I’m glad I’m not the only one around here who experiences what I call “Only in France” moments.
Recently I met up with Clotilde, who writes the popular Chocolate & Zucchini blog, for a drink one afternoon. I ordered a glass of wine and she, a mineral water. Although there was a large, unopened bottle of Badoit sparkling water standing prominently behind the bar, ripe for the taking, the serveuse told us they didn’t have any bottled water.
Of course, neither one of us questioned that. But when she left to fetch our drinks, we both looked at each other, wrinkled up our perplexed faces, then shrugged it off. It’s nice to know the locals find things as curious around here as I do.
Speaking of curious French things, if you’re a regular reader of Chocolate & Zucchini, you’re privy to her charming stories about her life in Paris accompanied by recipes. And you unless you’ve been hiding like a bottle of Badoit behind the bar, you’ve likely heard of her new book: Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen.
Turning the pages and reading about her life in Montmarte is like spending the day with une vraie Parisienne, which seem to be an endless quest of finding the best markets and sourcing ingredients then taking them home and making them into fabulous dinners to share with friends and her lucky neighbors.
Before I met Clotilde, I was certain she was some burly truck-driver from Wisconsin pulling a fast one over on us all.
But when we met face-to-face, she was even more charming if that’s possible, than she is on her site. And when she handed me a galley of her book (a rough, pre-publication examplaire of her efforts) and asked me to write a quote, I was delighted to do so. When I got home, I parked myself on the couch and read it cover-to-cover. It was wonderful.
For anyone who’s skeptical about the direction of French cuisine among the next generation (and I’m not naming any names), Clotilde’s recipes are a refreshing breath of sensible air. Her cooking is seasonal, market-fresh and many of her takes on the French classics have just a bit of a personal twist that ushers them deliciously into the next generation.
There’s lots of recipes that I want to try, and not just the desserts. Aside from the Honey Financiers and her famously-simple Yogurt Cake, as soon as the weather gets cooler, I’m firing up the oven to make her beer-enriched Flemish Carbonades and the Lamb and Prune Meatballs using the super-plump and moist pruneaux d’Agen.
I wanted to make her Very Chocolate Cookies for the very longest of times, except I had, like, fourteen batches of chocolate cookie dough in the freezer leftover from some recipe testing I was doing and I didn’t want to launch another batch without using up what I had first.
But even I can’t resist the charms of a young French woman. And soon the temptation became too great; her darned book on my coffee table was staring at me night and day, saying “When are you going to make those Triple Chocolate Cookies?”
And really, who could resist the image of the dark-as-nuit chocolate cookie teetering on the edge of a cold glass of milk?
So I got out the chocolate and started chopping away.
Very Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 48 little cookies
From Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen By Clotilde Dusoulier
You know those folks that love to find mistakes in recipes? (And you know who you are…) When I saw this, I thought, “A-ha! She forgot the eggs!” But when I asked her about that, she said there aren’t any in the batter since this is a crumblier cookie than others out there. So for those raw cookie-dough freaks out there (and we know who we are…), if you’re concerned about eating uncooked eggs, this dough is a real treat. Just be sure not to eat it all before you bake off a couple of cookies.
And because there are some people out there that can’t help themselves from we can change recipes and expect them to come out the same (and we definitely know who we are…) I thought I’d make my cookies more American-sized than she does. But when larger, I found they’re a bit more chancy to pick up so I would follow Clotilde’s instructions and make them smaller. If you want larger cookies, make each one from 1 tablespoon of dough and bake for about 20 minutes.
For the cookies, I used Green & Black’s 70% organic chocolate and Vahlrona cocoa powder. If you don’t have cocoa nibs, you can leave them out but I can’t emphasize how really good they are in these cookies. Since I was serving these after a Mexi-Fest, I opted to dust the tops with a soupçon of sel cannelle, a very strong cinnamon salt I like. But you could use any good sea salt, like grains of fleur de sel
- ½ cup (70 g) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (55 g) whole-wheat flour*
- ¼ cup (25 g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 5 ounces (140 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped in chip-sized chunks
- ¼ cup (30 g) cocoa nibs
- ½ cup, plus 1 tablespoon (125 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup (100 g) (packed) light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla and/or chocolate extract**
- optional: cinnamon salt or fleur de sel
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
1. In a small bowl, sift both flours, cocoa powder and baking soda together.
2. In a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in a microwave), melt half of the chocolate (2½ oz, 70g), then let cool to room temperature. Mix the other half of the chocolate chunks a bowl with the cocoa nibs.
3. Beat the butter with a standing electric mixer, or by hand, just until smooth. Beat in the sugar, salt and vanilla or chocolate extract.
4. By hand, stir in the melted chocolate, then the flour-cocoa mixture. Then finally the chocolate chunks and nibs.
5. Scoop the dough into rounded teaspoons and place evenly-spaced on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with cinnamon salt or fleur de sel, if desired, then bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cookies take on a slightly dry sheen to the top. They may feel soft, but don’t worry; they’re firm up just fine when cool.
*I asked Clotilde why she chose to use some whole-wheat flour in this recipe. Though she was busy polishing her Birkenstocks, she hitched up her draw-string pants and told me simply that she liked the flavor. Since I had some leftover from my No-Knead bread fiascos, I put it to use. I would imagine you could use 100% all-purpose flour.
** Chocolate extract is an interesting product which I was introduced to after I’d written my first book. I got a letter from Ben Katzenstein who attended the college as I did although we never met, and he mentioned his family had a company that made extracts, Star Kay White. So he offered to send me some samples. I fell in love with their chocolate extract, which is made by steeping cocoa beans in alcohol—it adds another chocolate-flavored dimension to baked goods and ice creams and I find myself adding half-capful or so to most chocolate things I make.