One morning, not so long after I started at the restaurant, I got bored and so, instead of mixing the chocolate batter with ground almonds, I used pecans; instead of whiskey, I used Armagnac; and instead of raisins, I used the funny fruit, prunes; and, maybe worst of all, I never mentioned the swaps to anyone. I can only imagine how surprised the regulars were when they discovered prunes in their beloved cake! That afternoon, the owner of the restaurant called me into her office, told me she thought my cake had been great and then, despite having liked my Playing Around rendition, fired me on grounds of “creative subordination”! It was a tough blow, but at least she called me creative.
As I wrote in Baking, I lost my job, but got a good recipe.
Actually, the other recipe I had to make, the cookie recipe, was also a great one. Originally called Mulattoes, the recipe for the cookies came from the wonderful Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts. And, just as I still loved the chocolate cake after having had to make it over and over again, I never lost my affection for these cookies even though I had to make 100 of them every morning. In fact, I loved them so much that I put a version of them in Baking, where they’re called Chocolate Chunkers (page 70).
As you can see, the Chunkers live up to their name. They’ve got four kinds of chocolate, unsweetened, semisweet, bittersweet and milk or white, as well as cocoa powder, nuts and raisins or bits of apricots. Mix up a batch and you’ll see that you’ve got more add-ins than dough. Of course, you can play around with these. You can add different kinds of chips, fold in different kinds of nuts, add a pinch of cinnamon or a tad of grated nutmeg and take whatever cookies you can snatch from the kids and mix them into some ice cream, storebought or home-churned.
Here’s the best part: you can be as creative or as insubordinate as you’d like, and you won’t get fired!
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 cup store-bought chocolate chips or chunks
6 ounces premium-quality milk or white chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 cup store-bought chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped nuts, preferably salted peanuts or toasted pecans
1 cup moist, plump raisins or finely chopped moist, plump dried apricots
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.
Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the butter, bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate and heat, stirring occasionally, just until melted — the chocolate and butter should be smooth and shiny but not so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the heat and set it on the counter to cool.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until they are pale and foamy. Beat in the vanilla extract, then scrape down the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the melted butter and chocolate, mixing only until incorporated. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl, then, on low speed, add the dry ingredients. Mix just until the dry ingredients disappear into the dough, which will be thick, smooth and shiny. Scrape down the bowl and, using the rubber spatula, mix in the semisweet and milk (or white) chocolate chunks, nuts and raisins — you’ll have more crunchies than dough at this point.
Drop the dough by generously heaping tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about an inch of space between the mounds of dough.
Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 10 to 12 minutes. The tops of the cookies will look a little dry but the interiors should still be soft. Remove the baking sheet and carefully, using a broad metal spatula, lift the cookies onto a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.
Repeat with the remaining dough, baking only one sheet of cookies at a time and making sure to cool the baking sheets between batches.
If, when the cookies are cooled, the chocolate is still gooey and you’d like it to be a bit firmer, just pop the cookies into the fridge for about 10 minutes.
PS. The cookies in the picture were made by scooping out about 2 tablespoonfuls of the dough and flattening the mounds of dough slightly.