I have a friend. On here I’m going to call her EM. She’ll know why.
I met EM at a production of The Fantastiks in Cincinnati, where I was finishing up my season performing at the Playhouse. She was playing the Girl, and I was understudying the mute and the fool, which probably paints a clear picture about my singing skills and odd range of casting.
There we became friendly, but back in New York we became friends. She is a dear, dear woman with a southern heart and northern ability to just get shit done. Every time I look out the window at a dark, gray sky I hum, “Soon it’s gonna rain, I can feel it, soon it’s gonna rain, rain pell-mell…” and think of EM and smile.
Last week we met for an early pot of tea and light breakfast, and I don’t remember the last time I’ve been as relaxed around a friend. I am fortunate for the wonderful people that surround me – so fortunate. But much of my focus now is on conserving energy, moving slowly and not over-extending, which happens in most social situations involving food, booze or shmoozing, usually the circumstance when I’m out and about. So a lazy discussion with both of us unshowered and in sweatpants, catching up after a long absence, was revitalizing.
Aside from being an incredible actor, EM just completed her first marathon, followed by a half marathon, followed by a Tough Mudder competition, where she climbed, waded through ice water, ran, rolled in mud, scaled barbed-wired fences, slayed a dragon, fenced off Inigo Montoya… the woman is bad ass. She tells me about this competition over said tea, and it’s a fitting, delightfully feminist-forward conversation, as we also talk about the value of female friendships and throwing small parties to build them with an extended circle.
Yeah, EM is a good one.
So, last Tuesday was EM’s birthday. And aside from all those awesome things I just blabbed to you all about her, she’s also been an incredible supporter of my little baking blog, sharing recipes from it and referencing me on here, facebook, the twittersphere and via text to get advice whenever she’s baking for another very lucky someone.
These Tough Mudders were made for her. I was originally gonna do something a bit “healthier”, with oatmeal and dried fruit and the like, to be more like a crazy power-protein cookie for my little athlete. But she’s worked her tush off enough. So she got indulgence; dark chocolate, toasted walnuts, crushed pretzels, coffee and cinnamon. I don’t normally make chewy/crunchy thin cookies, and loved trying it out for the first time.
They’re incredibly sweet from a healthy kick of dark brown sugar, and have crisp edges and chewy insides, all awash in a mild coffee buzz. Now and then a pop of salty pretzel or tiny bite of chocolate bursts out. A toasty walnut is a fun treat. They’re for tough chicks who need a little kick of SHAZAM now and then.
This post was supposed to go up on her birthday, but then the fancy bus I was taking down the coast was not equipped with wonderful WiFi, as I’d paid for, and I forgot my computer charger back at my desk in NYC. Very dusty of me. So I’m pretending today is her birthday. Happy Birthday, EM. I’m so thankful you’re in my life. Stick around, please, because I heart you big time.
Tough Mudder Cookies (gluten-free)
- 1 1/2 cup gluten-free cookie flour (my blend… or measure out 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/2 quinoa or a similar flour, and 1/2 cup arrowroot or tapioca starch with 1/2 tsp xanthan gum)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp kosher or freshly ground salt
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts (please toast them – it makes a huge difference, promise)
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life mini chips)
- 1/2 cup chopped small pretzels (I used Glutino’s minis)
- 1/2 Tbsp instant coffee
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temp
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°. Line baking trays with parchment or Silpat.
In a small bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In another small bowl whisk together walnuts, chocolate chips, pretzels, coffee and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a standing mixer with the whisk attachment or a hand mixer on medium, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and add the eggs, egg yolk and vanilla. Beat until incredibly fluffy and smooth, about 5 minutes. Don’t skimp on this as you want the eggs to give as much volume as possible. These are wonderfully thin cookies, and this step gives them the chewy/crunchy combo without spreading out to their death.
On low, beat in dry ingredients until just incorporated.
By hand, stir in the nuts/chocolate mixture.
Drop in slightly rounded tablespoons onto cookie sheets, with a maximum of 12 to a sheet. These will make 3-4″ cookies, so don’t try to go any bigger without leaving a lot more space.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool before removing from sheets.