I was a latch-key kid as a youngster in elementary school. A neighbor lady kept an eye out for me. I played with her children, but basically I was by myself. Left to my own devices I tend to do exactly what I want to do . . . then and now. I made myself bacon sandwiches, even after the great, secret grease fire incident. (My mom didn’t miss the kitchen curtains until I told her years after Peg and I got married.)I also bear the scar of an early butcher knife episode. I could usually figure things out or at least clean up well after any missteps. Usually, there were successes; however, oatmeal cookies eluded me.
In first grade I tried repeatedly to make oatmeal cookies. Each batch turned out runny. Even though I followed the recipe I ended in disaster. It wasn't until my grandmother visited from Missouri that I realized that the butter was not supposed to be melted. My mind is almost always racing on ahead. But, it was a revelation to understand that in baking and life there are just little things you should know that make all the difference in the world.
Top Chef is one of my favorite cable television shows. A few weeks ago I was flipping channels and came across The Chew, which features a trio of cooking celebrities and other "hosts." One of the chefs is Carla Hall, who lost out in the Top Chef competition because she gave into another chef's suggestion instead of following her own instincts and cooking style. I did a search on Google for Carla and found a mention that she liked savory cookies. The term intrigued me.
My mind raced ahead and I knew exactly what savory cookies were. I remembered from the book Fellowship of the Ring the elves made a nutritious food. The biscuits were called "lembas" and would sustain people on long journeys. My mind also jumped to the book/movie True Grit, where Marshal Rooster Cogburn took a bagful of "corn dodgers" on his pursuit of a killer. As part of their rations, Roman legionnaires were issued biscuits in addition to bags of grain. The biscuits could be eaten during a march without preparation. Cookies usually have a sweet connotation, but I have an open mind.
My mind and the internet brought me full circle. Peg and I are currently writing articles on nutrition for the website we created: Live2AgeWell. We rely on studies by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. Roman Meal Bread helps fund the good works at LPI. We look for ways to improve diets by giving people interesting articles that contain scientific information in everyday easy-to-understand language.
A Google search for "savory cookies" brought me to Kelly Cooper's website and her book Cookies for Grown-Ups. I fell in love. I
made the purchase. Kelly's book is a treat. (Buy it from her website and it will cost you a couple of dollars more, but she will autograph it for you -
great gift idea). "Cookies for Grown-ups” are savory and sweet recipes in a cookbook created to intrigue and satisfy the adult palette. Over 90 recipes
with fun and unique flavor combinations, as well as drink pairings, encourage great conversations with friends and family." Every recipe starts a
culinary journey. My mind races with each turn of a page. The cookies vary and some are sweet and some are savory, but most of them read as just plain yummy. She pairs each cookie with an accompanying liquid: wine, beer, tea, coffee, or cola. I want to try all the recipes, but thought I would start with a single step. I chose the Cha-cha.
The Cha-cha contains dried cherries, chocolate chips, cocoa and chipotle. Peg assured me that we had everything we needed except for the cherries and chipotle powder. She went to lunch and the UW book store in downtown Tacoma with our daughter, Andi, while I went shopping to start baking. I had to inspect each row of spices at Safeway until I found the more unusual offerings, which contained McCormick's Chipotle Chile Pepper.
I returned home and was ready to start. An hour earlier I had taken two sticks of butter out of the refrigerator to soften. I soon realized why I don't bake more. You have to follow instructions. In cooking you're constantly tasting; not so much in baking. I should have taken the butter out a few hours earlier. I should have also bought a tin of unsweetened cocoa. Peg said we had some, and we probably do, but I couldn’t find any.
In the recipe I saw that vodka could be substituted for water. I chose Disaronno instead. I may have had a sip or two in the creation of the cookies. I made a couple of other changes as well, which Kelly suggests. I used dark chocolate for the chips since they are more nutritious, and for the same reason I chose to use three cups of a Roman Meal cooking/baking mix (Original with Oats) that contained oats, rye and flax. You should always read all of the information in a recipe. As I prepared the baking sheets I noted how much batter I had and then saw that I had made enough for six dozen cookies. One batch was enough for me. Time is always an issue.
Peg and Andi returned just before the cookies came out of the oven. We all sat down at the kitchen table as the cookies cooled. The girls had a nice visit and both had purchased the same children's book, for the illustrations. I'm not sure if it was for them individually or for future events.
I brought cookies over to the table. Peg began choking and blamed the chipotle. She refused any more. Andi, watching Peg's efforts to breathe decided not to chance a taste. I munched on several. I thought they suffered from too much sugar (the sweetened cocoa being the offender), but they didn't seem to be that spicy. There was a little tingle in the back of my throat, but overall they worked for me.
Seeing that time was fleeting, Peg and I ushered Andi out the door, bagged up some cookies, and headed off to see Hitchcock at The Grand Cinema, our favorite movie theater in Tacoma. We had picked up Peg's sister Pat on the way and met with our friends, Donn, Debbie, and Jan for the late afternoon showing. The movie was excellent and will probably see us buy tickets a second time. Afterwards, we went looking for dinner. The third stop brought us to La Fondita in the Proctor District of Tacoma's North End. They had room at the inn.
We ordered dinner and as we waited I passed out cookies to three of our friends and the owner of the restaurant. After dinner both Peg and her sister had one. Pat, who doesn't like spicy food nibbled at first and then ate the cookie while suffering no ill-effects. After that Peg ate one. No choking. I had to listen to advice about mixing all of the ingredients well. I kept repeating, "I whisked all the dry ingredients . . . well." There are none so bland as those who will not see . . . or listen.
We discussed the cookies. Everyone loved the combination and the taste. Nobody thought they were too spicy. Someone remarked, "Twenty-one year olds would love these." I agree. A second batch will include the continued use of Disaronno as well as some sliced almonds. I'll also use un-sweetened cocao. I thought the exchange of old fashioned oats for the Roman Meal package worked extremely well.
Sunday morning I had three or four cookies for first breakfast. (Check the hobbits habits in J R R Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”. I paired them with black tea. The cookies were excellent and dunked well besides. I recommend Kelly's book. The price is right. The photographs make me drool and her descriptions have us planning more savory cookie trials.