep. i was fascinated by this recipe. of course, i've seen everyone blogging about it. it's true that they didn't catch my eye at first but what with passover finally being history, at least for this year, and me trying to clean out my pantry before i move, and needing to bring a snack to several hungry photographers at my studio flash photography workshop tonight, i decided that my time had come to test out this cookie recipe that is allegedly so good that a daily dose for the world could actually bring on world peace.

it took me until i was actually mixing the recipe to notice that there were no eggs. and since i didn't have any brown sugar, i decided to make some by mixing in a few teaspoons of molasses with plain white sugar. the dough mixed together in a most unusual manner, minus the eggs, and as i wrapped it in plastic in order to chill it i found myself wondering how it would ever come together. meanwhile, i fried up a cozy batch of potatoes, chorizo and sunny-side up eggs to tide me over during the 3-hour refrigeration period.

i cheated, and baked them off a little bit early, but only because i was getting tired and wanted to have dessert sometime before breakfast. once again i was surprised by the recipe. the cookies were such a peculiar consistency coming out of the oven that i felt certain i'd bollixed something up. but i had faith in dorie. and my faith was not misplaced. the cookies cooled into crunchy, chocolatey delights. i only nibbled at one, because i was trying to finish off the last of my passover brownies (and it was nearly midnight), but i felt content as i drifted off to sleep.

world peace? maybe not. but i had piece of mind for a few hours, and it was enough for me.

World Peace Cookies

Excerpted from Baking: From My House to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). Copyright 2006 by Dorie Greenspan.

Makes about 36 cookies

I once said I thought these cookies, the brainchild of the Parisian pastry chef Pierre Hermé, were as important a culinary breakthrough as Toll House cookies, and I've never thought better of the statement. These butter-rich, sandy-textured slice-and-bake cookies are members of the sablé family. But, unlike classic sablés, they are midnight dark — there's cocoa in the dough — and packed with chunks of hand-chopped bittersweet chocolate. Perhaps most memorably, they're salty. Not just a little salty, but remarkably and sensationally salty. It's the salt — Pierre uses fleur de sel, a moist, off-white sea salt — that surprises, delights and makes the chocolate flavors in the cookies seem preternaturally profound.

When I included these in Paris Sweets, they were called Korova Cookies and they instantly won fans, among them my neighbor Richard Gold, who gave them their new name. Richard is convinced that a daily dose of Pierre's cookies is all that is needed to ensure planetary peace and happiness.

  • 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
  • 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

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.

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, 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:

5. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

6. 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.

7. 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.

update: turns out my psycho neighbor is also clever. she called the D.C. department of health and they are threatening to fine me $1000. not that i can blame them, not really....


Brilynn said...

I ate a lot of the world peace cookie dough before it made it to the oven, 3 hours is a long time...
I also added some to an ice cream base to make world peace cookie dough ice cream.

puu said...

world peace cookie dough ICE CREAM?!
sheer genius...

Laura said...

Ouch, mad neighbours are never a good thing, but you have the power of baking to overcome all odds!

Elle said...

Even a little peace is a good thing and these cookies have been sounding good for a while. Hope your neighbor troubles are fewer.

Lis said...

Wait? What'd I miss? Why did the psycho call on you? And do I need to come down there and kick some ass??

This was the first recipe I made out of the book, even though I had read about them on Anita's blog a couple months before receiving the book and had planned on making them. Mine did not cut well at all.. after sending pictures of my lil cow patty lookin things, Anita came to the conclusion that my knife wasn't sharp enough and my chocolate not small enough.. I haven't tried again yet, just because there are SO MANY other things on the list, but for taste? The BEST cookie I have ever had in my entire ALMOST 40 years.


Lis said...

Holy crap.. your post didn't just start and end with the cookie recipe.. HAHAHAHAHAAA!! I scrolled up and found the beginning. Whoopsadaisy!

Anyhoo.. I wish you lots of luck with the move and getting things straightened out. At least you'll be getting away from psycho neighbor, eh? How exciting! I wish I had the damn balls to do what you are doing! =)