My great-grandparents were immigrants. My grandparents were born in the U.S. but their first language was not English. Both of their parents originated in Northern Italy, my grandfather’s side from Milan and my grandmother’s from a small hill town outside of Genoa. Their parents immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s. They traveled through Ellis Island and eventually ended up on the West Coast, and settled south of Seattle in the Kent Valley where they owned a dairy farm, making cheese for a living. My grandparents were born a few years later in the mid-1920s. At the time, the valley consisted of family farms and fields as far as the eye could see. Now, the land is marked with traffic, strip malls and restaurants.
My great-grandparents are the reason I am here today, in this country and living a comfortable existence. But the path wasn’t easy for them, as immigrants to the country. It was particularly difficult for my grandfather growing up, with his dark Mediterranean skin and no English. When my grandfather was of school-age, he would hide in the family’s barn each day, terrified to go to school because he couldn’t speak the language. The school finally called about his absences and his parents made him return immediately. After that, my great-grandparents stopped speaking Italian and learned English. As a result, my mother didn’t learn her family’s native language growing up, other than a few words here and there. And while my grandparents did maintain some of their heritage, as they were devoted members of the Sons of Italy and cooked magnificent Italian feasts, I never heard my grandparents speak Italian, not once, though I knew they could.
We live in a country of immigrants, like my great-grandparents, and that is what has driven this country to greatness. While I am still figuring out what it looks like in my life to stand up for refuge, safety, and rights of all people, I am working on it. I am going to start small and make a daily impact in my little corner of the world. And while this isn’t much, I’ve been baking and cooking a lot lately, because it helps me cope. And because food is love. These cookies from Dorie Greenspan have been in the rotation often (partly because of their name and partly because they are so darn good). I’ve adapted them to be gluten- and dairy-free. I’ve also added hazelnuts, large chocolate chunks of Theo’s 70% chocolate, and topped them with Maldon’s flaky sea salt. I brought them to a weekly gathering with friends last week and we enjoyed them as we challenged each other about tough things like what it means to be brave and what that looks like in our lives this next year. I hope these cookies bring a little light into your week.
Dorie’s World Peace Cookies
Modified from Dorie’s Cookies
Makes approximately two dozen cookies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour (i.e., Namaste)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (sub Earth Balance or a non-dairy version)
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces 70% chocolate, chopped into chunks
1/2 cup chopped raw hazelnuts
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa and baking soda. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter (or Earth Balance) and sugars together on medium speed until soft and fluffy. Add salt and vanilla, and combine. Turn off mixer, add the dry ingredients and blend on low until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chunks and hazelnuts.
Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap. Dump half of the dough on the plastic wrap and mold the dough into a log about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. It helps to cover the dough with the plastic wrap and squish it around until it becomes smooth and forms a uniform log. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Place both covered logs of dough in the fridge for about 3 hours (2 hours in the freezer), or let sit in the fridge overnight if baking the next day or so.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325ºF. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with one log at a time, slice the dough into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. If the rounds break apart (which usually happens), just press the dough back together until it holds. Place the rounds on the baking sheet, about 8 to a sheet since they typically don’t spread out too much. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes without opening the oven (I think 11 minutes is just right.). When the timer rings, transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest for 5-10 minutes. The cookies will look soft and doughy but will firm up as they cool. Transfer the cookies from the baking sheet to the cooling rack, and bake the remaining dough.
I store these cookies in the freezer and let them warm up prior to eating. Otherwise, they can also be stored at room temperature for a few days but keep in mind gluten-free goods often don’t last as long so you’ll have to eat them up quickly.