I am currently reading “A Shadow in the Wind” by Carlos Ruis Zafon and I’m helplessly in love with it. It’s about a boy who finds the only remaining copy of a book by accident (all the other copies have been purposefully destroyed) and is plunged into a whirlwind of events with romance, murder, revenge, and the whole shebang. It had me at “romance and murder”. Those are my two favorite topics in a book and when they dance together with gorgeous words, my heart flies away and I fall asleep with the book under my pillow.
Even when I woke up at 4:15 AM on Saturday to go to work at 5 AM, I still stayed awake till 11:45 that night reading it (without taking a nap during the day). I wilt a little when I see how fast I’m moving through the pages and don’t want to think about how close I am to finishing the magic of Zafon’s words. It’s like a summer romance.
According to that simile, I am engaged in several love affairs right now. One with F. Scott Fitzgerald (who I am nearly finished with), another with Daphne Du Maurier (we have a longer way to go), and now with Zafon’s bestselling novel. I have a half-hearted romance with Karen Rose’s mind-boggling thrillers because they simply aren’t as beautiful as the other works I’m reading.
Books, food, piano, and this blog. I think I would lose my sanity during these busy days if I didn’t have these to soothe me. My days are filled from morning to evening with volunteering for my college’s start-of-school events, back-to-school festivities, research, work, and football games. And if I can find some consolation at the end of the day, it would be with my favorite de-stressers.
You probably have no idea what a big deal my college makes about going back to school. (I’m being a hypocrite for saying this since I’m also making a pretty big deal about it.) The start-of-school events that I’m volunteering for range from midnight carnivals to a concert with Relient K, This Providence, and The Scene Aesthetic on campus! Days on end of rallying spirits for the start of a brand new school year and getting home thoroughly exhausted.
When your cheeks are sore from smiling and your legs withering from standing for 7 hours straight, the perfect thing to do is bake something easy–a recipe that requires little or no handiwork.
One of these are slice-and-bake chocolate cookies.
Slice-And-Bake Chocolate Cookies (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes about 50 cookies
2 sticks (8 ounces; 230 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup of cocoa powder
Optional: 1 bag of Hershey’s Kisses (Any type okay)
1. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until it is smooth. Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky. Beat in the egg yolks, followed by the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour and cocoa powder, beating just until it disappears. It is better to underbeat than overbeat at this point; if the flour isn’t fully incorporated, that’s okay just blend in whatever remaining flour needs blending with a rubber spatula. Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
2. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 1/4 inches (2.5 to 3.2 cm) thick. (Get the thickness right, and the length you end up with will be fine.) Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 2 hours-overnight. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. While the oven is preheating, roll cookie logs in any coatings of your choice (I chose sprinkles and sugar). Then, using a sharp slender knife, slice each log into cookies about 1/3 inch (10 mm) thick. (You can make the cookies thicker if you’d like; just bake them longer.) Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) space between them.
5. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.
6. Optional: Press unwrapped Hershey’s Kisses gently into the top of the hot cookies and let set.
As you can probably tell from my pictures, I varied a great deal when it came to decorating the plain cookies. I used a total of 4 different types of sprinkles (red,white,blue, then blue only, then colorful, then colorful nonpareil sprinkles) and organic cane sugar on the cookies that I pressed Almond Kisses into. That explains the “sampler” part. I wasn’t quite sure which would be more aesthetically pleasing so I experimented. I suppose the Kisses cookies were more of a hit because, seriously, who doesn’t want a crumbly chocolate cookie topped with a slightly gooey Kiss?
I made these for a picnic/potluck welcoming new students and I made it my goal to learn at least 10 names of the new students today. I procrastinated on that last year and was embarrassed when I mixed up names. Let’s see if I can count them off: K–, Y–, S–, W–, E–, J–, I–, M–, A–, F–. Yes! And I didn’t even have to repeat letters. I think I can name a couple more…Z– and Z–.
It’s strange looking at new students and remembering myself in the same position. I walked in to this picnic 2 years ago, arms hooked on my parents’, hoping that the other new students wouldn’t scare me. Lucky for me, none of them did. Talking kicked off with ease and soon we were exclaiming in response to each other “I know! And one time__happened to me, too!” Now a new generation of students are following the same pattern and forming friendships as quickly as dry tea leaves expand in hot water.
So here’s to a new school year and the Autumn Equinox. Happy Autumn, everyone.