(This post is part of a Holiday Recipe Swap: come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats, sponsored by Scharffen Berger!)
This time of year in the U.S., it seems everyone starts being thankful. On my Facebook friend list, a number of people posted a "gratitude a day" during the month of November. On the one hand, I like the renewal of appreciation for things we take for granted, but on the other hand, it can get a little tiresome and trite-sounding. I love it when kids answer this question, because they say things like "cheese" or "my blanket." Adults say things like "family" and "friends," which is lovely, but really, what's not to like about cheese?
Me, I'm thankful for chocolate. Chocolate and hot air balloons, which fly over near our house with some regularity (I happened to see some yesterday, so they were on my mind when the question was posed. Asked why I'm thankful for them, I said something silly like "because they're uplifting ... in a manner of speaking").
On a more serious note, of course, I'm thankful for my son (who, in truth, makes me laugh more often than he frustrates me) and husband (who puts up with me), for friends (who are my "adopted family"), for the blogging and commenting community, and for the people who remind me that my contribution to the world so far has been of value. Sure, it made my week when, the other day, a former student came with her entire high school class, to introduce them to "the dean who changed my life." But I'm not just defined by who I am at work, or by any other single dimension of my identity. The connections I've made are important perspective, as I'm trying to figure out what comes next for me, along with a new addition to our family.
The other day, during an online conversation about the bad coffee shop options near our home, a woman I know in passing from a charter school founders' board in our area (who runs a healthy/organic catering business from her kitchen, on the side) asked me if I'd be interested in opening a cafe with her. I'd mentioned to her at one point that I'd like to do something like that, and it turns out that she's now in a position to seriously consider a small place that deals in fair trade coffees and teas and in baked goods, and wants to know if I'm on board ... and if so, when we can start putting a plan together. As I mentioned to a good friend, the idea is simultaneously attractive and completely daunting. It would be a lot less risky to enroll in yoga teacher training next year ... that's for sure. Or to simply appreciate chocolate. But maybe ...
These are not vegan, and they're not even remotely good for you. (Apologies this time around to my gluten-free, sugar conscious, and otherwise-restricted readers.) But ah, the endorphins ... these are a standard on my Christmas cookie plate. I hope you enjoy them, too.
Chocolate Toffee Cookies (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 lb. good quality bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate (like Scharffen Berger!), chopped or chips
1/4 c. unsalted butter
1 3/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
1 T. vanilla extract
5 1.4-ounce Heath bars (or other similar chocolate covered toffee bars), coarsely chopped
1 c. walnuts, toasted, chopped
Sea salt for sprinkling (optional)
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl; whisk to blend. Stir chocolate and butter in top of double boiler set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Cool mixture to lukewarm.
Using electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs in bowl until thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla.
Stir in flour mixture, then toffee and nuts. Roll the dough into a log 1.5 inches in diameter and chill for at least 1 hour.*
When you are ready to bake the cookies, Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Cut the log into 1/2-inch slices as the oven preheats. Place sliced cookies two inches apart on a lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with a pinch of flaky sea salt, if you’re using it. Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)
Resist the temptation to eat these immediately when you remove them from the oven; they really taste a lot better when they're cool, since they continue to bake after they emerge.
*You can store the dough log in the freezer, wrapped in waxed paper and then two layers of plastic wrap for up to a month, just baking the cookies off as you need. Cookies baked straight from the freezer may need an additional minute or two in the oven, depending on their thickness.