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The Goodness That Surrounds Us

While I was sick last week, I had a lot of time to think about this space and the community here. We’re lucky, aren’t we? We’re lucky to have each other and to be able to draw inspiration from one another. Our lives from the outside might look very different, with varying professions, family lives, and geographic settings. But if you’re sitting down reading this today, I’m guessing you like to talk about food and prepare food and think about the ways in which it intersects with our daily lives, work, and relationships. I’ll be honest: there are days I question this space. Days when the week is unbelievably busy and I don’t have time to make a recipe for the blog, and I wonder what the point is anyway. There are gray days when the love for it can wane under other pressures and priorities. But then there are days when you’re sick for almost a week and have time to lay on the couch and read food blogs you usually don’t have time for. To catch up on your friend’s writings around the web, in awe that there’s such goodness out there. You people! There is so much generosity of spirit and intelligence, humor and talent, and I’m over-the-moon-happy to be a part of it all.

After coming out of the flu, I was craving a few things. I hadn’t had much of an appetite for many days but I knew I was starting to feel better when coffee sounded good once again. And then came the chocolate cravings. And they came on in a pretty fierce way. In fact, I ran over to Theo the other day to pick up cacao nibs for a new flavor of granola we’re doing for Marge and I took the liberty to stroll through the shop and sample away. Usually when you pick up a wholesale order of cacao nibs, you go straight to the back of the factory, grab your box, and get on with your way. But that day, I needed a little taste of Salted Dark Chocolate Almond and a bite of Chai Tea Milk Chocolate, and Bread and Chocolate. For those of you who have not made it to Seattle and to the Theo Chocolate factory, the tour is wonderful and you can walk through the shop attached to the factory and sample anything you’d like. I do this more often than I care to admit here.

That night, Sam was up working late and I was going through some newer cookbooks looking for inspiration. I was leafing through Nigel Slater’s Ripe which focuses largely on cooking and baking with seasonal fruits. I’ve long been a big Nigel Slater fan; the way he describes a recipe makes you feel like his kid sister — he has a charming no-nonsense approach to food. He’s not fussy, he loves simple snacking cakes (which, if you ask me, is reason enough to place him on a pretty high pedestal), and  believes in putting beautiful ingredients at the forefront of each recipe. There are many, many recipes I’m looking forward to making from this book–recipes that celebrate summer’s juicy peaches, firm apricots, and soft figs. But on first glance through the book, the one recipe that called to me was an unexpected one. It wasn’t a fruit recipe at all; it was a recipe for Soft Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies. Sold.

 

Nigel Slater describes the cookies as incredibly soft on the inside although slightly crisp and chewy on the outside. They have loads of good dark chocolate and, of course, hazelnuts. I made them late at night and Sam has professed that they’re the best cookies I’ve ever made. So thank you, Nigel. For that. And of course we’ll get to cookies but I wanted to take a moment to share with you a few of the food blogs I’m loving lately. Each in their own way are setting out and doing something different — you know the kids in high school who had their own crazy, unique style and flaunted it with abandon and, therefore, came off as pretty darn cool? These blogs are those kids. They’re approaching food blogging differently in their own ways, and I find each to be so inspired — a true breath of fresh air. So while these cookies are baking in the oven this weekend, here is some reading for you. Some real goodness.

Domestology: Jessica’s Brooklyn-based blog is a tough one to explain because it is so different from many food blogs I read and come across. It’s centered around home life; in Jessica’s words, it speaks “to the surface of things: my love of laundry and cleaning the bathroom, roasting chickens, baking bread and cakes, and keeping a well-stocked supply of canned tomatoes…” She writes a lot on the history and culture of domesticity, highlighting old cookbooks, cooking utensils and recipes. There are posts about making your own Spoon oil,  loving testaments to a dough whisk, or how to make chocolate syrup. If you’re lucky, Jessica will also highlight her hand-embroidered book covers. I love this blog. Very much. For anyone who is interested in the way in which we make a home today — and the way our grandparents used to– you will smile when you see this one in your inbox.

Aesthetic Outburst: Abbey Hendrickson and her husband bought an abandoned farmhouse in Upstate New York in 2011 and are busy renovating it.  With two kids under five, this is quite the task and Abby chronicles it beautifully with posts on crafts,  collecting odds and ends, working through the renovations (like the living room), or figuring out configurations for their book collection. Two realizations since reading the blog: Man do I want a chicken coop, and gosh do I like Abby’s glasses.

Eat This Poem: is one lovely blog. How about Orange Cinnamon and Oat Pancakes inspired by Joanne Harris’ Five Quarters of an Orange? Or a Lentil Stew with Chestnuts inspired by a Jane Hirshfield poem? Eat This Poem is a collection of recipes inspired by poetry — and sometimes, a little prose. Before starting this blog, writer Nicole Gulotta penned the food blog, Cooking After Five, for almost four years. While she loved writing and photographing recipes, she’d gone to school for her MFA in poetry and that side of her life began to want more attention.  She says, “It became clear this was the right time to begin a new project that combines two of my lifelong passions.” So this is a food blog like no other. It will make you look at a recipe in a whole new way. In this big, wide space that we call the Internet, there is so much potential for new-ness and this is an example of someone staking her small claim.

Remedial Eating: Oh, Molly Hays. Your refrigerator dies? Instead of cursing your day and going out to buy a burrito, you make meringues so your eggs don’t go bad. And include photos of your kids, and the marshmallow clouds that afternoon. You write an Ode to Spring with such tactile photos that we all feel as though we’re in your backyard with you; then you give us creative recipes like Lemon Parsley Sprinkle. A lot of food blogs announce that they discuss food through the lens of life — they use food as a way to talk about other things. Molly’s blog actually does this. You feel, really and truly, as if you’ve been asked inside her home for a cup of tea with her little ones and the controlled chaos that is their home life. Her blog entries are substantial and there’s always a little something I take away with me. It’s actual reading. I hope Molly writes a book someday; I’ll be first in line to buy it.

The Yellow House: began as a blog that chronicled life in a big yellow house in Washington, D.C. Sarah has since moved to rural Virginia where, she says, there are better stars. Her blog is as sweet as ever, with posts on decidedly unfussy cooking, eating, entertaining, and gardening. Like What to Eat on an Early Spring Evening or a Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake for a Cold Winter Day. There are some food blogs that are quite styled — and styled beautifully and I love them for this. Sarah’s blog, however, feels downright real. Her photos strike me as a glimpse into how it actually looks at her kitchen table when she sits down to eat a baked potato on a windy evening. This is refreshing.

Paper and Salt: is very new-to-me (and relatively new, period). It exists in the same literary realm as Eat This Poem, focusing on recreating and rein terpreting “the dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries, essays, and fiction.” As many of you know, I used to teach college-level writing and high school English so a food blog that blends recipes with an author’s life story is a pretty cool thing, indeed. You’ll find Sylvia Plath and Lemon Pudding Cakes and Walt Whitman and Cranberry Coffee Cake. You’ll learn about recipes from certain periods, how they were written, and what ingredients they favored. You’ll learn about writers who were hoarders and what they loved to eat for breakfast. This is stuff I, for one, want to read more about.

Now it’s time for cookies. I made a few small changes to the original recipe, adding more chunky hazelnuts and a little more salt than the recipe called for. It’s written with directions for self-rising flour, so I rewrote the ingredient list to account for the fact that we don’t much use that here in the States. Slater also calls for muscovado sugar and I used white cane sugar because that’s what we had around. I wouldn’t make them any other way.

Soft Hazelnut Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from: Ripe by Nigel Slater

Makes: 12 large cookies

7 ounces (200g) dark chocolate (at least 70%)
5 tablespoons (75 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (225 g) white sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup (100 g) skinned hazelnuts
1 1/4 cups (140g) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut the chocolate into pieces (unless you’ve already got feves or smaller pieces on hand, obviously) and put them into a small heatproof glass bowl. Place the bowl over a small pan of simmering water, with the bottom of the bowl not quite touching the water. Allow the chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer until smooth and creamy. Break the eggs into a small bowl and whisk them just enough to break them up. Add the eggs and vanilla to the butter and sugar, beating constantly. Scrape down the bowl if necessary and continue mixing. Add the melted chocolate slowly.

Toast the hazelnuts in a shallow pan until golden and fragrant. Allow them to cool. Grind the nuts coarsely to the texture of chunky gravel, then remove half of them and continue grinding the other half until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and both textures of nuts to the mixture. Mix only until combined.

Place large heaping tablespoons of the mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Leave about 1-inch in between each cookie –they don’t spread too terribly much. Bake for 10 minutes after which time the cookies should still feel soft and just a touch gooey in the center. They will firm up completely as they cool. As soon as they’re cool enough to move without breaking, transfer to a wire cooling rack. If kept airtight at room temperature, cookies will be good for at least 3 days.

If You’re Looking For More Chocolate Inspiration:
Before deciding on these chocolate cookies, I had flirted with making a batch of Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies — a simple, very grown-up chocolate cookie. Then, of course, there’s always my go-to brownie recipe, the Deluxe Brownie. These are those brownies, the in-your-back-pocket brownie recipe you want to keep close at all times. And the cookies that made Marge (almost) famous, my Homemade Oreos. These were a winner at the farmers market. I couldn’t make enough. So there you have it. More goodness to surround yourself. Happy reading and baking — oh, and happy May!

  1. Posted May 3, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Ah lovely post. Funny how this little community of food blogging works.

    And I tried pressing the links at the bottom of the post for your homemade oreos and those deluxe brownies, but they directed me to a “nothing found” page. Just so you know!

  2. megang
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Thanks, Amy! Those links should be fixed now. Happy baking!

  3. Claire
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Good gracious! Thank you for this wonderful post. I only recently found your blog but am smitten with it already. I can’t wait to try hazelnuts in my cookies! I’m also in love with the literature-related food blogs you mentioned. I had never heard of them before, and, being a recent English-major grad myself, I can’t wait to dive into a whole new realm of words. Thanks for the links!

  4. Posted May 3, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Where to begin? First, thank you for your contribution to the food blogging community. I look forward to your posts. Then Nigel Slater (I love him)- have you read his autobiography, ‘Toast’? It’s fantastic. Finally, so many new, wonderful blogs to add to my reader. Thank you so much!

  5. Posted May 3, 2012 at 9:56 am

    It is unfortunate that you have been having days feeling a blogging malaise. I as of late have been looking forward to your weekly posts!

    That flu running around seattle has been Brutal, glad that you made it to the other side.

  6. Posted May 3, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Your posts always seem to resonate with my stream of consciousness, every time. Going through my own “gray day” with regard to food blogging this was exactly what I needed, so thank you dear friend! And that Theo factory tour? So putting it on the calendar! xx

  7. Posted May 3, 2012 at 11:56 am

    I just realized I haven’t turned on the television during a sick day in years. My sick days are now spent on the couch, curled under a blanket, with the added warmth of a laptop on my middle. I love how there are so many food blogs with such solid writing these days. I wish there was enough time to enjoy all of them. (Hopefully not read while being sick. That’s no fun at all.) Thanks for these new links. I’d only just discovered The Yellow House last month and am quite enjoying it.

    Oh man, I could go on about Nigel for days. Nigel, oh my, Nigel.

  8. Posted May 3, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    aw, sheesh, megan. you brought a sparkle to my day (and a blush to my cheeks). and also, some wonderful new finds to my roster. thank you for that.

    and i’m so glad you’re feeling better.

    (and nigel slater is, and has long been, my desert island author — the one whose books I would take with me to that imaginary abandoned isle. of course, the stack is getting rather tall. and heavy. but if it’s slater or provisions, i think i’ll take slater.)

  9. Posted May 3, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Hello Megan. I’m glad to read you’re feeling better. I had the same flu and thankfully I’m able to taste again.
    I have made these cookies by Nigel and I love them. My boyfriend thought they were the best cookies he ever had.
    Thank you so much for the links to your new blog finds. I know some of them and I’m actually a big fan of Molly’s remedial eating and Paper and Salt. I’m looking forward to reading the rest.
    And yes, it is wonderful to be part of a community of people who share the same love for something so beautifully simple; food.

  10. Posted May 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    I am completely honored to be part of this list, thank you! And the cookies, my oh my, I must make them soon.

  11. Posted May 3, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    I wish I had more hours to browse all the lovely writing, photography and ideas that make up so many blogs. Thanks for sharing some new ones.

  12. Posted May 3, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Eat this Poem and Paper and Salt have great original concepts for a blog. Thanks for leading me to new worlds.

  13. Posted May 3, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Ooh, I’m really liking Domestology. Thanks for sharing your new blog faves! These cookies look great, too. I love the combination of hazelnuts and chocolate.

  14. Posted May 3, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    It really amazing how much of a “community” you can find online with other bloggers and hoe many amazing recipes you can see (like this one). If only cooking, eating and blogging about it could be my full time job (without somehow becoming fat).

  15. Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:00 am

    I’m madly and passionately in love with Nigel… Megan, do you have a copy of The Kitchen Diaries? It’s his year full of eating in one book, and might have been my favorite cookbook to sell at Omnivore.

    The casual-ness of his eating style is just so appealing and really speaks to me – some days it’s takeout from the Japanese place, other times he finds the perfect ripe peach and eats it with cheese, and then when inspired finds himself making a sticky stew or starting something that requires hours on the stove.. just like blogging and being part of this community, sometimes we have lots of words to say, other times we don’t, but that’s okay too :)

  16. Posted May 4, 2012 at 5:09 am

    Megan, you are such a talented writer. Who among us who blogs can’t identify with your need to find time to write a post each week? And, then we read this post and are inspired by you. Thank you.

  17. Connie
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Please don’t ever stop writing….I’m not a blogger, not a cook….just a harried mom that likes food and good recipes. Your writing takes me away from the craziness, gives me a glimmer of a simpler and more appreciated life and reminds me to make my boys some yummy treats once in a while. I can’t thank you enough for the sense of peace you bring to my inbox.

  18. Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Megan! Thanks so much for the kind mention.

    I don’t have Ripe yet, but Tender has quickly risen in the ranks to be one of my favorite cookbooks ever. Very excited for it. The cookies look beautiful, and your words as ever are too.

  19. megang
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Oh, thanks Lori! You’re the best. For stopping in so often and saying hello — I thank you! Have a wonderful weekend (I hear there’s supposed to be sun!) ~m

  20. megang
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:59 am

    I have the Kitchen Diaries! Yes. My Sam bought it for me for Christmas and, shamefully, we haven’t yet cooked from it. I really, really need to fix that situation. I think you’re right about the casual-ness of his eating style. That’s why I love each and every cake recipe I come across: they’re not structured fancy layer cakes, they’re the most simple one-pan snacking cakes filled with fruit and goodness. Geesh, maybe I’m madly and passionately in love, too?

    Have you read Tamar Adler’s book yet? I think you’d like it too, Sam. Thanks for the reminder it’s o.k. when we don’t have many words. You’re absolutely right. Hope all is well with you; thanks for stopping by and saying hello! ~m

  21. megang
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Wow, two boyfriends on board with these cookies! Yes, they didn’t last long on our counter-top. Thanks for your well wishes, and I’m glad you’re feeling better now, Magda. It is weird how your appetite just disappears, isn’t it? Thankfully, that’s behind us. Have a wonderful weekend! ~m

  22. megang
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Molly, “if it’s slater or provisions, i think i’ll take slater” might be one of my favorite blog comments in a long time. Happy Friday to you and the family. ~m

  23. Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:02 am

    I just finished Tamar’s book and adored it as well :)

  24. megang
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Molly-Yes, daytime TV is really something awful, I have to say. And I agree with you regarding the solid writing. I find those are the blogs I really savor and take time to read rather than just quickly glancing over the photos and recipe. You’re very welcome for the new links; enjoy and happy Friday!

  25. Posted May 4, 2012 at 11:53 am

    What an honor to be included with such great blogs as well as on yours — one of my favorites! I, too, am having a “why am I doing this” kind of week (month, year). It’s always nice to be reminded of the goodness that surrounds us. Thank you!

  26. Posted May 4, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    You are such a lovely. Tim and I just returned from a few days out of town, during which time I was saving all the posts in my Reader that I knew I wanted to really savor for when we got back. As I sit here reading you write about the creativity and talent out there, I’m just thinking again how much I love YOUR voice. You are not only one of the most generous bloggers I know–in your praise in in your spirit–but also one of those who makes writing seem so effortless and enjoyable. I love the way you’ll weave in articles you’ve read or, like today, blogs you recommend. Thank you for this delightful read tonight! Off to check out some of your recommendations!

  27. Posted May 5, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Your pics are fantastic. And I’m glad you’re feeling better. The desire for coffee is always a sure sign for me. I just added you to my blog roll last week and I want to thank you for providing me with even more new writers to sample. Have a great weekend! Gary

  28. Posted May 5, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Thank you so much for the mention, Megan! It’s an honor to be in such great company. Now to get started on some cookies …

  29. Posted May 6, 2012 at 8:06 am

    You make it sound so precise and effortless when you write. It´s inspiring and warm to see a post like this. And some new incredible blogs to add to my endless list of favorites. Hope you are having a great weekend!

  30. megang
    Posted May 6, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    Shanna-You’re too kind! I’m glad to hear you’re (still) enjoying the blog. And hopefully you found a few new favorites from that list. Can’t wait to read/hear more about the Dole Conference — I believe you met Dana there? Sounds like a blast. Hope you’re settling back into being back at home. Have a wonderful week! ~m

  31. megang
    Posted May 6, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Thanks so much, Paula, for stopping by and saying hello. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog and hope you found a few new favorites from the list I’ve been loving lately. We had a great weekend — thank you for asking. I hope you did, too! ~m

  32. momgordon
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:25 am

    I too love your voice, just wish I heard it in person more! This is such a great post and has inspired me to read more food blogs. You have given me a “starter kit”. Less Law and Order reruns, more food blogs :)

  33. Posted May 9, 2012 at 8:52 am

    What an inspiring post – a perfect way to start my day. I appreciate you sharing about food blogs you admire and learning about some new ones to read. And Theo chocolate? Oh my…I do love to pop in and taste/stock up. I’ve been marking recipes in Ripe like crazy (I bought it the day I saw you at Book Larder) and after seeing your cookies will be baking those soon. I’m glad you’re feeling better!

  34. Posted May 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    I think that I need to make these this weekend since this combination of flavours is exactly what I’ve been craving all week.

  35. Posted May 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I agree. We are lucky. So much inspiration. Ripe looks just my style. So good to know you are feeling better, and again craving chocolate. Take care, Denise

  36. Posted May 17, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Boy do I understand those grey days and how it relates to blogging or not blogging. And thank you for posting these sites – many which are new to me. I love finding inspiration and it can be just the ticket to getting out of a funk. And cookies too. You are awesome :)

  37. Posted May 17, 2012 at 10:21 am

    Oh, and I forgot to mention that a friend brought back a bar of bread and chocolate and OH MY!!! So good.

  38. Posted May 23, 2012 at 8:24 am

    I, too, often reflect on the blog and my readers. It is a wonderful way to bring like-minded people together in one room (so to say). Relations are fostered, we begin to care about the characters in the stories, and new lives are born. I am very thankful that our blogs brought us together; if it wasn’t for the love of food, we may have drifted around without ever knowing each other.

  39. Tracey Evans
    Posted July 22, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Oh these would be perfect with some low fat vanilla ice cream smushed in the middle! Thanks for sharing!! YUM! :)

  40. Leroy
    Posted September 6, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Hello Megan! Love your blog! If you like paper & salt you’ll love yummy books (http://yummy-books.com), I’ve been following it for a couple of years now, her recipes have never failed me. Keep up the good work!
    -LH

  41. megang
    Posted September 6, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Hi Leroy! Ahhh…what a treat! What a wonderful looking blog. Can’t wait to dive into it more this weekend. Thank you so very much for the recommendation. Happy (almost) weekend, m

  42. Posted November 4, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    My spouse and I stumbled over here from a different page and thought I might check things out.
    I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to going over your web page again.

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  1. By Friday Favourites #16 | Pigeon Designs on May 4, 2012 at 10:03 am

    [...] Soft Hazelnut Chocolate Cookies and some beautiful words as per usual from A Sweet Spoonful [...]

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