A Cookie Treasure Map
(Special thanks to my readers for your patience on my break from writing, as I closed one kitchen down and opened another. Glad to be back!)
I think I should begin by creating an understanding of just how big a deal The Goonies was to me as a kid. The magic of being twelve when this movie came out did irreversible things to my psyche. Not least of all, it instilled in me an unshakeable sense that one day, one rainy, windswept day, I would definitely find some kind of treasure map in some great-aunt’s attic, and it would lead me to a great discovery.
I’m not sure that’s entirely how this played out, but I did find a treasure map, and it did lead me to something… interesting. As I cleaned out my office of ten years (bigger and better, folks), I found a sealed, empty white envelope, on which was written exactly the following:
“To me it’s nothing”
Butter 2 oz
Choc 12 oz
Sugar ½ c
Liquor 2 T
Almond Flour 1 c
APF 3.5 T
Baking Powder ¼ t
Tahini 5 oz
Melt butter & choc
Billow next 4 ingredients
Whisk tahini w/ choc
* Chilled only
Melonball into gran. sugar, roll in powdered
- 330° ~8 min
Immediately, this is a recipe for cookies I used to call Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, but immediately after that, a few thoughts occur to me:
- Are these cookies called “Crackies” because they have cracks running through them, or because they’re meant to be addictive? Both?
- This was a recipe from a professional cook. Home cooks don’t usually write “APF” for flour, or use 3.5 tablespoons of it. Home cooks don’t usually weigh tahini, or use a melon baller to portion dough (this type of annoying drudgery smacks of an hourly wage). Also, when was the last time you baked something at 330°F?
- There’s no other context in which I’d encountered a technique called “billow.”
- Why tahini?
- What could 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder ever accomplish?
- Where’s the salt, and what do we do with the APF / baking powder?
- To you, whoever you are, what’s nothing?
I’m good at recognizing handwriting, having had in my possession for many years innumerable recipe cards from my mother, grandmothers, and great grandmothers. The writing on this envelope — a curvy script in black ink that was blotted by either tears or gentle rainfall (or, far more likely, kitchen water of some kind) — I could not attribute to any cook I can remember from the last 15 years. (If you’re reading this and it was you, please tell me, so I can attribute it to you and find out what “billow” means!)
Of course I did what any Child of The Goonies would do, on finding a mysterious set of scrawled instructions: I followed them blithely.
Melting butter and chocolate (a lot of chocolate) together — over hot water, we may assume— is pretty straight ahead. I am unsure what “billowing” means in this context, but it’s fairly common to whip eggs or egg yolks with sugar to thicken, so I took that to be what “billow” meant. I set the next four ingredients (plus a good half-teaspoon of salt) on my mixer to whip. The liquor —I used Frangelico, figuring it’d jive with the already abundant nuttiness) and the granularity of the almond flour, in my opinion, made this mixture a bit too complicated for any real body to develop; in subsequent tests I just used a bowl and a whisk, and it was fine. I whisked the tahini into the melted ingredients, and then presumed the final steps: I folded the chocolate into the egg mixture, then folded in the flour mixed with baking powder (which I had increased to the slightly more credible quantity of 1/2 teaspoon).
This produced a beautifully glossy, textured batter (I suppose it being nearly half melted chocolate should make anything glossy). I set this to chill overnight, and the next morning used a small cookie scoop (I’m not hourly, here at home) to portion it out, rolling each drop first into granulated sugar and then into confectioner’s sugar. Assuming this was a commercial-kitchen recipe, 330°F on high convection fairly well corresponds to 380°F in a still oven. After baking them for 8 minutes, they still felt quite gooey — I like gooey but I wanted more texture here, some toasty-nutty vibes. In the end I used a very small scoop (indeed, about melon baller-sized) and baked them at 375°F for 12 minutes. This gave them a crispy edge, and the toasty character I was after.
This recipe seemed a little esoteric, so I set out to reconstruct it in a slightly more common vernacular. For one thing, peanut butter instead of tahini might be better. For another, I’d figure out if we really needed almond flour; let’s make this more pantry-staple-friendly. I ate a couple Crackies, and set out to refine. After a test or two, and a couple more Crackies, I was completely unsatisfied. The peanut butter made the chocolate taste muddy, and it was unpleasantly pasty. In another version, the lack of almond flour made things smoother, but I missed the texture. Comparing it to a couple more Crackies, it was uninterestingly smooth. The only consolation for all this was eating a couple more Crackies.
Have you been counting? I attribute the fact that I am still alive to my ability to resist cookies — indeed on most days for each of the last ten years I have been surrounded by literal thousands of them. I ate NINE Crackies, answering definitively the hybrid reasoning behind the name. There’s a fine line, in developing a recipe, between “tasting” and “eating;” I’d crossed it, long ago.
Maybe these mysterious cookies were perfect, just as they were. They’re unusual, and subtler than I‘d expected in their nuttiness and texture. Good tahini is harder to find, so I tend to hoard it for making hummus. Here, though, it doesn’t need to be particularly special tahini: it’s blending in with many other textures and flavors.
I guess, in the long view, that if I was initially deflated about this recipe, it was because this whole episode didn’t end with a slightly deformed but golden-hearted new uncle tearing his way down a sail into the belly of an authentic pirate ship and finding enough gems to save my hometown from evil developers (sorry if that spoils it but you’ve had 35 years). This map, however, did lead me to its own treasure, and Crackies now have a permanent place in my already lumbering collection of cookie recipes.
Now, if it’s you reading this, and it’s really nothing to you, can you tell me why?