Living far away from my family, I cling to the happy memories of my childhood. Growing up in an Italian household, many meaningful moments were surrounded around food. More than the holiday meals, with which we call gathered in the dining room eating on the fancy dishes, the simple times spent in the kitchen meant the most.
With all the food that passed through our kitchen, desserts were a rarity. Luckily, every once in a while, I accompanied my mom to the local bakery where I would eagerly peer into the display case, trying not to press my nose so hard as to leave an imprint. Bypassing the cakes, my eyes immediately went to the Cherry Marzipan Cookies, Molasses Crisps, Butter Almond Cookies, Amaretti Pinenut Cookies, and Sfogliatelle, a flakey shell shaped filled pastry. Oddly enough, of all the cookies at my disposal, the simple Chocolate Drop Cookies were always my preference. A favorite of mom and mine, resisting the temptation was never a consideration. Mom and I couldn’t get home fast enough. In fact, watching the counter girl place the cookies in the white paper bag was like surveying a replay in slow motion, complete with warped slo-mo voices.
Happily, I wouldn't have to wait until dinner because there would always be an mysteriously extra cookie in the bag. Come to find out, that cookie was for mom and me to share throughout the afternoon. Piece by piece the soft crunch of the cookie would disappear from around the chocolate drop center. The chocolatey center would be my mother’s guilty pleasure during the latter part of the evening, when we all retired to our bedrooms.
Since moving to the south, I have not been able to find a Chocolate Drop Cookie replacement that comes close to the cookie of my childhood. So, it has been my mission to recreate a copycat recipe in my kitchen. I have been hard pressed to achieve the same soft-crunch with the balance of a sweet taste that leads my mouth to salivate. Pulling off the perfect flavor/texture symmetry continues to escape me. Nonetheless, I am pleased with my latest attempt. This recipe includes of sour cream, which helps to develop the texture of the cookies. They are a bit chewier and soft, almost cake-like. However, the edges are crisp, creating a kaleidoscope of textures on the palate.
What are the favorite foods of your childhood? Do you try to recreate those moments and memories?
Chocolate Drop Cookies
4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. boiling water
1 tsp. almond extract
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
dark chocolate ganache (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Greased/line 4 cookie sheets.
In large mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs, then water, almond extract and sour cream in large bowl. Gradually blend in flour mixture. Using a medium-sized scoop (about 2 oz), scoop dollops onto cookie sheets. Lightly flatten the cookies*. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown at the edge. Cool completely on a wire rack. When cooled, top with ganache. Apply ganache with a small spoon or a piping bag with a small hole. Yield about 4-5 dozen. Store up to 3 days in an air-tight container.
* To flatten cookies, either (a) moisten fingers with water and press lightly or (b) spray the flat bottom of a glass or ramekin with canola spray and press lightly.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
½ cup heavy cream
9 oz bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate, chopped coarsely
Place chocolate and cream in a double boiler, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir gently until chocolate is melted and the mixture becomes smooth and glossy. Allow the ganache to cool until a thick, but spreadable consistency. Yields 1 cup.