Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Esprit de Cookie

Some women stockpile shoes, a socially acceptable semi-closeted addiction which supports crammed toes clad in sleek leather perfection no matter the price. Well my Achilles' heel is infinitely less glamorous or costly; it comes in the unassuming form of the humble cookie. My house is a haven in large part because of the stash momentarily secure in my tea drawer. In actuality this large cupboard of comestibles is a microcosm of my ideal world. There is a rotating appearance of goodies from thoughtful friends hailing from exotic locations and local haunts. It is hospitable place where sweet and savory nibbles unite over an enticing hot brew, respectful of both private reverie and fanciful fun. Blueprints for the tea drawer actually started quite young. While some girls dreamt about their trousseau whilst playing with Barbie, I was planning the future many-splendid-things-I-would-eat and the very big chest needed to safely stow those treasures away. From the looks of my well padded cupboard, I would say I have finally arrived.

But the teas, honeys, and spreads really just set the stage for the convivial cookie ever ready to play. Ever since kindergarten snack time when we wee tots were given one chocolate cream biscuit with a half pint of milk, my Pavlovian response to the pale thud of cookies sprawled upon a ready surface has been less than ladylike. But mind you, there are rules to follow nonetheless. First, there must be a handful-- at least three, neatly stacked preferably sans plate to keep a casual handle on things. For the cookie that is cupboard tin worthy, it must be of modest size and easily cupped within the palm of the hand for discretion. It also must be able to be stuffed within the mouth in one fell swoop (for the sheer joy of restrained gluttony) or at most two bites. The one cookie limit pretty much ended in kindergarten. There is strength in numbers and while I pretty much don’t care for even digits, four is a particularly desirable CQ (cookie quantity). This may be redundant information but it also dovetails into issues like “over-the-topness”, and that is the giant Mrs. Field’s type confection crammed uncomfortably full with superlatives, white chocolate, cocoa covered raisins, marshmallows, toffee bits, and frosting-- is completely and utterly rejected. The sugar beast is at least 5 bites wide and to my estimation if four of those bad boys were to be consumed; there would be serious gastrointestinal debt to pay. There is no dignity to tell tale chunks of goo left behind on the face, keyboard or lap. One would pretty much graduate from the restrained glutton to the full fledged and cherished well behaved guests would justifiably stare.

Well providence showered down upon my tea drawer these past few weeks as experimentation with chickpea flour turned towards the sweet. In stupefying swiftness, a North African honey hued delight crossed the Atlantic to become new house favorite. Ghoreyba soumsoum is not only whimsical word sound but is a shattering mouthful of sandy textured crumbs which perfectly conjures a mirage of palm trees amidst dry desert heat. A few cupfuls of hot tea would make good travel companion to quell parched throats and unravel any remaining discernable tension. Additionally appealing, the creation of this exotic treat is a delightful breeze leaving more uncensored moments for cookie dreaming and eating. Flour to flame unleashes earthy color from within as the raw taste of legume is exchanged for a substrate toasted and nutty. Melted butter and oil combine and then are quickly turned into a handful of other unremarkable ingredients. One, two, three- fetching, soft dough is born and quietly exclaimed over before rolling, slicing, and baking. Yes, there will be a few moments of wait in cooling, but think this breeds patience and possibly a few other virtues. Mark this moment in your mind, as this cookie obliterates all others that came before. It is the power of the flour, the perfect crumble of sun and sand, simplicity, and rich lingering taste that will elicit eternal allegiance and firm standing in any tea drawer. Dessert it is not- the good natured cookie needs no fan fare, no doily, no runcible spoon…only nibbles and a few pauses for pleasure.

Ghoreyba soumsoum: Adapted from Is that my burĂ©ka? Thanks to burekaboy for permission to re-tell/interpret his recipe. Check out his post for more detailed information and directions. There are also a lot of interesting recipes on his site, like pickled turnips! Back to the cookies…

1 ½ C toasted chickpea flour
½ C spelt flour
¼ C tsp. baking powder
½ C sugar

¼ C grapeseed oil
6 Tblsp. melted unsalted butter
1 Tblsp. water

½ C sesame seeds

Directions: Spread the chickpea flour on a shallow pan and toast in the oven watching closely for the color to darken somewhat and a nutty smell to emerge. Cool and sift with the remaining dry ingredients into a large bowl. Mix the wet ingredients together and pour into the dry- giving a good stir and then turn the mixture out to give it a light knead. Cut the dough into 4 balls and roll into ropes approximately ¾ inches thick. Place sesame seeds into a shallow dish and roll each rope in the seeds. Cut the ropes into slightly bigger than ½ inch diagonal slices. Place the slices on parchment covered baking sheets and bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes. Cool.


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Sounds like you have a pretty darn perfect pantry too!

nansita said...

Oh, oh, what would I give for tea with you today! These cookies sound fascinating. I have only used chickpea flour for those Indian dainties, ladoo. Brown the flour with butter, etc. Just can't find any c'pea flour right now! Sweets, Nansita

Lucy said...

Ghoreyba soumsoum (soumsoum!) rolls around the tongue so beautifully.

I see no need to chastise oneself for cookie gluttony either. Four is an adequate amount I believe to savour that sandy, sunny texture. Though I doubt I could stop at merely four.

How much better it is to sip tea in slippers than sprain ankles in strappy heels!

sher said...

If only I could get my hands on some chickpea flour. Maybe they have it at the CO-OP. I love the way you described how the cookies taste.

Callipygia said...

lydia- There isn't necessarily a lot in my pantry, but I feel a great affection for it!

nansita- Me too- I'll have to check out ladoo, never heard of it.

lucy- As much as I definitely have both a fat tooth and a cookie tooth, I'm not sure if even I could eat 4 of these...but I'll keep trying!! High heels-booo

sher- Definitely at a coop place, but I find the Rob's Red Mill packaged stuff in regular shops- hopefully you'll find some w/o too much effort.

Gattina said...

Calli, you beautifully projected the flavor of ghoreyba soumsoum into words!
One of the favorite things I liked to do in the old days... browsing the streets in Little India, nibbling their sweet treats which some of them made from chickpea flour... nutty and assertive!

burekaboy said...

hi calli, tried to leave you a msg the other day when you posted this but for some reason, it did not send through my comment -- tried at least twice :( anyway, hopefully this time!

so very well written and re-interepreted (the recipe, i mean). i will have to try them your way, the next time around. aren't you talented, reinventing recipes! thanks for the mention & link. glad you enjoyed them :)

Callipygia said...

gattina- it was my friend who told me about various Indian sweets with chickpeas that got me searching for these- so good!

burekaboy- glad you "got through"! While I appreciate the praise...it is more like substitution. I need to thank you for the recipe. Just made them again, they actually kind of remind me of peanut butter cookies!