Sunday, November 8, 2015

"Book Club"

It felt like I was driving on an endless road, traveling through the woods in the pitch black night.  In reality, it was only about 7:00pm but after daylight savings time in November.  Around here, small neighborhoods nestled in areas where mostly summer residents live during the height of the season (June through August) seem like ghost towns.  I finally reached my destination after following winding Shore Road for a good 15 minutes.  The unassuming house was lit up from the inside.  At first, I couldn't figure out which way to enter. As I mentioned, it was completely dark out and there was no clear front door, walkway or any other markers to indicate how to properly get inside. I sat in my car for a moment, surveying the situation.  I reached for my hostess offering and decided to leave the wine I brought in the car, unsure of the type of occasion.  Possibly this was meant to be a tea drinking night? 
Deb appeared in the dim light from the slider on the bottom floor, she walked toward me as I emerged from my car.
"Hello!  Welcome!"
I love that she came out to greet me and guide me inside.  After all this isn't even her home.  But she instinctively knows I have no idea where I am or what to do. 
In the bright, inviting kitchen, Sheila was busy pouring the usual chilled Kendall- Jackson shared by her and Deb at just about every gathering they attend.  Besties since high school.  They usually ride together, too.  What was I thinking?  Of course this is a wine occasion! 
"O.K. before we get started I want to show Andrea around.  And I want to show you my artwork!"  Melissa was excited to have us there, to show us the hard work that she and Jamie have put into their funky, eclectic place.  Every knob on the cabinet, every piece of wood on the stairs and tile in the bathroom, carefully chosen then installed by their own hands.  Their work was impressive, the style unique.  I coveted it all, feeling my own home to be overly simple and badly in need of a fresh paint job.  Melissa's art work, the stitching and sewing and everything else she created looked effortless and masterful at the same time like only someone with true talent can produce.
And then there was cake.
Not just any cake.  This was the cake recipe from the book we had all read. " Book Club" was the excuse, the reason we had forcibly gathered ourselves together.  It is always a challenge with work schedules, kids' activities and Melissa getting ready to head to CA, back to work in less than 2 days.  But somehow she managed to bake the cake from Ruth Reichl's novel, "Delicious".  Using mortar and pestle to grind the ridiculously long list of whole spices the recipe described.  (I would have never had the patience.) Substituting a gluten free flour blend for AP and dirtying numerous bowls to produce the final result: an incredibly moist, light, slightly spiced cake with an orange and bourbon glaze.  Sublime.  Excellent with the pinot noir I later retrieved out of my car.
Sure we discussed the book...Deb tried to get us on track.  But like most conversations that involve wine and cake, the topic continually changed from the original idea to future books, Melissa's plans once back in LA, soccer games, drama at school and other stuff.  Then we toured the house again, while Melissa described the future transformation of the remaining unfinished rooms.  Two hours can pass so quickly.  Weeks and months go by before we manage to pull off another gathering of just us: no kids, husbands or other people to interrupt our intimate talk of plans, ideas, dreams.  We need to get another date on the calendar now for our next "Book Club".

I brought these cookies for Melissa. I discovered the recipe in the January 2014 issue of
Bon Appetit  and made them for my sister who also stays away from gluten. They remain soft for about 2 days then get a bit crumbly.  The deep, rich chocolate flavor goes great with a cup of tea, if you prefer and is especially decadent with a glass of  red wine.

Adapted from Bon Appetit  January 2014
Chocolate Brownie Cookies
(makes about 24 cookies)
3 cups gluten free powdered sugar
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons mini chips 
1 teaspoon instant coffee
Place racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 350 degrees.  Whisk powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a large bowl, then whisk in egg whites and egg.  Fold in chocolate, mini chips and instant coffee.  Spoon batter by the tablespoon onto parchment lined baking sheets, spacing 2" apart.
Bake, rotating sheets once, until cookies are puffed, cracked and set just around the edges, for about 14 minutes.
Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool on pan for at least 5 minutes. (They will firm up.)  Once set and cooled, the cookies will peel right off the parchment.  Store in airtight container at room temperature or devour immediately.

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