Getting Chunked Up With Martha!-White Chocolate Chunk Cookies- 67 eggs, 52 cups of sugar, 45 1/2 sticks of Butter, and 49 1/2 cups of flour used so far- 140 recipes to go!

June 16, 2010

Martha's White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

André's White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

One would think that a White Chocolate Chunk Cookie would resemble a regular Chocolate Chunk Cookie. Martha threw me for a loop on this one. Yes, the usual suspects play their role in this recipe , you know, flour, sugar, butter, eggs, but Martha calls for the addition of walnuts, oatmeal and sweetened coconut flakes for an added zip. The result is a cookie with a surprisingly rich, buttery flavor and a crisp and chunky texture.

White chocolate is an interesting ingredient. It consists mostly of cocoa butter which is extracted from cocoa liquor. Don’t get excited. Cocoa liquor has no alcohol content. It is simply the term used to refer to the liquid state of fermented cocoa beans that have been roasted, shelled and ground. In making regular unsweetened chocolate, the cocoa butter would be recombined with the cocoa solids, but in order to make white chocolate milk, sugar, and vanilla are added to the cocoa butter and cooled into solid blocks. White chocolate has a mellow, sweet flavor with just a hint of chocolate.

When shopping for white chocolate be warned. Many products sold as white chocolate contain no cocoa butter at all. They use vegetable oils as a cheaper substitute and the flavor is just awful. Read the label if you are unsure. As of 2004, the FDA lifted the ban on labeling food products as white chocolate that, in fact, contained no cocoa butter, so stay alert when making your purchase.

The history of White chocolate is pretty vague. From what I can tell, Switzerland was the first to start experimenting with the concept shortly after World War I. Nestle, however, was the first company to produce it for the masses in a candy bar called Galak in 1930. M&M Candy company was the first to manufacture it in the United States in 1931 and 1948, Nestle launched its Alpine White candy bar with chopped almonds.

White chocolate made a big comeback in 1993 when Hershey’s launched its reimagining of their popular chocolate kisses with Hugs wrapped in white chocolate. Today, white chocolate is sold just about everywhere.

Honestly, I don’t think white chocolate has much of a flavor. It’s sweet and has a bit of a tang to it but I don’t think its flavor is particularly unique or interesting (kind of like what my forties are shaping up to be- hehe)

As a Louisiana suburbanite child, my life wasn’t very unique or interesting either.  That is until  I was bitten by the acting bug. My first exposure to live theatre was magical. I must’ve been nine or ten years old. My mom sent me to stay with her older sister, Margie, for the weekend.  Aunt Margie was my godmother. She had three grown children at the time and lived in uptown New Orleans in a small, ancient, and leaning duplex.

If you’ve ever been to New Orleans, you know that years of humidity, heat, and flooding have caused the buildings to tilt and angle in all different directions. The architecture on any given street can span from Spanish Colonial to Acadian Shotgun to Contemporary Ranch to Classic Victorian and each building will be in some state of decay. There is an expression in New Orleans, “La Beaute d’Entropie” – The Beauty of Entropy. The Beauty of disorder and chaos. It is the perfect expression to explain the charm and mystique of the Crescent City and its people.

Aunt Margie had a bit of a mystique about her, as well. Being from a staunch Catholic family, marriage was a serious business. If you made a vow before God that you were going to spend the rest of your life with your mate, then you had better stick to it. Aunt Margie did not. She divorced her husband after many years of struggling with his alcoholism. Scandalous!  As a kid I didn’t know the circumstances of the divorce, I only knew she bucked the system and I loved her for that.

Aunt Margie smoked, drank wine, listened to jazz, had paintings in her house of naked people, wore perfume and makeup, loved Mardi Gras, often ate at restaurants, and asserted her opinions. She had a broad smile, a sense of worldly comic irony, an appreciation of the arts, and wore colorful flowing prints. She was everything my father hated and I loved her for that, too.

In the catalogue of classic cinema, there is one film that stands out as the Rosetta Stone of gay aspirations. Warner Bros.’ 1958 movie, Auntie Mame starring Rolalind Russell. This movie tells the story of a young, orphaned boy who goes to live with his Manhattanite, free-spirited Aunt. He is exposed to a world of intellectuals, artists,  liberals, and thinly disguised gays and lesbians. She opens windows and doors to a world he never knew existed.

I always viewed my Aunt Margie as being that person. The weekend I spent at her home is etched in my memory. She took me to see my very first play. It was Peter Pan starring Sandy Duncan and Christopher Hewett (Mr. Belvedere). I remember entering the Saenger Theatre on Canal Street in downtown New Orleans. The Saenger was a 4,000 seat theatre built in 1927 at the height of the Art Deco/Greek Revival movement. The lobby was lush. Red carpets lined the floors right up to the carved wooden walls. The ornately molded lighting fixtures flickered dimly, casting an eerie glow through the glamourous interior.

Once inside the theatre, I looked up at the enormous chandelier. The theatre house was built to resemble the that of an ancient Greek amphitheater. Large arches supporting statues of the gods wrapped around the audience. Beautiful flowing fountains lit with colored lights were nestled in the the alcoves against the wall. The ceiling was painted a deep imperial blue and tiny lights twinkled above to give the illusion of a nighttime sky. It was the most magical place I had ever been.

The chandelier began to fade into darkness as the orchestra tuned. The conductor walked out in tails,  his smile glowing brightly in the spotlight. He saluted the audience, raised his baton and the overture began. I had never heard a live group of musicians that large play before. It was magnificent. My heart was so full of happiness as the last strands of the overture grandly concluded.

The theatre went pitch black and the curtain raised to reveal the interior of the Darling children’s home. I think I probably gasped a little. I could feel my Aunt pulling me back to sit in my seat. My excitement had sent to the very edge of my cushion and I was hovering just inches away from the audience members’ heads in the row in front of us.

I clapped with glee as Sandy Duncan accompanied by a laser-generated Tinkerbell flew onto the stage. “Whoa!”- I muttered to myself in awe. “Aunt Margie, she’s flying! She’s flying!” I was completely and utterly captivated. It was all so beautiful… so perfect… so memorable. During intermission, Aunt Margie bought me a souvenir program for myself and a glass of white wine with an apple slice garnish for herself. She was so fancy.

During the curtain call, at the end of Act II, Sandy Duncan came out to take a deep and energetic bow. She then stretched out her arms and flew directly above the audience’s heads tossing pixie dust. It was like being splashed with holy water in church, only better. I remember scooping some from the dirty theatre floor and placing it in my pocket. It was sacred, Sandy Duncan, pixie powder.

That night I dreamt of flying. I dreamt of magic.

After that wonderful day, each time Sandy Duncan showed up on TV, whether it was as Missy Anne Reynolds in reruns of the mini-series, Roots or hawking Wheat Thins in those pesky commercials, I stopped to listen and remember the time she was my Peter Pan.

When my mother came to gather me from Aunt Margie’s home, I cried. I didn’t want to go. I wanted more days like those with my Aunt Margie. With her I felt windows and doors open. The thought of going back to my home felt like they were closing again.

One of my favorite lines from Auntie Mame-

“Life is a Banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

For one little Louisiana boy with “sensitive” tendencies and a strong urge to fly, this was especially true.

One Response to “Getting Chunked Up With Martha!-White Chocolate Chunk Cookies- 67 eggs, 52 cups of sugar, 45 1/2 sticks of Butter, and 49 1/2 cups of flour used so far- 140 recipes to go!”

  1. molly Says:

    Andre’, this may be my favorite post yet. I wish I knew Aunt Margie. Thank God she sprinkled the Aunt Margie dust on you! Peter Pan was also the first live show my sons ever saw (Theater League version with Dorothy Hamill). The pirates were goofy and scary, but I forget who played Hook.

    Way to keep on bakin’!

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