Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Perfect Snack for Writing a Novel

As some of you know, I'm working on a novel in poetry for young adults. It's a coming of age tale of a 16 year old Nora Smith: 1/2 Jewish, 1/2 Catholic, trying to define her own identity in the year following the death of her best friend. She is taking a Black Studies course at her high school and falls for an African-American boy. Through the course of the novel, we learn more about Nora, her family, her grief and her growth.

She may even end up in Paris.

While there's not much food in the novel (Nora does prefer a Chai Latte to a cappuccino), there's a great deal of food fueling the author on her end.

A recent favorite any-time-of-day-while-writing snack includes brown sugar sea salt cookies from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian with a cup of homemade chai (all novels are based on some kinds of facts, yes?)

These cookies are incredible - the butteriness is shown off by the addition of semolina flour (sandy, but in a way that renders this writer speechless for a better synonym) and the fleur de sel on top makes you lick your lips and grab another. I've tried them several times in several different thicknesses - I don't have an electric mixer here, so my dough has ranged from crumbly to creamy (and subsequently frozen for cutting because I've melted the butter too much).

The recent batch pictured here started as a creamy dough and then baked very thin and crispy.

A handful with a cup of tea can fuel an author for a pre-lunch revision session, a tea-time hour of drafting two new poems for Part II or an after dinner re-read.

I cannot recommend How to Cook Everything Vegetarian enough, even for meat-eaters (indeed, you are Bittman's audience here), but until you buy it, here's the recipe:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dark packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 C. semolina flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
about 1 t. coarse sea-salt for sprinkling

1. Use an elect. mixer on low speed to mix the butter and sugar together just until combined, 30 seconds or so. Still on low speed, beat in the egg yolk, then the flours and salt, until the mixture barely holds together; this will take a few minutes.
2. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and shape it into a round, triangular, or rectangular log about 1 inch in diameter; wrap it in plastic wrap and refrig. or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes (or freeze the log for up to 3 mos well wrapped).
3. Preheat the oven to 325F. Unwrap the dough and slice it 1/4" thick, put the slices on an ungreased baking sheet, sprinkle each with a little sea salt, and bake right away until the cookies are firm but now browning, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, let them cool in the pan for a minute or two and then transfer the cookies to a rack to cool. Stir in an airtight container for up to 2 days (I've kept them a few more and they've still been good)

Makes 3 or 4 dozen.


kay: said...

i am so happy to hear you are writing a novel! and i am going to make these cookies asap!

Anonymous said...

Those are some good cookies.