As days draw in and winter creeps ever closer, I find myself increasingly craving the warm comfort of the kitchen. Whether I am cooking, baking, or even just sitting at the table with a good book and a steaming hot mug of tea, the kitchen has always been my favourite room in the house. To me, it really is the heart of a home. I love the cosy atmosphere that is immediately created when you switch on the oven, ready for a spectacular cake or beautiful batch of cookies. I love the warmth that seems to permeate the whole house and the smell of baking that is so comforting and reassuring. I love how it becomes a place of attraction for everyone else in the house, a hub that welcomes people in and draws them together. And on cold, rainy October afternoons like we’ve been having recently, all I want to do is take up residence in my kitchen and bake up a storm, bake until all my worries and cares melt away and there is nothing left but the satisfaction of creating something good to eat.
That’s exactly how I felt yesterday, after what felt like a particularly taxing week; with deadlines drawing nearer, work which needed completing, emails to send, rehearsals to attend and a myriad of other things to do, it’s no surprise that by the time Friday drew around, I just felt exhausted. (It’s also that horrible time of year when absolutely everybody comes down with some form of cold or flu – I began experiencing some early symptoms myself last week, but several large doses of honey and lemon and lots of rest seem to have nipped it in the bud, thank goodness.) I also seem to have lost my ability to cope under pressure. At least, it’s not working as well as it used to; I seem to panic about the smallest things these days, worrying about time and whether I’ve done enough work, whether everything will be finished by some specified date, on and on and on, fretting until my head aches. But yesterday, I decided that enough was enough. I have schedules, timetables, to-do lists. In my head, I know that everything will be okay, that I’m just worrying needlessly. Occasionally, I have to remind myself that there’s time to take a break, relax, stop thinking about things so much. And what is the first thing that comes to mind when I want to unwind and forget about all my stress? What else, but baking?
I have to say, I didn’t feel like making a cake since my last effort consisted of brownies, so I turned to my Edd Kimber book (an excellent buy, which I highly recommend if you are any kind of baking fan) for inspiration – I just feel that it’s nice to mix things up every now and then. Plus, it keeps my other culinary techniques in practice, which is never a bad thing. In the end, I chose the Double Chocolate and Sour Cherry Cookies, an interesting elaboration on the classic chocolate chip cookie. (This is actually the first recipe I’ve made from Edd’s book, so it was a doubly exciting venture…)
These cookies are amazing. They are huge, great rounds of soft chocolate goodness, crisp and chewy on the outside and soft and gooey in the middle, almost like a brownie. Using dark chocolate ensures that they don’t become too sickly sweet and the sourness of the dried cherries adds another dimension, a sharp note which cuts through the rich sweetness. Sure, they aren’t that pretty or elegant, but when they taste this good, who really cares?
These are the perfect antidote to those grey winter days, summoning up dreams of sitting by the fire with a cookie or two and a tall glass of warm milk. Just lovely.
(Cookie recipe by Edd Kimber, taken from The Boy Who Bakes.)