Wednesday, October 31, 2012
First off, I want to thank you all for your amazing and supportive comments on my last post! I love that I have such an inspiring and talented group of readers for this blog, and it makes me so proud to be able to connect with you all through this forum. The post has just been republished on my school's main arts site!, with the hopes that it'll engender even more awareness and discussion and might help other students in similar situations. It's a bit nerve-wracking for me to have the post published on the school's website, since I'm so accustomed to hiding my arts life from my academic life. But, I'm trying to live my life more unapologetically, which means learning to be braver about sticking my neck out there. Courage, people!
Second, I want to extend wishes and thoughts to everyone on the East Coast right now--I hope you all weathered the giant Frankenstorm alright and are all safe and sound (and have power and water!).
Meanwhile, I *just* realized late last night (I guess technically it was early this morning, but I have a strict rule that "night" doesn't end until I go to sleep :)), that it's Halloween today! Happy Halloween! And where the heck did October go??? Usually I love to celebrate Halloween. Not only is it an awesome holiday in its own right, but it also kicks off two months' worth of holidays, all the way through January, and I love the buzz of celebration and excitement that you feel starting October 31 all the way up until New Year's Eve.
This October, however, I fear that I've been living under a rock in a cave, buried deep under piles of papers and essays and commented versions of essays to turn into papers and more deadlines for papers and essays (much to the glee of my dissertation committee, it seems....). I've barely even touched my kitchen, except to make tea or to heat up whatever leftovers I'm fortunate to have in the refrigerator. Although, you shouldn't pity me too much--my leftovers have been a decently tolerable combination of Indian food, Asian fusion, and awesome Chantal Guillon macarons. :). Luckily, deadline season will come to a close soon, and hopefully life can return to some more semblance of "normal," whatever that may be.
So finding balance in life isn't easy! This week, I could feel the cracks starting, that creative part of my brain tick- tick- ticking away from disuse while it's been shoved aside for academic deadlines. I could feel my eye actively start framing the world around me in photographs wherever I looked, I became inseparable from my camera phone, my normal doodles in the margins of papers became even more involved, and I started having un-suppressible, obsessive thoughts about dark chocolate with port-soaked cherries. And then it happened: writer's block. BAM. Right in the middle of a streak of productivity, there was an essay that I just. couldn't. write. No matter how many days I spent or how many new drafts I started--nothing. Argh!
So finally, deep into one night of frustrated non-writing with deadlines looming, I walked away from the computer and into the kitchen, pulled one of my current cookbook favorites off of the shelf, and flipped to the deepest, darkest chocolate recipe I could find. I can always count on Alice: these dark chocolate espresso cookies (with a few slight modifications from her original recipe) were exactly what they sound like, the very essence of chocolate. Made completely with unsweetened chocolate (make sure to break out the good stuff in your cabinets), these amazing bites come out of the oven so perfectly melty, with the giant chocolate chunks in their molten centers wrapping you up with this warm bittersweet hug in such a good way you never thought bitter, unsweetened chocolate could. After they cool, the cookies are still perfectly gooey. I used coconut oil instead of butter in these, and if you eat a cookie ever so slowly, you'll get just the faintest hint of sweet coconut flavor come through like a streak of sunshine. Then, the hit of smoked sea salt flakes sprinkled on top brings everything together--really, chocolate just shouldn't be eaten without a bit of salty sophistication to it! Be forewarned that these cookies are rich. I don't normally drink milk, but I needed a shot of milk next to these.
I guess the million dollar question here is whether these cookies cure the stubborn affliction of wrtiers' block? Well.... the next day, I wrote my essay! Of course, I'm not quite sure if it was eating these cookies that did it. Or, if it was baking these cookies and then bringing a box of them to my advisor's office, where she sat and ate them while offering sage advice on how I should approach my essay. I guess ultimately, it doesn't matter. Writer's block is gone, and so are the cookies now. :)
Here's wishing everyone a Happy Halloween! I guess I'll celebrate it a few days late after the deadlines of this week are past, but at least that lets me take advantage of all the 2 for 1 deals on leftover Halloween candy on November 1. Mwahaha! :)
P.S. Also a big thank you to my good friend Priscilla, who is an uber-talented knitter, and made me the cup/bottle warmer.
Read on for recipe.....
Salted Dark Chocolate Espresso Cookies
adapted from Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy
makes about two dozen cookies
284 g (10 oz) good quality unsweetened chocolate
53 g (¼ cup) coconut oil
43 g (⅓ cup) all-purpose flour
¼ tspn baking powder
¼ tspn salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
267 g (1⅓ cups) sugar
1½ tspn instant espresso powder
1 tspn vanilla extract
smoked sea salt flakes
1. Finely chop 170 g (6 oz) chocolate and set in a double boiler over simmering water with the coconut oil. Stirring constantly, melt. Once melted, remove from heat, set aside, and let cool to room temperature.
2. Chop the remaining 114 g (4 oz) chocolate into large chunks, about the size of big chocolate chips. Set aside.
3. In a bowl, whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
4. In a mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, combine the eggs, sugar, espresso powder, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium high for about 5 minutes, until pale and fluffy and the batter drops off the beaters in a thick ribbon. Fold in the flour mixture, followed by the cooled melted chocolate mixture. Fold in the chocolate chunks. Cover and chill until firm, about 1 hour. (Or chill in the freezer for about 30 minutes.)
5. Preheat oven to 350° F. On lined or greased cookie sheets, drop 1 to 1½-inch balls of dough, leaving about 2 inches between each ball. Sprinkle the dough balls with salt flakes.
6. Bake the sheets one at a time for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating once half-way through baking. The centers should still be soft when you remove the pans from the oven. Let the cookies cool briefly before enjoying hot, or store in air tight containers for about two days. Serve with a shot of milk.