Napping at the Dining Hall

A few years ago I was a fundraiser for a secondary school. I enjoyed my job, it was fun to speak with the alumni, hearing all of the reasons they valued the institution and the education it provided. As with working at any school, I quickly became part of the close-knit community, frequently attending athletic events, student recitals and awards ceremonies. The camaraderie among the colleagues was always fun and interesting, and, all in all, it was a great place to work. One of the perks for working at a place that provided free food for it's students was that we, the employees, were invited to eat in the dining hall as well. I ate there daily, crossing the quad at lunchtime with my colleagues, and enjoyed many of it's culinary offerings. Sure, there was a lot of standard "school food" fare like tater tots, veggie burgers and oversteamed carrots, but there was good food as well. I was a big fan of the sandwich and salad bar, complete with toasted pine nuts, as well as the homemade potato chips. I never once missed the pasta with artichoke hearts, and, above all, I never missed an opportunity to enjoy the double chocolate butter cookies.

You see, the menu varied so much that these particular cookies only appeared in the dining hall about once every couple of weeks. They were so popular with the students and faculty alike that it was imperative to get to the dining hall early that day in case they were all snapped up. It was not unusual to see a student cramming several cookies into an empty plastic bag, saving them for a late-night study hall snack. I begged and pleaded with the Chef for the recipe on many occasions, but he always turned up his nose at me, citing the recipe an "institutional secret." From the taste of them I was pretty sure they were composed of one part butter, one part sugar and one part chocolate, but I needed the exact ratios in order to replicate their deep buttery chocolate taste.

I started my quest by reviewing my favorite baking books, among them titles like Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook, More from Magnolia Bakery and, even, a recent Cook's Illustrated. There were many recipes for double chocolate cookies to be found, so I started experimenting. Unfortunately, most of the recipes did not have enough butter to recreate the taste of the cookie I had loved so dearly. However, I found by adding butter as well as extra flour and chocolate to the recipe I was creating brought me closer to the flavor I was aiming for. Along the way I got the idea from a Tate's recipe to add almonds. I liked the idea of having a little crunch to counteract the cakey texture of the cookie. I also added a hint of almond extract in lieu of vanilla, I felt this helped the almond and butter flavor really blossom in my mouth.

Finally, after many months of cracking eggs, creaming butter and rolling out the Silpat, I was pleased to create a recipe I deemed worthy. When I made these last week my husband made the comment "best ever" which further bolstered my confidence, it is good to know that I have made a recipe other people like. These cookies have a delicious buttery chocolate almond flavor and are studded with chocolate chips and sliced almonds. They are packed with good flavor and crunch, and, trust me, are impossible to eat in small quantities. I hope that you enjoy these as much as we do. I have even thought about taking these back to my old job for a "taste off" with Chef, although I've done my own tweaking to the flavor, I'm sure they would stand up to the original any day of the week.

Naptime's Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies - inspired by the dining hall, Tate's and Magnolia Bakery
Dry Ingredients
3/4 c. dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt

Wet Ingredient

1 1/4 c. (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 c. light brown sugar

1 large egg
1/2 t. almond extract

1 12oz. package semisweet chocolate chips

6 oz. sliced almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

3. In an electric mixture cream the butter and sugars until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. Add the egg and almond extract until just combined.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the butter batter, carefully, until totally combined. Do NOT overbeat.

6. Stir in chocolate chips and almonds.

7. Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, place dough two inches apart on the cookie sheets.

8. Carefully squash down the tops of the dough balls, this will help them flatten during baking.

9. Bake for 15-17 minutes. They may still be slightly puffy when you pull them out of the oven, but don't worry, they will harden up while they cool.
10. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on wire racks.

Naptime Notes:
Naptime Recipe Props:
This is a basic cookie dough recipe with tons of flavor. The dough tastes even better after it has rested to prepare it during naptime, let it rest in the fridge for the evening, then bake it after bedtime. Or, you could even bake it the next day during naptime, there is nothing wrong with letting it rest for 24 hours.
Naptime Stopwatch: The batter is easy to prepare and takes about 15 minutes to do so. The baking might take a little longer depending on how many cookies you can fit on your cookie sheet.
Naptime Reviews:
This recipe had gotten all-around thumbs up to everyone who has eaten them. Obviously my daughter loves them, what child doesn't love chocolate?!

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