I wanted to show you photos from Arles, the landlocked city south of Avignon to where I’m moving for work. However, the past two attempts I’ve arrived on mornings that were blistering cold and couldn’t work up the motivation to stand still and take photographs. It’s much easier to run around from one apartment hunting appointment to the next.
It’s not usually this cold in France. Well, it’s not usually this cold in Provence. Well, it’s not usually this cold in Toulon in late autumn. It’s been downright freezing and windy the past week and it comes as a double shock, because not only has the temperature dropped to freezing or close to it, but two weeks ago it was in the low 70°S (20°s in Celsius).
Therefore, I’m cold. When I arrived in Arles last Thursday there was ice – honest – ice! – melting on the sidewalk and one of the real estate agents spent our walk to an apartment telling me about the snow that had fallen and thankfully, melted, the night before.
“Il était tout blanc! Vraiment étonnant.”*
I looked with some trepidation over at the rushing river and wondered how I’m going to go running before work, in the dark, and keep myself from falling into the Rhône.
Maybe it’s due to the cold that I’ve become obsessed with cookies. You probably already know about my obsession with ice cream. I’m always ready for ice cream to the point of getting nervous when the freezer is running low. But lately I’ve been craving cookies, any and all cookies. Peanut butter, chocolate chip, chocolate chip with raisins, chocolate chip with walnuts, chocolate with Nutella and cranberries and these: chocolate and tahini.
What’s the connection with cold weather and cookies? I believe it’s the oven. First we have the preheat. It’s not very exciting, but it’s the anticipation of knowing the next time I turn to the oven, possibly lean up against the door to test it, I’ll feel a little bit of warm. Then there’s the moment I put the cookies in the oven. A wave of heat hits my face, fogs up my glasses as I slide the cookie sheet into the fire and know that in just ten minutes I’ll have delicious, soft cookies hot from the oven.
And finally there is the moment after those ten minutes have passed. It’s the moment of the first taste. We all know we should wait until the cookies have cooled slightly, have had time to set, but screw that, I want my fresh, hot, melting cookie. It burns my mouth and it burns my stomach and the combination of butter, sugar, and chocolate all hot and melty makes me forget that it’s freezing outside.
This particular cookie recipe is unique as the tahini cuts into the sweetness of the cookie, but tahini isn’t salty so it’s not your traditional sweet-salted combination. Instead we have something that is sweet with a touch of savory, a real savory not a biting walnut or tart raisin savory. I also like this recipe because of the unsweetened cocoa powder. It’s organic and actually supposed to be used for hot chocolate but the box said it was “suitable for baking too” like it was an afterthought that people might bake with cocoa powder. So I don’t know if that had changed my mental perception of the product or if this cocoa powder is truly different, but the cookies have a very light, almost milk chocolate taste that does in fact, make me think of hot chocolate.
Which, in a cookie, is just awesome.
I’m going back to Arles this week. And then I’m moving there the week after. So at some point, I will have photos along with more to say other than “It was really cold.”
*It was all white. Really surprising.
- 65g butter
- 120g sugar
- 1 medium egg
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder*
- 125g all purpose flour
- 1 – 1.5 tbsp tahini
- 20g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
- Preaheat oven to 180°C/350°F. In a food processor or large mixing bowl with a hand mixer cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and cocoa powder and mix again until you have a homogenous batter. Then add the baking soda and baking powder and salt and give it another quick mix just to stir them in. Then add the flour and mix just until the flour is completely blended and the dough starts to stick together. Now add the chocolate chip pieces and blend, or stir by hand until just mixed.
- Finally add the tahini. Using a teaspoon, drizzle the tahini on top of the dough and gently swirl it through the dough like you would a cake batter. The idea is to have a kind of swirl going on so that it doesn’t completely mix into the dough.
- Unfortunately, while this makes a good cookie, it’s a pain to dish out. So use a teaspoon and one hand to create little balls of dough and plop them at large intervals onto a lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool just enough to set – a minute or two – before digging in.