Thursday, February 9, 2012


Once upon a time there was a little store on the corner of 52nd Street and Second Avenue called Bazaar de la Cuisine. Other than the fact that it sold Le Creuset cookware and some French porcelain dinnerware, the store really didn’t have anything to do with France. (Note: I am not a Francophile, so if the owners are out there somewhere, and they claim French heritage, mea culpa.) It was however, a veritable treasure trove of kitchen miscellania from all parts of the world.
Right about the time I left my two roommates and moved into my own cozy studio apartment, Bazaar de la Cuisine posted a sale sign on the French flag-festooned red, white, and blue sandwich board that stood outside the store. They were having a sale on coffee mills...a BIG sale. To make a long story short, I went in, bought a coffee mill, and it became my very first kitchen purchase ever.  I could have sprung for something a little fancier--the coffee grinder is quite a utilitarian piece of kitchen equipment--but it was inexpensive enough, and I had a wealth of other culinary “stuff” that was handed down to me. I wasn’t even a huge coffee drinker back then--it was way before the Starbucks-on-every-corner days. But the idea of having a nice hot cup of freshly made coffee in my own place seemed so sophisticated and "mature" to me. And knowing that I ground my own beans further planted me (in my mind) into the world of young, urban turks--ready to climb the ladder of success, coffee mug in hand.
My next task as a young metropolite was to purchase the beans. Porto Rico  Coffee in Greenwich Village has been in existence since 1907, and I don’t think they’ve changed the look of the place since. They roast their own beans and after all those years, that rich, deep coffee smell seems to have permeated the walls. It hits you the moment you enter and puts you in a mocha spell. I knew that this was definitely where I wanted to buy my beans, and so I stood in line amongst all those other coffee aficianados like myself. And when I was asked what type of grind I would like, I proudly declared, “I’ll grind my own, thank you.”
Fast forward some thirty-odd years and many cups of coffee later. Bazaar de la Cuisine no longer exists, but I still buy my coffee from Porto Rico. Whenever I’m in Greenwich Village I always stop by and meander around all the burlap sacks from far-off places that are stuffed to the gills with beans in hues that range from light brown to almost black.  And I’m still grinding my beans in that little workhorse of a coffee grinder. Sometimes, and I know I shouldn’t admit this, I’ve even used it to grind spices (I always wipe it out after I do that) and chop vanilla beans and sugar (do not try this at home) when I make my Honey Vanilla Caramels. No, it’s not a burr grinder and it does not automatically feed the grounds into my coffeemaker, but it gets the job done. We’ve been together a long time, that mill and I, and relationships like that should not be tossed aside like an...old coffee grinder.
A great cup of coffee, in my humble opinion, needs a great cookie by its side. I discovered a new one just the other day, and was intrigued by the preparation. It’s not your average scoop and drop cookie. 1000 Layer Chocolate Chip Cookies, from The Newlywed Cookbook by Sarah Copeland, are thin, crisp, and with a sprinkling of sea salt on top, not too sweet. They stack up real nicely next to a steaming cup, and the taste stacks up pretty well too. The next time I make them I may sneak a dusting of crushed toffee in along with the chocolate shards. I can never leave well enough alone.
(adapted from Sarah Copeland)
(Makes 20 cookies - note: I rolled them out thinner, so my yield was a little higher)
1 cup/ 225 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup/150 g packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup/150 g granulated sugar
4 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups/ 280 g all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp fine sea salt or table salt
9 oz/255 g high-quality bittersweet chocolate
1/4 tsp fleur de sel {optional}
1/4c. heavy cream, for brushing
Preheat the oven to 375˚. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream butter and both sugars together with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, two at a time, followed by vanilla.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir dry ingredients into butter mixture on low speed until just mixed. Stop and scrape down the bowl to make sure all the butter is evenly incorporated and give the dough a final mix.
Divide the dough into 3 portions. Put each dough portion on large piece of plastic wrap and pat into a 4-by-6-inch rectangle. Wrap and refrigerate on a flat shelf in the fridge until well chilled, about 30 minutes. {This helps to set the butter and make the dough easier to work with.) Meanwhile, coarsely chop the chocolate into thin shards using a serrated knife. Set aside.
When the dough is chilled, lay one portion on a lightly floured countertop. Sprinkle with half of the chocolate and top with another piece of dough. Repeat with remaining chocolate and dough until you have a slab of dough with two layers of chocolate. Dust lightly and evenly with flour and roll gently with a rolling pin into a large 9-by 6-inch rectangle that’s about 1 1/2 inches thick.
Using a 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter or a thin rimmed glass, cut out ten rounds of dough. Gather the scraps together, pat lightly, and cut out remaining cookies.
Divide half of the cookies between the 2 prepared baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches between cookies since they will spread. Brush the tops of each cookie with the cream, and with a light hand, sprinkle with a few grains of sea salt.
Bake until the cookies are set, 12 to 15 minutes, switching the sheets halfway through top to bottom if you’re baking two sheets at a time. Let cookies cool slightly, about 3 minutes, then transfer the cookies with a thin spatula to a wire rack to cool completely {or, just slide the parchment paper directly onto the cooling rack}. Let the baking sheets cool completely before using to bake the remaining dough. Bake as directed, switching sheets top to bottom half way through baking, and cool.
Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.


  1. When you write, I am transformed to where you are. And I love the tie-in to the cookies. BTW, I love a little salt on my sweets!

  2. Thank you! That's kind of what the recipes are--the sweets to go with the "salty" essay.

  3. That coffee grinder looks like the one my husband had when we got married. Over our 25+ years he's only owned three. He has such a specific coffee ritual and equipment that that this non-coffee drinker doesn't even have the equipment to let me make a simple pot of regular roast when my sewing group comes by.

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