There was a time when every town had a little shop filled with kitchen goods. Now, replacing or buying kitchen tools often means a trip to the hardware store or a big box store. Or you can go to the other major retailers, but still, that’s where you get a new spatula. If you want inspiration and ideas and a chance to be exposed to the very best kitchen accoutrements, you need a special kind of shop, where the owner knows cooking and food and cookbooks. Where there is an entire wall of shiny copper cookware. Sadly, those independent stores are starting to disappear. Do you have an independently owned kitchenware shop in your town?
I feel so fortunate to be a hop, skip and a jump from La Cuisine in Alexandria, Virginia, where I fill my eyes with the best, very best, kitchen goods. A trip to Nancy Pollard’s exceptionally well stocked shop always inspires. I found the sturdiest spaetzle maker at her shop and a flattering apron (really!). Her small but beautifully merchandised shelves always have out of the ordinary imported dried beans, grains and rice.
In fact, there I was, visiting with Susie Middleton, who is touring with her marvelous seasonal cookbook, Fresh from the Farm. There was a crowd gathered, snacking on blueberry buckle from Susie’s book. So I dawdled, not wanting to interrupt, looking through every little nook and cranny in the shop, landing in front of the amazing chocolate selection. Open just a few of the tiny drawers that hold every type of baking chocolate you can imagine and taste the difference between this and that. (Sadly, I was so overcome with emotion, there are no photos.) At least 30 types — most Valrhona and some single origin. But there, lurking among the dark and bitter baking chocolates, were some called blonds. One taste and I was sunk.
They’re kind of butterscotch and sort of dulce de leche. They’re caramelized white chocolate, a sweet version of gjetost. Ideas started dancing in front of my eyes, like those happiness bluebirds in the cartoons.
To start, I made an oatmeal cookie with blond chips, sort of a scotchie/blondie. More bluebirds. I’m telling you, this is just the beginning. I’m thinking about a tart with blond chocolate and caramelized pears. Perhaps a posset style dessert. Stirred into ice cream (duh.) What would you do with some blond chocolate? (If you’re curious, Nancy’s having a tasting on March 22.)
One tip. Don’t leave the open bag on the counter while making the cookies. They’re very snackable.
If you’re in the DC area, don’t miss a chance to visit this charming and well stocked kitchen store. La Cuisine is utterly inspirational. (Hello! Look what happened when I saw blond chocolate.) If you’re not in the DC area, Nancy will ship. Isn’t that convenient?
Note: I took the high road in this post. No blond jokes.
Oatmeal Cookies with Blond Chocolate
Slightly adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook
Makes 3 dozen
Active Time: 40 minutes
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup milk
1 cup chopped Valrhona Blond Chocolate
Optional: 1 cup golden raisins or chopped toasted pecans or 1/2 cup each
Heat the oven to 350°F and line three baking sheets with parchment.
In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer (or by hand), cream the butter with the sugars until creamy and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, combining thoroughly before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla.
Stir together the oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice. Add half this combination to the sugar mixture and stir at a low speed until almost thoroughly mixed in.
Add the milk, combine at low speed, then add the balance of the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Fold in the chopped chocolate, raisins and pecans (if using.)
Using a 2 tablespoon scoop, portion out 36 cookies, 12 on each cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until toasty brown on the edges.
Cool on a rack. Store in layers separated by wax paper or parchment. Covered, the cookies will last four days.
PS Look what else I found.