[A California poppy in Morocco, March 2014.]
Dear March, come in!
How glad I am!
I looked for you before.
Put down your hat-
You must have walked-
How out of breath you are!
Dear March, how are you?
And the rest?
Did you leave Nature well?
Oh, March, come right upstairs with me,
I have so much to tell.
[Chard, or maybe spinach?, March 2014.]
I love to post this poem in March — it is so … March-y. So full of vim and energy and a feeling of spring. For March is the changeling month: in the States the clocks leap forward an hour and there is more light in the day, the first day of spring is, already!, this Thursday. As in three days from now. Summer beckons with the alluring promise of berries and slow, sweet Saturday afternoons and travel plans and days at the beach, but early spring is pretty sweet, too. Our vegetables are beginning to take firmer hold and we’ve begun slowly wrestling our rather raggedy yard into a place we might actually like to hang out in more often.
Wee Sierra is 6 months old next Sunday and as I type she is sleeping on my chest — still a baby, thank goodness, for all her chattery, smiley wakefulness these past weeks. People ain’t kidding when they say ‘it’ goes so fast; difficult to believe 6 months ago I still had no idea what she’d look like. I mean, we still referred to her as ‘Fennel’! Soup needs finishing and laundry needs doing but I’m no fool; I know this moment right now will be gone in a flash and while all the rest of it can be caught up to she’ll never be this tiny ever again. These precious seconds are fleeting, are already gone.
Six months ago the season had just turned into fall in San Francisco and the sky then was as blue as the sky is now in Morocco. This weekend we spent many hours out-of-doors in running endeavors and gardening endeavors and the occasional walk around the neighborhood. Though my experience so far in Morocco has been limited to just 4 months I can say that thus far March is absolutely my favorite month here. The air feels clean, clear, and fresh with more than a hint of the sea carried in through our flung-open windows, the sun shines brightly, there’s often a brisk breeze to temper the warmer (but not hot) temperatures, birds are singing loudly outside the kitchen where we spend many happy hours, the Atlantic is no longer grey but a deep blue or green or something in between.
Today’s Saint Pat’s day and if I had Guinness and/or cream cheese I’d make a Guinness chocolate cake, all fudgy, dense goodness with a cap of lightly sweetened frothy icing. Instead I have whole grain chocolate chunk cookies made with spelt flour and brown sugar.
I may be able to get chocolate chips at grocery stores here and in fact have spotted them at the commissary in Rabat. But before going on a long and perhaps fruitless search in my neighborhood I’ve just been chopping up bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate when I make cookies and actually … I think I prefer chopping chocolate to using chips. Yes, it’s a tiny bit more work but to me it’s worth it. I like the variance in sizing and how the slivers melt into the dough once baked. Chips are well and good and I’ve used them for years quite happily. Yet in this new season both of life and on the calendar chopped chocolate is suiting me just fine.
These cookies are a riff on my basic, standard, gorgeously satisfying chocolate chip cookies that I’ve been making since my DC days (item: I used to write recipes pretty haphazardly back in the day. Hopefully now they are a bit more coherent.). Initially I was attracted to a recipe that called for melted butter because it meant I wouldn’t have to haul out the mixer and could use a whisk instead — I’m pretty fond of streamlining things as much as possible, something which serves me well now with a small one keeping me company most times in the kitchen which means a) I’m distracted and b) I have to keep it quick so she doesn’t get bored — but I also love the flavor the melted butter imparts. It makes the cookies taste almost caramelized, with a deep, rich undertone that makes me unable to cease cramming them into my mouth in vast quantities.
And so, because of the aforementioned vast quantities of cookies and other sweets that’ve been coming out of my kitchen these past months, I have been trying to incorporate as much and as many whole grain flours as possible into my baked goods. Not every recipe works well with whole wheat pastry flour, though most do; for a more delicate cake, say, a lemon cake or a vanilla cake, it might be best to stick with all-purpose flour. But this cookie recipe in particular is malleable enough to let me try different combinations of flours and usually tastes good no matter what I use. The iteration I’m sharing today calls mostly for whole wheat pastry flour but also for a bit of spelt flour. Spelt flour can make things a little more cake-y but I didn’t find that to be the case here (I like a more chewy than cakey cookie), and so I guess I got the proportions right enough to suit my taste. I won’t call these ‘healthy’ because, the butter. Yet the whole grains must be doing something good for us, yes?
Now that the weather is turning warmer I’m keeping the kitchen window open for much of the day, and when we’re not sitting outside watching the banana tree leaves wave in the breeze we’re usually baking or cooking something, me handing little pieces of chopped vegetables to Sierra for her to hold while I make lunch or dinner. Six months ago I certainly could not have imagined doing that, although I may have had a small idea … Six months ago I hadn’t had these cookies, either, but now they are in heavy rotation. I can’t help it. It’s spring. September will be here before I know it. So: I am holding on.
If you don’t have spelt flour you may use all whole wheat pastry flour; if you don’t have whole wheat pastry flour you may use all-purpose flour. The brown sugar, though, is key for a nutty, caramelly, chewy cookie. Use good-quality semisweet chocolate if you can.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 cups packed light or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (or 1 1/2 cups chopped/slivered chocolate)
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla and whisk well.
In another large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat pastry flour, spelt flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Add flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and stir well to combine. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets and place in the oven. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until very lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.