Settling in

Jamaica Plain is beginning to feel like home. It’s a long process that has included too many trips to IKEA, 4 hours waiting in a depressing strip mall at the registry of motor vehicles, and a constant fear that I’m going to surpass my monthly data allowance since we still don’t have internet. Then, just as the apartment was starting to feel neat and organized, the truck carrying Mr. R’s Chicago apartment arrived and threw me back into a frenzy of boxes, half assembled furniture, and too much glassware.

Not everything about moving is a hassle though. I’m having fun stocking my pantry with new baking supplies, stocking my freezer with pints of homemade marinara sauce, and getting to know our new neighborhood. Everyone I’ve met in Jamaica Plain has been eclectic, friendly, and chatty in a way that feels more like Madison and the Midwest than the cold shoulder stereotype of the East Coast.

Once the clutter of boxes and Mr. R’s work schedule finally settle down, we are looking forward to finally having space to have guests; and in anticipation, I’ve been stashing rolls of cookie dough next to the pints of pasta sauce in the freezer. I made a resolution a few months ago that I’d be that person; that person you want to visit because you know there will be a plate of freshly baked cookies waiting for you. The best way to make sure every guest, even a last minute guest, gets fresh cookies is to have dough ready in the freezer; and the best dough to keep in the freezer is the kind that lets you slice off as many cookies as you want each time. Maybe it sounds a bit too Martha, but I don’t take an opportunity to ply people with baked goods lightly. I promise the rest of the apartment would not make you gag from neatness.

P.S.: The following is what happens when you are trying to take pictures of cookies and milk on the floor. These cookies (or at least the milk) are Mr. F approved!

Chocolate Icebox Cookies
(adapted from Slice & Bake Cookies by Elinor Klivans, 2013)
These cookies combine cocoa powder, sweet caramel-y chocolate, and a good dose of salt for a flavor that is unexpected, intriguing, and will have you reaching for more. Icebox cookies are convenient to have on hand for unexpected guests. They are infinitely adaptable, the dough freezes well, and you can slice off just as many cookies as you need. Well wrapped, the dough will keep frozen for 2-3 months. I will keep a couple kinds on hand at all times to have a little variety on my cookie plate. If you’re planning ahead, theses cookies are great for the hectic holiday baking season too!
1 1/2 Sticks softened butter
1/2 Cup vanilla sugar
1/2 Cup granulated sugar (or 1 Cup if you don’t have vanilla sugar)
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 Cup flour
1/3 Cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp espresso powder (divided)
1/2 Cup chopped Valrhona Blonde and Caramelia chocolate
coarse sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt

Beat together the butter and 1 cup sugar until incorporated (not fluffy and light) on a low speed. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and combine. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, salt, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients into the butter and mix just until combined. Mix in the chopped chocolate.

On a flat surface, lay out a a wide sheet of plastic wrap. Sprinkle coarse sugar heavily in the center of the wrap (about a single layer of sugar). Sprinkle 1/2 tsp espresso powder and 1/2 tsp sea salt over the sugar.

Shape 1/2 of the dough into a log about 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter in your hands. Place the log onto the sugar and roll in the sugar to smooth the log and coat the outside evenly in the sugar. When all the sugar is stuck to the dough, wrap the log in the plastic wrap. Wrap the dough again in foil or in a second layer of plastic and store in a ziploc bag. Repeat with the rest of the dough. If baking immediately, freeze dough for 30 minutes. If saving for later, freeze for 2-3 months.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. If dough has been frozen a long time, letting it sit for 15-20 minutes will make it easier to cut. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/4 inch slices. Rotate the log 1/4 turn each time to prevent flat edges. Line the slices up on a cookie sheet with 1.5 cookie widths in between. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until done (the middle should feel firm). Move cookies immediately to a wire rack to cool.


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