Here's something for a rainy day. Lord, we've been having a lot of those lately.
I should not be making or eating cookies these days. I brought my favorite dress to NYC and was appalled. It fit me perfectly last November, and I could barely zip it this time. Time for Moderation 2010. I've fired up the food journal again and sworn off pancakes in favor of oatmeal. I don't know how easy this is going to be right when holiday cookies start showing up everywhere. And really, when is it ever easy? Since Yancey is gone so many nights now, I've found evenings to be the latest Temptation Central. Kids in bed at 8:00, too tired to do any work or housework, but plenty of energy to make popcorn. Some of that is just because I have a love affair with popcorn. But lots of it is exhaustion, work avoidance, or latent worries that seem perfectly abated by salty snacks. My head knows that facing my worries squarely is the only real salve. My stomach and taste buds think otherwise.
I've talked here about exercise and healthy eating--I know all this stuff. It's just a matter of re-engaging. No matter where I am on the healthy eating spectrum, though, coffee (or tea) and a cookie in the afternoon isn't going away. When I'm working, this ritual goes out the door. When I'm home and 2:00 comes around, though, this ritual calms me, holds me over till dinner, forces me to sit down for a minute and collect myself. And it reminds me of my Dad. Sunday afternoons, he'd come home from working both services at church and have a couple hours before going back for the evening service. He'd put hot water on and find some loose black tea in the drawer. Then he'd scrounge in the cookie jar, usually finding something great since my Mom was the cook of the house. He always managed to find something, even if it was stale and the rest of us wouldn't touch it. Every house needs a human food disposal, I guess. Then he'd sit down and we'd have a few minutes to talk. To this day, I can always count on him saying yes to tea and cookies. Just one of the countless things I love about him.
These cookies are the perfect tea cookies--crumbly, not too sweet, easily kept fresh for a week. They're so dark as to be almost bitter, which I love, and which might serve to prevent one from eating 10 of them. (Don't quote me on that, though.) As I write this Sunday afternoon, we've been to church and come home tired (Have I mentioned that I always cry during church? Makes for an exhausting morning). Loretta is sleeping, Yancey is at the fire station, and Wyatt is cleaning out his art supply drawer. I am sitting at the kitchen table with coffee and dark chocolate shortbread, getting my head around what's coming up this week, enjoying not having to be anywhere but here.
Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook (no surprise, I'm sure). The hazelnuts and cinnamon are my additions. You can leave both of them out. The coarse salt and sugar on top are my additions, too. You can leave one or both of them out as well. Since it became acceptable to salt sweet things, I have embraced the fad with gusto. All you need for this recipe is a bowl and fork to stir with. Couldn't be easier. Only makes 16 wedges, so you might want to double (or not, if you're trying to look your worries squarely in the face instead).
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 c. hazelnuts, toasted and finely ground in food processor or chopped with a knife
1 Tb. coarse baking sugar
1 ts. flaked sea salt
Blend butter, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl with a fork until well-combined. Sift flour and cocoa over the butter mixture, add hazelnuts, and blend with fork just until a soft dough forms.
Divide dough in half. With floured fingertips, pat dough into 6" rounds on an ungreased large cookie sheet. Refrigerate uncovered until firm, about 30 minutes
Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 375.
Prick dough all over with fork and scatter bakers sugar and sea salt over rounds. Press a bit so crystals adhere. Bake until centers are dry to the touch and edges are slightly darker, about 15 minutes. Cook on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then cut each shortbread into 8 wedges (while still warm) with a large heavy knife. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.