Musical pairing – What a Fool Believes by The Doobie Brothers
I have a photograph that sits upstairs in my office where I see it every day; I think my sister and I must have been 7 and 5 maybe but it’s the only picture I have of us together as children. For years the picture was tucked away in a box somewhere, without a frame, looking forlorn and rag-tagged; it is torn and stained in places but I love that we are both dressed in matching outfits and laughing . . . and I especially love my sister’s eyes . . . how they ‘twinkle’ . . . pretty steel-blue-gray half-moons dancing on her cute little face and wavy dark-brown hair with little flipped-up ends; I still have my little skirt tucked away.
We shared a bedroom in our little house on Ankeny Street, and like her Felix Ungar to my Oscar Madison we clashed . . . often. ‘Mommm, make her clean up her half of the room’, she’d wail . . . and I tried, really I did. But my focus was on other things . . . uhm, like hanging out with my friends and I just couldn’t be bothered with neatness. She was a straight-A student while I was a C-student (that ‘hanging with friends’ thing affected my grades as well), she was tall and lanky, I was short and curvy, she had long dark-brown hair and perfect vision, I had red hair, freckles and started wearing glasses in the second grade, she was a cheerleader and dated football jocks, I played the violin, sang in the choir and hung with the ‘artistic’ crowd. My birthday is in February, her’s in April . . . April 1st . . . April Fools’ Day to be exact . . .
I suppose I inherited my dad’s orneriness which is why I thought it would be a good trick to pull. It might have been her 8th or 9th birthday and I thought it would be clever to wrap two presents – one was a ‘haha-gotcha’ kind of present that she would open first; we would all have a good laugh, yell ‘Surprise!’ and then I’d give her my ‘real’ present – something that I’d picked out just for her – it may have been a small purse but I don’t really remember now . . .
I plotted, I schemed, I giggled in the middle of the night at the shear genius of my plan – this would be an April Fools’ birthday to remember! I needed a large box – it had to be big because I wanted her to think this was a big present; and then I gathered up about 10 rocks of varying shapes and sizes. Did I want them to rattle or not rattle in the box? I wasn’t sure so I did a test-run; dumped the rocks out into the box and shook it. Yep. Sounded like a box of rocks and I knew that if my sister shook it, she would know it was a joke. But I wanted that box to make some sort of noise to pique her interest, right? So I decided to wrap a few in tissue paper and leave a few rocks unwrapped . . . it was perfect! Just enough sound to make you wonder but not enough that you’d be able to guess. And the other great thing was that the box was somewhat heavy. Heavy, big and some sound but not too much . . . my plan was coming together perfectly – I could barely contain myself, could barely sleep.
Finally April 1st arrived . . . it was breakfast and everyone was at the kitchen table except my dad, who was working; I placed both gifts on the table next to where my sister was sitting – with specific instructions on which gift to open first. She picked up the box . . . shook it, ‘good,’ I thought to myself . . . rattle, rattle, ‘good, good’ . . . puzzled look, ‘very good’ . . . she smiled and began to open . . . waiting . . . waiting . . . ‘almost there’ . . . and in that nano-second between when my sister realized that it was a box of rocks and I was about to shout ‘Surprise!’ those pretty steel-blue-gray, twinkling half-moon eyes flooded with tears and she pushed back from the table with such force, her chair flew backwards into the living room. And before I knew what was happening, she was flying downstairs to the bedroom we both shared, sobbing . . . I tried to console her but she wasn’t having any of it . . . she was heart-broken that I had tricked her on her birthday, April Fool’s day, and how all the kids at school teased her. Oh. My. Gawd. That thought had never entered my 11-year-old mind . . . I don’t think we ever talked about ‘the birthday’ again, thank God, because we were both traumatized over it. But I learned a pretty big lesson that day – how sometimes things we may find funny aren’t necessarily funny to the receiver; in fact, someone’s feelings are almost always hurt, so to this day I’m extra careful about pulling pranks.
We didn’t have birthday parties at home when we were kids, but my mom would always let us choose our birthday dinner complete with whatever dessert our heart desired. And for my sister, that would be anything chocolate: brownies, cakes, pies and chocolate-chip cookies. Her love of sweets earned her the title of ‘our dessert-maker in the family’ and I’m here to tell you, that girl can knock out some serious sweets . . . including cookies that are out-of-this world, crazy-good; I am always in awe of her cookies!
So, in honor of my sister’s birthday today, I’m sharing one of our favorite chocolate-chip cookie recipes; I’ve upped my game in the cookie-making department over the last year or so and have come up with a cookie I think she’ll love . . . and that is no April Fools’!
Happy Birthday Vicki, I’m sorry for giving you a box of rocks for your birthday all those years ago . . . I love you to the moon and back!
CHOCOLATE -CHUNK COOKIES WITH ORANGE & TOASTED PECANS
Adapted from Toll House Original Recipe
- 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (or blend of all-purpose and bread flour – see notes below)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure orange extract
- 3 Cups Dark Chocolate, chopped into chunks (at least 72%)
- 1-1/2 Cup Pecans, toasted and chopped
- Fleur de Sel for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
- Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon pads
- Whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda in a large bowl
- Place the butter in the bowl on an electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat until smooth, about 1 minute
- Add the sugars and continue mixing, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes longer
- Add the eggs, 1 at a time and the orange extract, beating until incorporated
- Add half of the flour and mix until just incorporated
- Add the remaining flour, again mixing until just combined
- Remove the bowl from the stand and fold in the chocolate chunks
- Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days
- Using a large ice cream scoop, spoon the dough onto a baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between each cookie, sprinkle with Fleur de Sel and bake on the middle rack until the cookies are lightly golden brown and still soft in the middle, about 20 minutes
- Let cookies rest for 2 minutes on the baking sheet before removing them to a baking rack with a wide metal spatula; remove to baking rack and cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough
VARIATION: Once cooled, dip half of the cookie in melted dark, semi-sweet or white chocolate and sprinkle with Fleur de Sel (like I did in a few of the photos above); let chocolate set before enjoying with a glass of cold milk or a nice Vanilla Latte!
SMITH BITES NOTES: I have made these cookies with all-purpose flour and with equal parts of all-purpose flour and bread flour and I prefer the mixture of flours. Additionally, baking the cookies at a lower temperature for a longer length of time, results in a more tender cookie. David Leite is on the money when he recommends letting the cookie dough sit for a full 72 hours before baking; the flour absorbs the moisture from the butter and eggs resulting in one of the best cookies I’ve ever tasted! I recommend you try his test and decide for yourself. And finally, we make a full recipe, bake a few right then but scoop out the rest of the dough into dough-balls, place them cookie sheets lined with parchment and freeze. Once frozen, remove dough-balls and place in a ziplock baggie, place back into the freezer; you can bake individual cookies whenever you get the hankerin’ (which could be a blessing or a curse, depending on how you look at it!) – simply add another 5 minutes (give or take) to baking time.