February is always a difficult month. The excitement of Christmas is long gone and the weather settles into seemingly endless winter mode. To combat the winter blues, it's important to pay attention to your mental health and, when needed, give yourself a treat. For some women, this might be a new handbag or a new pair of shoes. For others it might be lunch with a girlfriend. Perhaps a massage or a pedicure is what you need to lift your spirits.
For my blues-be-gone treat, I bake. Preferably with chocolate. What better way to thumb my nose at the endlessly gray sky than to turn on my oven, throw delicious ingredients into the mixer, and bake fabulous treats that make my kitchen smell like rich, warm, melting chocolate.
For this baking session I turned to the queen of bittersweet chocolate, Alice Medrich. Her cookbook, Bittersweet, features wonderful recipes for just about anything you could think to put chocolate in - cakes, souffles, ice cream, and, of course, cookies.
Just the title of this recipe qualifies them as therapy baking - Bittersweet Decadence Cookies. And they are truly decadent, stuffed with chopped chocolate, nuts, butter, eggs, vanilla, and more chocolate. Just biting through the shiny, crackly exterior to the nut-studded brownie-like interior is therapy. You can close your eyes, visualize your own private happy place, and forget about the weather outside. Save this recipe. Spring's coming, but you might need a bit of help while you're waiting for it.
Bittersweet Decadence Cookies
- adapted from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped*
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups walnuts or pecans, broken or chopped into large pieces
6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped into chunks
1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F with 2 racks dividing the oven into thirds. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2- In a small bowl , mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to blend thoroughly and set it aside.
3-Place the 8 oz of chocolate and the butter in a large, heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir frequently just until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove the bowl and set it aside; leave the heat on under the pan.
4- In another large, heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla together thoroughly. Set the bowl in the skillet and stir until the mixture is lukewarm to the touch. Stir the eggs into the warm (not hot) chocolate. Stir in the flour mixture, then the nuts and chocolate chunks.
5- Scoop slightly rounded tablespoons of batter 1-1/2 inches apart onto the cookie sheets. Bake until the surface of the cookies looks dry and and set, but the center is still gooey, 12 to 14 minutes. Carefully slide the parchment paper (with the cookies on it) onto cooing racks. Let cool completely. Store in a tightly sealed container.
* Use chocolate labeled as 50% to 60% cacao solids. The cookbook gives modifications to the recipe if you'd rather use a higher percentage chocolate.