There are people I know for whom Black Friday is like a religious experience. They start out at midnight, armed with sales flyers and coupons and large mugs of coffee, determined to get their holiday shopping done, and they post Facebook updates along the way, as if on a pilgrimage. It's tradition.
Me, well ... I make cookies.
At least, I usually make cookies. Somehow, as I mentioned in my Black Forest Cake post, I'm way behind on cookie-baking this year. I've been thinking about why this might be, and decided that despite my participation in the upcoming Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, maybe it's because I don't have as many people to bake for this year, and I'm having a hard time getting motivated. I'm the kind of person who goes to the gym if I'm enrolled in a class ... you know, because if I don't show up I'd be letting the instructor down. (I realize that this is bizarre logic, but it works. Yes, I was raised with a healthy guilt complex, thank you very much.)
I started to make a list of people who might need cookies. The woman down the street with a new baby. The gluten-free piano teacher and her daughter up the block. (Do you need cookies? Why yes, yes, you do.)
In the middle of my list-making, I got an email from Mel, who mentioned that her family bakes for a shelter during the holidays. That was enough to send me over the motivational hump. Baking for other people somehow defines the season for me, and with newfound purpose, I found myself getting excited about the holidays, feeling less beleaguered by the anxiety of having to search for expensive gifts (which is something my family argues about every year, because I prefer homemade gifts with meaning); less depressed about the fact that my husband is embarking, starting today, on three weeks of business trips. So today, on a rainy, unseasonably warm, anticlimactic Tuesday, I fired up the oven.
The thing about having a food (or even a food-and-life) blog is that you feel this weird pressure to one-up yourself every year. Sure, you can make the things you've already written about, but you'd better be prepared to come up with something new and even more spectacular to post. It's almost like preseving anti-tradition.
I came across a recipe for these last year around this time, when I already had too many chocolate cookies on deck, and bookmarked it to try later. They are chewy, fudgy, decadent, and a safe bet for your gluten-free friends (though you'll have to find something else for vegans and friends with nut allergies!) and they come together in a jiffy. You could even whip them up on short notice if you find out that you're about to have company. They remind me a lot of the traditional Chocolate Crinkle cookies; a quick sprinkle of powdered sugar would make them even more festive. Most of the fat comes from the almonds, and they're full of antioxidants because of the dark chocolate. So they're practically healthy, right? Er ... right.
Tell us: what are your favorite cookies during this time of year? Do you have any holiday baking traditions?
6 oz. dark chocolate chips or chunks (preferably 60% or greater)
2 large egg whites, at room temperature (this is important!)
1/8 t. cream of tartar
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
3/4 c. almond flour (or ground blanched almonds, not roasted)
Melt 5 oz. dark chocolate in microwave at 30-second intervals on 70% power until smooth, stirring after each interval. Add the last ounce of chocolate (if you have time to chop it, do so) and stir until they're just mostly melted, so that you get very small pieces--these will turn into micro-bursts of chocolate when the cookies are baked. Set the chocolate aside to cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment (or lightly oil them if you don't have parchment on hand). Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Continue beating, adding in sugar and vanilla slowly, until mixture forms stiff peaks.
Gently fold in chocolate and almond flour until fully incorporated. Drop rounded teaspoons of batter onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving one inch between cookies.
Bake 10-12 minutes. Cookies are done when there is a light crust on the outside, but they are soft on the inside.