My husband walked into the kitchen last night, hands on hips, looking sheepish.
“There’s good news and bad,” he declared as my fourteen year old pushed little eggs into cookie dough. Last week he had unplugged the deepfreeze in the basement; he needed the lone outlet that worked in that part of the house, but had forgotten to plug the freezer back in.
“We lost a chicken, a bag of dumplings and some bones for stock, but I found a bag of cashmere sweaters!”
My cashmere! Of course. I had read somewhere that a good deep freeze of thrifted sweaters, followed by a quick fluff in the dryer, would kill any unwanted-ness. I found them – a deep black and a creamy white V-neck- while shopping with my friend Jill. We were supposed to be at a ski race with our ten-year-olds, but years on the hill brings wisdom. We knew we had at least ninety minutes from drop off-to race, so we hopped in the car and headed towards one of the best thrift shops our province has to offer: the Coldbrook Frenchys.
Frenchys is the kind of place were you have to flick through racks and dig through bins. It requires a deep breath, time and hand sanitizer. And just when you think you’re defeated by it all, you’ll find an Aquascutum trench or a Miu Miu sweater, tags still on (true stories) and you’re back in the game. This time around it was cashmere. One in the men’s sweater section, the other in the women’s. You know right away when you touch cashmere: buttery softness without a hint of itch. I quickly put them in my basket. One whiff of indecision and someone else will swoop in. But then I spotted Jill, my thrifting mentor, my dear friend. She had just a belt and a few books in her basket.
I offered her one of my sweaters.
“Linds, there are two rules to remember,” she said, her hand on mine. “Friends never have to share fresh powder while skiing, or thrifted cashmere. Just dive in and enjoy.”
EDIT: I wrote this newsletter a few days ago, before COVID-19 lockdowns were federally enforced across Canada, USA and abroad. Cookies and sweaters seem trite now, however if we are practising social distancing, as we should, why not make cookies?
So in the spirit of stay-at-home baking, I bring you this simple recipe studded with soft colours, reminiscent of cashmere. It’s my mother-in-law’s ‘slab cookie’ recipe, one I’ve shared many times before. This time around they were embellished before going in the oven (by a fourteen-year-old) with Cadbury Mini Eggs. I love the way the eggs cracked in the oven, shifting the shell into something pre-historic, ready for life.
1 cup (2 sticks / 225g) salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) brown sugar
2 cups (125g) flour (gluten free flour blends can be substituted)
1 cup (175g) chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
Preheat oven to 350f / 175c
Combine butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat for 5 minutes, scrapping down butter occasionally, until mixture is light and fluffy. Sometimes this takes more than five minutes – light and fluffy is the key. Add vanilla and whip to combine.
Fold in flour. Mixture will appear dry and shaggy, but don’t worry. It will come together. Add chopped chocolate or chocolate chips.
Tip mixture onto a cookie sheet and using your hands, pat it down into a rectangle. Push any crumbling bits into the mixture – it’s much like shortbread dough. The rectangle should be about 1 cm (not quite 1/2 an inch) thick. It’s ok if your pan is too big and the dough doesn’t fully cover the surface. I’ve made free-form circles, squares and rectangles before. It’ll work.
Bake for 20-23 minutes, until surface is golden. Pull out of the oven and cut into squares before cooling. I like to use a metal scraper to divide the ‘slab’ into neat squares.
Share with friends, bring to potlucks, serve at Easter, or store in your deepfreeze. Slab cookies will shine on any occasion, even an unintended thaw.