It is a time of year to gather.
To gather people in celebration. To gather together to comfort. To gather memories of loved ones who have passed, and gather moments and memories to recall for the future. To gather next year’s intentions.
A few weeks ago our family hosted our third annual cookie exchange here in the UK, traditionally an American midwestern practice. The last few we’ve hosted have been smaller gatherings, held at our house as we figured out how exactly it would work. This time, rather than just a few families here at our house, we opened it up to a wider community that we and our children share our days with. Though less intimate than our previous ones, the sense of strength, celebration and acceptance we felt from the experience is one that is holding me up on days like today, when the politics and the policies of the country I now call home feel so against the core of my beliefs. As are the thoughts that I still have a few cookies leftover in my freezer… Time to dip into the reserves.
For our cookie exchange this year, as I have done every year around Channukah and Christmas, I made my grandmother’s recipe for ‘Double Deckers’ a buttery rich bar cookie made with dark chocolate, cream cheese and almond extract. They were my dad’s and my very favourite of all her cookies. Now I make them to share a piece of who my dad was with those around me. It is the opposite of gathering. It is an attempt to scatter out my love for him in as many directions as possible because there is no longer a direct place for it to go.
Though I shared it a year ago on this site, I think it might be good for us all to have something sweet and decadent close to hand today, to share with those whose company provide strength and comfort.
Double Decker Bar Cookies
175g or 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
150g or 5.3oz full fat cream cheese
80ml or 1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup almonds or walnuts, chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
1 1/4 teaspoons almond extract
188g or 11/2 cups self-raising flour
96g or 3/4 cup golden caster sugar
125ml or 1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a small saucepan over low heat combine chocolate chips, cream cheese and evaporated milk, stirring continuously until melted and combined. When smooth, remove from heat and add almond extract nuts, sesame seeds (if using). Set aside to cool
In a large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, butter egg, baking powder, salt, and almond extract and mix with spoon or hands until well combined.
Preheat your oven to 190F/375C. Prepare a 20cm/8inch. or 23cm/9inch. brownie tin with parchment paper for ease.
Using your fingertips, spread 1/2 to 2/3 crust into the bottom of the tin, making sure the entire surface is covered in an even layer.
Pour in the cooled chocolate filling and spread evenly over the crust.
With the remaining dough, divide into small balls, flatten with fingers and lay evenly spaced the top of the filling, allowing bits of the chocolate filling to poke through.
Bake in the centre rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the top is lightly golden.
Allow to cool before removing from the tin and cutting into approx 16 pieces.