In an earlier post, I confessed that I have become addicted to a Victorian serial drama called Lark Rise to Candleford. There are those in my family who would (do) make fun of me for this. But there are more (admittedly, all members of AARP) who will ask to borrow the DVD when I'm done. I like to think I'm an old soul. My brother and sister would probably use a different word.
At any rate, I have picked up a new expression from this adorable program: "My one weakness." The main character, Dorcas (yes, that is really her name), excuses all kinds of little indulgences with these words--things like a slice of rum cake or an afternoon nap. Hardly shocking behavior, you say? Well, yes, but these things were a big deal in Victorian times! People didn't just laze around in their flip-flops eating ice cream sandwiches back in those days.
Although I do sometimes wish I could put on one of those wonderful floor-length dresses and stroll the sidewalk twirling my parasol, I'm glad that I am living in twenty-first century America--in large part because I do wear flip-flops most of the time. And because we are more forgiving of our friends and neighbors now than they were back then.
But a little of that old-fashioned moral rectitude still gets in the way when I start poking into the cookie box around four o'clock in the afternoon. I know I should hold firm, wait until after dinner, or until Friday night, or my birthday. But I want a cookie now.
This is where "my one weakness" comes in handy. In those moments when you are feeling a little bit guilty, it instantly paves the way. It's a very useful phrase in that it both acknowledges and validates the indulgence. We are allowed a weakness, it tells us. We should own up to it and embrace it. I recommend saying it out loud, even if you are alone. And then you smile charmingly and dig in.
I like my cookies hearty. My favorites have strong flavors, chewy texture, and at least one healthy ingredient (molasses, oats, dried fruit) to help me justify eating more than I should (another good strategy for combating rectitude). I could take or leave a flimsy white cookie. I want to eat my sweets mindfully, to savor them. And that's what these babies demand.
So let me introduce you to one of my favorite weaknesses. I think you will find that the indulgence is well worth it. And if your conscience gives you any trouble at all, just straighten up, hold your head high, and intone, as Dorcas so winningly does, "My one weakness."
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce
If you keep up with the popular food blogs, as I do, then you might have seen this recipe or heard of its author before. If not, then I am excited to be able to share it with you. It comes from a new cookbook by Kim Boyce, who began experimenting with whole grains when her kids were small and she wanted to feed them the healthiest food possible. What she discovered is that whole grain flours have interesting, delicious flavors and textures of their own, a fact we sometimes overlook because we are so focused on their status as health food. I have made the recipe quite a few times now, and I have tried different things each time. You'll notice that it calls for the cookies to be quite large. I think that they do indeed come out best (chewiest) this way, but for smaller, slightly cakier cookies, try scooping out rounded tablespoons of batter. You'll, of course, get more this way as well. The cookies are saltier than chocolate chip cookies usually tend to be, and I think they're quite good this way. That said, I always go a little shy of the recommended amount. Last, I added in chopped dried cherries one time and quite liked the way they complemented the flavors of the chocolate and whole wheat. You might try this or add in something else that strikes your fancy--coconut, almonds, cinnamon, orange zest...the possibilities are endless.
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
scant 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 sticks (8 oz.) cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup white sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and position your oven racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift the first four ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and then tip into your bowl any particles left behind in the sifter. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or with your hands, cream the butter and sugars until well combined, about two minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition, and then add the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and stir until well blended. Add the chocolate last, finishing the mixing with your hands if needed. Scoop out three tablespoons of dough and drop it onto the cookie sheet, spacing each mound several inches apart. Bake for 16 to 2o minutes. Remove to a rack to cool.