Romantics make unconventional bakers. I want my kitchen full of magic, full of spontaneous last minute ingredients. A pinch here, a pinch there. I don’t need the certainty of the same result every time. For every failure, I’ll have a surprise success. Every time slick egg whites whip up into perfect peaks, I am dazzled by their transformation. Stiff egg whites are pure magic.
Last summer I took a weeklong class at the French Pastry School. I loved every minute of my time there, soaking up knowledge and taking my baking to a whole new level. We delved deep into the science of baking, often using substances that were closer to what I used in high school science than anything in my pantry. I filled a notebook with cryptic notes about chemical reactions, specific temperatures, and precise measurements. We weighed every ingredient, including eggs. Nothing was left to chance. Our recipes were long on perfection and short on magic.
I want to give my children to bask in the magic of the kitchen, and to enjoy the same freedom to experiment and make their own mistakes. I want them to think of recipes as a starting point, a springboard for their creativity. At snacktime, I give them plain cookie dough as a delicious canvas to make their own. Each child gets a small bowl of cookie dough to work with. They can add anything to it that lies in our pantry from Nutella to dried fruit, shape the dough anyway they want, and in the end, if they choose, they can eat their creation.
During a recent cookie canvas experiment, I whipped up my own creation: Midnight Cherry Cookies. They were rich, dark, and mysterious, studded with large chunks of bittersweet chocolate and dried bing cherries. Once we tasted them, we knew we had to add them to the regular cookie roster. These midnight cherry cookies were an experiment destined to become a tradition.
- 2¼ cups of all-purpose flour
- ¾ cups of brown sugar
- ¾ cups of granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 10 tablespoons of butter
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- ⅓ cups of cocoa powder
- ¾ cups of dried bing cherries
- ¾ cups of large chunks of bittersweet chocolate
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cream together the butter and the sugars until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs and the vanilla extract, beat until back to being fluffy and fully mixed in.
- In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa powder, flour, salt, and baking soda. Fold it into the butter mixture until just mixed. Do not overmix as this will make the cookies tough.
- With a wooden spoon, mix in the chocolate and cherries.
- Spoon onto a silpat into equivalent lumps to your liking. I like my cookies to be about 2 tablespoons of dough each.
- Cook for 9-11 minutes. Serve hot, as hot as you can bear to handle with your fingers, with a tall glass of cold milk.