My first encounter with the decadent art of the dunk came while visiting my grandmother Milly in Iowa as a preteen. A summer spent lolling in the slow, lazy days of Midwestern molasses heat waves in a farm town was full of many hours around the kitchen table catching up on life with the woman in my family whose cloth I am wholeheartedly cut from. At ninety plus she is still square dancing with younger men with her savvy fuchsia bee stung lips and ebony teased beehive bangs but back then, she was my wildest and closest friend. Whether it was in the morning to plot our day’s antics at the local county fair where we’d ride the Ferris wheel, screaming together, a good four or five times after strolling the pigs and cows; or post-dinner while plotting to sneak me into the VFW with her so we could dance together to our favorite jukebox songs; or just to ponder the creations we would make together that afternoon downstairs in her ceramic studio – we always converged with a food item that was sweet and a liquid in which to dunk it. Milly baked and cooked and canned and frosted so many things that summer that I am sure I came back laden with extra meat on my American thighs. We had warm coffee cake crumbles in light café mochas, gooey chocolate chip cookies in freezing cold Blue Bunny whole milk, crisp and buttery shortbread wafers in fresh squeezed orange juice, spoonfuls of pecan and maple pie in tepid sweet tea. I definitely became a dunker and the habit has stuck with me long into my adulthood. Even though these days my tastes run more towards high caliber dark chocolates and nut butter flavors of cakes and cookies and my choice of wet stuff seems to revolve around liquor and tea – I am still a product of my grandmother’s habit.
And it is a true art. The trick lies in dipping something only a portion into the liquid so that when you take a bite just above the wetted line you get both a quick bit of crunch and then something bready and sweet that squishes joyously between the teeth and onto the tongue. It’s also a skill in itself to wet a piece of food only enough to make it pliant and soggy but not so much that you lose it entirely to the bottom of the glass.
My favorite combinations are:
Anise biscotti in orchid oolong tea,
Almond croissants in soy cappuccinos,
Hazelnut milanos in hot green matcha,
Dark chocolate and almond biscotti in premium Champagne,
Peanut butter cookies in chicory tea or bourbon,
Tall skinny Italian breadsticks in dark, red wine…
…and the Cute Gardener’s dark chocolate sable cookies in Kahlua liqueur or Earl Grey tea; the recipe of which I will share below. This recipe comes with a warning though. Every time I eat these past eight p.m. I have trouble sleeping because they are dosed with caffeine. And, every time I eat these I can’t stop at one; even when I get a tummy ache and tell myself that I won’t ever do it again. They are that dangerous.
CHOCOLATE SABLE COOKIES
½ c. butter
¼ c. brown sugar
½ tbls. vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1-1/2 c. flour
¼ c. + 1 tbls. cocoa powder
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. baking soda
1 c. chocolate (70% cocoa, chopped)
Zest from 1/6 lemon
½ egg white
In mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt.
In a large bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda. Mix into butter mixture until well combined. Mix in chocolate and lemon zest. Add the egg white and mix until blended.
Roll the dough into two 1-1/4 inch diameter round logs. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill several hours or overnight. Cut the logs into rounds about 3/8 inch thick.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the sables on parchment lined baking sheet.
Bake for about 10 minutes until slightly puffed in the center. Place the baking sheet on a rack and let cool for 5 minutes before removing from paper.