When I was young, my family had a wonderful Christmastime tradition of going out to dinner at a fancy restaurant. It was our once-a-year chance to don our best clothes/play dress up and feel celebratory, fancy, carefree while eating really good food. We always ate well at home—both of my parents are great cooks—but we didn’t go out to places like this on a typical day of the year. But for the holidays, we went to places my dad dined for work functions, or we drove out of the way to find something new and exciting he’d heard about. I looked forward to it every year.
After one delicious meal that I don’t recall with any specificity, we received the dessert menu—definitely part of the equation during a celebratory dinner. This was in my intense sweet tooth phase, when I was quick to choose rich chocolate cakes and the like. In this case, I ordered the mousse. I’m not sure I knew what mousse was, exactly, but I was intrigued; the mention of chocolate drew me in. I still remember how it appeared on the white plate, the individual egg-shaped mounds of white, milk and dark chocolate mousse surrounded by swirls of fruit-flavored syrups. It was exquisite. In those years, I was one to gobble down desserts in no time, but with this, I savored every bite.
Last week, I was lucky enough to meet Alexandra of the chocolate company gâté comme des filles. Chocolate maker extraordinaire, and only thirty(!), she recently brought her company to the Bay Area from Paris, and she’s selling through Good Eggs. Her chocolates are gorgeous and elegant, made with carefully chosen ingredients and decorated precisely to match. But it’s not just the chocolates that are so wonderful. It’s also Alexandra. She’s special, among those rare people who have perfected a complicated craft but make the whole thing seem effortless. And she loves chocolate, with a sort of quiet but unabashed enthusiasm. While discussing our favorite types of chocolate, she told me she cried when she tried Fortunato No. 4. In choosing the name of her company, she explained, she was trying to convey something about how we should spoil and treat ourselves.
I’ve strayed, I think, from reveling that way, guiltlessly, in a bit of decadence. It’s easy for me to start policing and judging what’s on my plate, when all I really want is to eat wholesomely, and well. There’s something powerful in shunning what society might say (about juice cleanses and thinness and abstaining, etc.), believing instead that we’re worth being treated.
These cookies are just the right thing for the task at hand because they’re a simple way to put dessert on the table, even when there are a few dietary restrictions in the mix. For my recent birthday gathering, I needed something free of gluten and dairy so that all of my friends could eat. This recipe fits the bill!
Life is hard, so let’s be kind to ourselves. We all deserve to be spoiled every now and again.
From Bon Appétit, January 2014
Makes about 2 dozen
These cookies are chewy, light and simple to make. What could be better than that?
3 cups gluten-free powdered sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips (or a 4-oz. bar, chopped)
3 tablespoons cacao nibs
Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk in egg whites and egg, then fold in chocolate and cacao nibs.
Spoon batter by the tablespoonful onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.
Bake, rotating the pans once, until the cookies are puffed, cracked and set just around the edges, 14 to 16 minutes.
Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and allow the cookies to cool on the pan. They will firm up as they cool.