The basic recipe here is Old German, from Anne’s family. She invented the chocolate ends, which seem nothing less than essential, and I invented the notion of dipping the cookies a little deeper into the chocolate.
Well, I’ve been obsessed with chocolate for many years and I admit it. There were the chocolate sundaes and malts with my father at beloved Blum’s, the famous nominally seven layer cake with its roots in the Vienna of Freud and Schnitzler (friends of my father’s family, of course) and there were those Schrafft’s honeycomb bars, two to a package, wrapped in excellent chocolate and consumed by this pre-teen and fellow blue-suited brats during intermissions at the San Francisco Symphony’s Friday matinees, superbly conducted by cute little Pierre Monteux (Perry MonTUX we called him) before an audience composed in large part of well-gloved ladies in funny hats.
Immediately upon his careful military turn toward the wings after some rapid-fire Beethoven or new-fangled Shostakovich we wiggly ten-year-olds would scurry to the Opera House candy counter, then zoom to the Gents’ next to Box Z and devour our treasure while bouncing on air foam sofas.
A few seasons later chocolate was in danger of being at least momentarily upstaged when a little old lady living next to our rented house in Carmel invited me over to hear the then-rare recordings, in tawny heavyweight HMV albums, of the Beethoven sonatas, all of them, played by Artur Schnabel. Mrs. Palache wooed me as well with fabulous Scotch shortbread, bursting with butteryness.
So, while my contemporaries were exhibiting their pecs at the plage, I slunk next door for Beethoven and butter. Perhaps I have that in the wrong order.
First off, grate finely, in a food processor or grater, 1 pound of hazelnuts, skins on.Then in an electric mixer beat 2 egg whites until stiff. Gradually add 1/2 pound of powdered sugar and continue beating for 10 minutes. Fold in the hazelnuts.
Form the dough into small oblong shapes about 1-1/2 inches long and the diameter of your little finger (but maybe a little more if you’re slim in that area). Bake on ungreased trays for about 10 minutes at 300°, then cool.
Now in a small double boiler melt 3 ounces of baking chocolate and the same amount of bittersweet chocolate, stirring them together. Dip one end of each cookie in the chocolate — if you need more chocolate, melt the “baking” and “bittersweet” in the same proportions.
Place the finished cookies on waxed paper and peel them off the paper when the chocolate has hardened. Store in a tightly-covered tin for several days to facilitate flavor-devlopment and be sure not to invade this classified container until permission is given by the Cookie Mom.
(About 75 cookies)
Those Symphony excursions took place as I said on Friday afternoons — we traveled to the Opera House on a succession of clattery streetcars, the Nos. 22 Fillmore and 5 McAllister. Monday mornings we were back at the grind at Town School for Boys, Mr. Rich, our nerd/jock of a headmaster/super-grammarian standing at the blackboard with his left hand tucked in a rear pants pocket (brown pinstripe, usually) while the right with devilish chalk filled the wide-screen slate with one long paragraph of conversational English totally devoid of punctuation. Not a stream of consciousness. We, like so many pre-pubescent code-cracking Sir Alec Guinnesses, were supposed to write in our notebooks said conversation decked out with all the relevant so-far phantom commas-periods-colons-quotation marks-etc.-etc. An enigma supreme, with just one proper way to solve it. And lunch, perhaps, approaching, not that that held much gustatory promise. Our school catered to the sons of affluent parents, some of whom owned a county or two in the vicinity and could have underwritten for the student body a midday chef from Jack’s downtown. But alas, Mr. Rich seems not to have been a gourmet (at the summer camp he administered in Napa Valley, long before Kendall met Jackson, beef stew was mated with chilled watermelon!) and he had in his, or the board of directors’, service a mere flunky de cuisine, who turned out hamburger grenades and soggy pies from his basement laboratory . . . I mean kitchen.
But those phantom commas of Mr. Rich, even if I no longer use them very much – the difference between “restrictive” and “non-restrictive” clauses has been upstaged in my life by art and love – were absolutely three-star.