When you are going through childhood, you assume your reality is everyone’s reality. Moms erect gingerbread houses with soup cans at Christmas time so you can load the roof up with icing and Frosted Mini Wheat shingles. Dads make waffles on Saturday mornings and sing really loudly in the car. Every Sunday, the kids are obnoxious and mouthy about going to church until Mom yells, “GET in the goddamn CAR! And you made me take the Lord’s name in vain on the way to church!” No? Just us? Alright, then.
And then there are your siblings. Or, in my case, my younger sister. I assumed everyone with a sister realized they had a built-in best friend and playmate for life. What could be easier? I remained naïve until third grade, when I was walking in line behind one of my classmates. He greeted his passing older brother by saying, “Hey, retard.” Astonished, I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, the R-word. And, that wasn’t nice to say to his brother.” I know, I was Bambi.
(This same boy would later ruin the illusion of Santa Claus for me. I cried. A lot. But now is not the time to get into the sob stories of senior high school.) Let’s just say, some jackasses are born, some are made. This kid was both.
The concept of sibling cruelty was completely lost on me. Not to get too Hallmark Christmas Channel on you, but for the most part, my sister and I were completely happy companions. Different but very compatible, each other’s best audience, and in constant pursuit of making one another incontinent with laughter.
One of my favorite games to play with Sister was Hadley’s Restaurant. Sister didn’t care much about food, but enjoyed watching TV and being served. I would seat her at the kitchen table, and with my tablet and pen necklace, take her lunch order. The 8-year old would have her usual: a peanut butter sandwich on white bread, tortilla chips, Gushers, a Capri-Sun. I would happily prepare the plate, prepare my own plate, and serve the lunch. In what would become our classic dynamic, she would eat half her lunch, get bored, and leave the table. I, on the other hand, never left food on my plate and was sad when I finished my sandwich.
Now, we are both adults and these fundamental food philosophies still exist: I live to eat, and Sister eats to live. And, maybe I should have bitched less about going to church, because the Good Lord has afflicted me with the stretch marks that come from handling a bag f Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. Sister eats Chipotle burritos like the Coneheads eat grinders, and is asking the salesgirl, “Do you have this in a 2?” Infuriating and a therapist’s fodder, I know.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Chipotle burritos. This food example encapsulates my and Sister’s food preferences to a ‘T.’ And, describes what I believe are the two camps of basic taste preference: Camp Sweet and Camp Salty. If you don’t know where to fly your flag, we can play a game. It’s the DUFF version of the sexy college game Would You Rather? Otherwise known as:
Would You Rather Eat?
For breakfast: a ham & cheese omelet OR chocolate chip pancakes.
For snack: chips and guacamole OR greek yogurt with granola
For dessert: a beer OR a Frosty
If you are washing down your eggs and guacamole with a Corona, you are sitting in Camp Salty. If you are housing a gigantic stack of pancakes, but still feel the need for that Frosty later today, waddle on over to Camp Sweet.
Of course, we all want to eat all of the things. Depending on the lunar cycle, the monthly cycle, what pants you are wearing, etc. That’s not the point. The point is: inherent taste preference is binary and goes one of two ways. Case in point, when Sister and I finish a lunch date and decide to walk it off by going to lululemon, without fail, the conversation goes like this:
Sis: You know what I could go for right now?
H: Sour patch kids?
H: You know what I could go for right now?
S: A chocolate chip cookie?
Re-route to lululemon via CVS and we’re good to go.
It’s true, Sister and I may sit in different taste camps. Let alone, we sit in different camps when it comes to style, hobbies, aggravations, coffee, and most other things. And, on a daily basis, we see different oceans. But, I can easily say: nothing is better than when we are together, and everything is better when we are together. Our synergy makes the punch line funnier, the storytelling more magical, and the hours fleeting.
If I had to a pick a cookie mascot, one that best represents Sister and me (and I should because this is in fact a food blog), there is but one choice:
Salted Chocolate Shortbread
I salivate as type the words. This cookie is unexpected, unusual, and delightful. The texture is divine, and the sweet-salty combination will knock your slippers off. (Are you not wearing slippers? There’s your first problem). This cookie is where the campers from Sweet and Salty have their end-of-the-summer inter-camp mixer and they end up playing spin-the-bottle. Everybody wins.
So, the Salted Chocolate Shortbread gets the honor of being associated with Sister. And, she gets the honor of being associated with a cookie worthy of your attention. Therefore, she will now lovingly be referred to as: Sister Shortbread
Salted Chocolate Shortbread
What You’ll Need
A hot oven (325° F)
11 Tbsp salted butter (room temperature)
2/3 C brown sugar
¼ C White sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
1 ¼ C all-purpose flour
1/3 C unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
What You’ll Do
- Mix together the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder; set aside.
- Beat the butter until it is soft and creamy.
- Add brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat for 2 minutes.
- Turn off the mixer and add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture.
- Pulse the mixer 5 times: 1-2 seconds each time. Follow-up with beating the dough for 30 seconds on low speed. The dough will be crumbly.
- Pour out the dough on a clean and dry working surface. Separate the dough into halves and roll out into two logs
- Cheese, M.D. offered this insight: “That looks like a giant turd.” If your log looks like a turd, you are doing it right.
- I aim for logs about the diameter of a poker chip.
- Wrap your dough logs in plastic wrap and freeze for at least one hour. Again, longer chill is better, but this is the speedy version.
- The fact that the logs have to be chilled is not actually important to the cookie itself. It just makes it a lot easier for the baker to handle and cut the shortbread.
- After an hour, or when you have semi-solid to solid chocolate logs, remove from the freezer, and remove the plastic wrap. Cut your cookies to be a half-inch thick and place them on the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
- I normally am too aloof to ascribe to these fussy details, but I ruined a batch of these cookies because I cut them way too thin and they got singed. Just remind yourself what an actual half-inch looks like, and err on the thick side when you cut.
- Arrange your cookies 3×4 on a standard cookie sheet and give them each room to expand as they bake. Sprinkle with salt.
- Again, it is not like me to fuss over these annoying details. I like to pack my cookies close together. But these shortbread spread out quite a bit. The aforementioned ruined recipe was not only burned, but all touching each other.
- I give my shortbread a little three-finger Mockingjay “love press” before meagerly salting each of them.
- 12 minutes on the middle rack of the hot oven.
- Middle rack? Spread out? Certain thickness? I know. So high maintenance. Ain’t nobody got time for that. But, you actually do have time for it. Because, these cookies are a taste and texture dream come true. And, I promise, this is the most “Kardashian” I go in terms high maintenance recipes. Because they are so worth it. The cookies. Not that band of plasticized misfits. Ain’t NOBODY got time for that.
- When they come out, the cookies won’t look done. Trust, they are.
- I like to slide my entire sheet of parchment paper onto the cooling racks. I have demolished plenty of hot cookies in failed attempts at transfers. This way, the cookies don’t continue to cook on a hot cookie sheet, and can cool without risk for destruction. Try, and be amazed.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days, but good luck making them last the night.
Happy diabetic coma.