To Messes

chocolate cookies

I’ve always been neat and organized. I don’t enjoy cluttered spaces or coats on the floor when they could be on a hook. I’m not completely obsessive about it, but I do at least a little tidying every day. But I’ve been noticing more and more that its not just my house that I want to keep neat, I have the urge to organize and make sense of the rest of my life too.

I ponder questions of how to use my time, how to accomplish my creative goals, how to find fulfillment and some sort of balance between everything I need and want to do. I’ve realized how much I want everything to be neat and orderly, linear and logical but I am doing my best to let go and embrace the mess. It isn’t possible for me to pick up every speck or thread on the floor before Amos pinches it between his little fingers and tries to put it in his mouth (yes I do vacuum and sweep regularly). I can’t perfectly schedule my time or fit everything I do neatly into the boxes that I create in my head as I try to make sense of it all. And that is okay.

It turns out that most acts of creation start with a mess before they become what they are meant to be. A seed requires soil and water. Writing begins with a jumble of letters and words and eventually a rough draft. When I sew I end up with scraps of fabric and tangles of thread. I truly love my studio space when the floor is swept and the fabric is tucked neatly on the shelves but when I am creating I hardly notice the upheaval as I pull things off the shelves.

The kitchen is full of messes that end deliciously. Baking is thought of as precise, scientific and orderly. You add exact amounts of each ingredient at the precise time. But whether or not you measure carefully, it all gets mixed together in its own sort of chaos. Flour flies, butter sticks, egg shells break. The dough is lumpy or slumpy or a big blob, it sticks to your fingers, drips on the floor, and it rarely resembles the loaf or cookie or cake that you pull out of the oven and serve with pride.

So here is to messes. And chocolate.

Salted Chocolate Rye Cookies
Adapted from Tartine Book No. 3
I’ve been baking bread from the Tartine Bread Book and slowly exploring the pastry section of Book No. 3. These cookies are slightly crisp on the outside which yields to a soft very chocolatey middle. The dough does need at least 30 minutes to chill but they are certainly worth that extra time. They keep well for a few days in an airtight container. I cut the recipe in half and made the cookies slightly smaller and got at least 3 dozen cookies.

227 g (1 1/3 cups) bittersweet chocolate (70%), chopped
2 tablespoons (28.5 g) unsalted butter
42.5 g (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) dark rye flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
170 g (3/4 cup) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
flaky sea salt (such as Maldon) for topping

Place a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Add the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment (or use a handheld mixer). Whip on medium high speed, adding the sugar a little at a time. When all of the sugar is incorporated turn the mixer to high and whip until the eggs have nearly tripled in volume (about 5 or 6 minutes). Reduce the speed to low and add the melted chocolate and butter, mixing to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. 

Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes or until it can be scooped and rolled into smooth balls. Preheat the oven to 350′. For larger cookies measure the balls by the heaping tablespoon, for smaller ones use a heaping teaspoon. Roll the balls of dough slightly so they are smoooth on top. Sprinkle each ball with a few flakes of sea salt. Bake for 8-10 minutes until they have completely puffed up. 

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