The dark side of hospital dining

Dec. 10, 2013 @ 10:59 AM

The day I brought Petey home from the hospital, we also brought home a bunch of stuff.
We had instructions and prescriptions.  We had unguents, lotions and a couple of pairs of ugly, strangely-fitting yellow socks (Who was the foot model for those things anyway?).  We also carried a big box full of gifts from his amazing, generous co-workers at Duke.
And I brought home a fixation with a moist, chewy, seriously chocolate cookie.
At the registers of the Atrium café are wire baskets that they fill with packages of homemade cookies.  They offer sugar cookies, peanut butter ones, and not every day, but occasionally, there are bags of Stygian chocolate cookies, studded with white chocolate chips.    
I snack at a snail’s pace.  While Petey and The Kid can put away cookies and treats lickety-split, I can make a sweet treat with a mini side of something salty and crunchy last for 4 or 5 hours.  I have a nibble of one, and a while later, a pinch of the other. 
I know it sounds ridiculous, but it works for me.
But one evening when I had scored a pack of those yummy cookies, I picked up one for my usual crumb-like bite, and before I even realized it, the entire thing had disappeared into my happy, happy mouth (that night I budgeted myself an extra).
Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of white chocolate.  I like golden raisin clusters, and that’s it.  But they really work in these yummy confections, so I bought some.
Now, to figure out the recipe.
I began searching online.  What I was looking for was a cookie that called for cocoa powder, and not melted chocolate.  I also needed to see what the cookie looked like, because I wanted deeply dense, not shiny and brownie-like.  I wanted a moist, chewy cookie that was so profoundly obsidian it absorbed light from its surroundings.
My mind boggled at the number of chocolate cookie recipes on the web.
I finally found one that was just about what I remembered from Duke, and with a few tweaks from me was almost indistinguishable from the Atrium version.
Black Hole Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder, mixed into 1 tablespoon or so of hot water until thin paste forms (if substituting instant coffee, use 1 ½ teaspoons)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ tsp. chocolate flavoring (can be omitted)
1 & 3/4 cup flour
1 & 1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1-11.5 or 12 ounce bag white chocolate chips
1-11.5 or 12 ounce bag milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugars in a bowl until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla, chocolate flavor, espresso paste.  Beat to combine.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Gently beat flour mixture into butter/sugar mixture. Stir in chips.
Using a medium scoop (about 2 tablespoons), portion dough into mounds.  If you like, you can freeze them on a cookie sheet, and when solid, put them into a resealable bag.  That way you can bake off the amount you want at your leisure.
Bake on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet for 8 minutes for cold or room temp dough, 10 minutes for frozen dough, spinning sheet 180 degrees halfway through.  When they come out of the oven, gingerly pat the cookies with your hand, to about ½ inch thick.  Then slide parchment paper with cookies onto cooling rack.
Don’t touch them again for at least 45 minutes, or until completely cooled and set.
Each year, my mom bakes a specific list of Christmas cookies.  Her fabulous frosted sugar cookies, chocolate chip, white chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal raisin.
But she and my dad are driving back from California with The Kid when internship is over (Hopefully by next week our little chef will be home—for good.).  Because of this, I volunteered to bake a few batches of cookies for her.
Won’t Mom be surprised when she opens a box and my onyx gems are staring back up at her!
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is