27 January 2008

Comfort Me with Cookies

I started a new job this week and it’s been all I can do just to get there, get back, and take care of all the moving and new house duties. One morning, I bundled myself in the warmest possible coat and headed out the door at 6:30 am, where the moon sat hovering over the Supreme Court like it was midnight not morning. The train was late, my new ID card didn’t work, and after work by the time I’d done everything in reverse and emerged out of the train station almost twelve hours later it was dark once again. I faltered: I’ll never go to the gym again. I’ll never cook again. I’ll never see the sun again. I wanted to curl up in a big arm chair and cover my head with a blanket.

But slowly, as the week went on, I realized that it’s going to be okay. I had to repeat it to myself a few times like a mantra, but it will be. I actually like my commute, the train is great, it’s just enough time to read a bit of a book, and it’s never crowded. I won’t have to get up that early forever. My job is really cool. There’s a gym in my building and I intend to make good use of it. I love my house and neighborhood. Eastern Market is only a short walk away. I also remembered when I was dancing and going to school in New York, keeping twelve hour days, and even then I always cooked for myself. Did I use canned beans instead of from scratch? Absolutely. Did I also find the time to make my own homemade bread and yogurt? You bet. And in a way, being busy makes cooking all that more special. The past few months I’ve had plenty of time to cook, read, and research to my heart’s desire, and I’ve taken full advantage of it. But now that my time is more limited, carving out that space to make something special, unusual, or just comfortingly homemade is all the more dear to me.

Everything in my life right now is new: new house, new job, new car. New to driving, new clothes, new bed, new bills. Which is why culinarily, I don’t need anything new, I need cookies. Not little dainty cookies either, big fat chock-full American style cookies. Chocolate Chunk Coconut Pecan Cookies. Don’t you feel better? I have to say, this is really one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes- it’s just got so many things going for it, big chocolate chunks, sweet bits of coconut, soft buttery insides. For you nut-haters out there, the nuts are finely chopped so you’ll barely notice them, but they really add something to the cookies, and with all the stuff in there to hold them together, you can make them super-huge size if you’re so inclined (I like mine a bit more modest). Just make sure to use good quality chocolate, last time I used chocolate that was on the bitter edge of bittersweet, and since it’s in big lovely chunks, you can really taste the difference.

I’ll be tucking a few cookies in my bag this week, and I’m sure my commute’s going to be a lot better.

Chocolate Chunk Coconut Pecan (ChoCoPe) Cookies
It's like the NoLiTa of cookies (or is it TriBeCa?)! Eitherway, this variation on chocolate chip cookies is delicious. If coconut isn’t to your taste I imagine you could try substituting oats for the coconut. Makes 16-20 cookies.

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
14 tablespoons (7 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
8 oz good quality chocolate, cut into chunks
3/4 cup flaked coconut, roughly chopped
1 cup pecans, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl), cream together the butter and sugars until the mixture is smooth, fluffy, and pale in color about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and mix to encorporate, then add the vanilla extract. Gently fold the flour mixture into the batter in two additions. Fold in the chocolate, coconut, and pecans. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 an hour and up to 4 days.
3. Scoop hunks of dough into fat, 2-inch balls. Place dough 2 inches apart on baking sheets. (Store any extra dough in the refrigerator while the first batch bakes) Bake cookies for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges and slightly soft in the center. When done, slide the sheet of parchment paper and its cookies onto a countertop, cutting board, or cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining chilled dough.


glamah16 said...

I have been trying to not give in to the tempatation of making cookies this weekend.These look so good right now.

queencake and titangirl said...

dear mercedes,

the cookies look great and the first weeks with a new-everything ( be it job,town, etc) are always the hardest, then one day you wake up and feel all at home and then it´s okay. i always enjoy reading your posts and admiring the photos and i wish you well, i wish you everything you hope for and dream of and all the best for all the new things.
greetings from faraway berlin,anja

Brilynn said...

Cookies make everything better!

Hope things continue to improve with these sweet bites.

JEP said...

Mmm...I love the idea of the coconut addition!

Alejandra Ramos said...

I completely understand what you mean about carving out the time to cook. I actually have been feeling that way lately and when i think about it, it seems as if I'm cooking even MORE than I used to now that I'm so busy. Sure, I don't get much sleep, but then again, I've always been a bit nocturnal, but there is just something so satisfying about sitting down to a lovely homecooked meal after a long, taxing day. (Even if it does involved opening up a can of beans every now and then...)

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

I like the coconut bit and I live in Coconut Country (Kerala, India).

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Big fat cookies are the answer to everything! Just found your blog - love it...

T. said...

I completely agree that one can find and should find the time to cook even in the busiest of schedules....it is what grounds us, that connection to the physical preparation of food, not just the consumption of it! (Although consuming is its own reward.)
Your pre-recipe commentary reminds me of the cookbooks of the venerable James Beard, especially "American Cookery." Chatty, informative, fun!

Anonymous said...

Oh, transitions are rough, aren't they? Thank goodness for good old-fashioned comfort foods. Those cookies look amazing - I almost wish I had a few scary new things happening here so I'd have an excuse to whip some up!

And you're so right - sometimes being creative within limits is the most satisfying thing of all.

Quinne said...

Hi Mercedes :)Wow! New everything in your world right now... You have beem in my thoughts and prayers, and I am glad to know you are well.

These look and sound scrumptious! My sweeties are, of course cookie lovers (at 6 and almost 2). I may try them with raisins :) Love to you! Q

Dori said...

These cookies are perfect! I have to try these :)

Laura Paterson said...

I have only recently found your blog, and I have just spent my whole lunch hour reading through the archives!
I just wanted to wish you all the best in this next phase of you life, and to let you know I am looking forward to reading much more!!
- Kittie

Joy said...

Yum. These look gorgeous. Good luck with your new job; there's nothing like a comforting cookie to calm things down.

Christy said...

I've been there recently where everythign is new all at the same time...not exactly lots of fun all the time.

Enjoy those cookies!

Astra Libris said...

Congratulations on the move! Thank you so much for sharing the incredible cookie recipe with us. I have some leftover coconut in my pantry, and I think your recipe is just the thing...
I know I am relatively new to your blog, but still I hope I may be allowed to humbly send warm, heartfelt wishes for wonderful adventures in your new city. May joy come to you in abundance!

Anonymous said...

No matter what anyone says, there can never be too many pictures of homemade cookies! Thanks :)

suzanneelizabeths.com said...

Of course, I want to make these cookies immediately, they look not only comforting, but incredibly declicious! I love the combination of pecans and chocolate.

What I really enjoyed was the essay that preceeded it. I want to offer my congrats on the new life you have embarked upon, it sounds like a great adventure. I look forward to reading more about it in the future.

Alexander Santillanes said...

Those look amazing. I'm rather tempted to go make them right now... -X

Andrea said...

Your cookies look great! Welcome to DC!

Patricia Scarpin said...

I'm bookmarking these, Mercedes - right now!

I'm always looking for new cookie recipes to try and this is a winner, I'm sure.