As I type this, I’m on a flight from San Francisco to Denver. The sun is just coming up and the passengers around me are mostly fast asleep and grumbling. Or, looking at me like I’m from another planet. I’m beaming and buzzing from a weekend of riding, cooking and kicking it with the Rapha RCC in Sonoma and, even though my alarm went off at 3:45am this morning to make my flight home, I don’t expect the feeling to wear off today to anytime soon.
I’ve been traveling like this for the past several weekends and the pattern will ensue for a few more weeks; I pack my bags with whatever I’d need to ride, eat/cook and relax with good people, hop a plane for a short(ish) flight and dig in. I fly back far too early (or pretty darn late) and jump head first into the week, then do it all again.
Ride, eat, share, repeat.
Recently, a friend chortled at the brutality of such a travel schedule in a way that read “you poor girl!” But truthfully, the feeling of this cycle is absolutely worth the sleeplessness and the hustle. Only when I’m moving about with this intensity do the whirring of wheels, the sights, the smells, the tastes, and the laughter + good conversations that transpire become a big blur. And the blur reminds me that the simplicity of riding a bike in a new place is an elemental joy. That this elemental joy – experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of a place- connect us more deeply than any other mode of travel. And that the hunger – to see more, and to fuel ourselves with delicious flavors so that we are able to continue on our journey – is the most worthwhile hunger I know.
When the dust settles again, and the pieces of these adventures fall out of my memory, I get home to the quiet and create. Taking moments, flavors, sounds and turning them into something else that might live forever (at least in a recipe.) My little soul needs this sort of hustle make it all simple. To reveal what’s’ important (even when it seems like tiny shampoo bottles, suitcases, and calling the early Uber ride are paramount.) When I’m blasted like this, I seem to notice more just how the journey of a bike ride makes the flavors more deep, the smells more poignant, the sights and sensations and scenery more poignant.
The sound of wheels whirring through the redwoods. The tiny flapping sound of Jake’s gilet as we spun through shafts of late-afternoon sunlight. The smell of fall fermentation in the vineyards, and hues of maroon, gold and green. What does THAT taste like? Fresh on your skin, and savory for your soul.
The fresh crunch of herb salad mingling with spicy, tart, savory pork belly and pickled onions on hot tortillas with a cold beer to wash it down, and the marine layer rolling in over the coast. What do you call that on a menu? A meal so loaded with sensory experience can’t just be called “tacos?” Chris and I called it “lunch” yesterday, and I enjoyed cooking it with him about as much as I enjoyed exploring the roads on my bike the day before. And afterward, it seems that something grounding, yet playful was the only suitable dessert.
I pondered this as we were preparing that lunch, over that vista point, and caught myself thinking about these Chocolate + Mint Sandwich Cookies; still hungry from a big ride the day before, and enjoying the cool breeze and Indian summer sunshine as we worked. Crunchy and creamy, they beg for a glass of milk to be dunked in. They were originally a birthday gift for Pete (who may have dropped a hint that he’d enjoy a homemade Oreo cookie, knowing full well that I’d attempt to make a cookie that would help him forget all about the mass-produced packaged version all together.) He originally informed me that this was a “good idea” after a nice long bike ride, and so it made me smile that now I was craving them on a ride adventure of my own.
Unlike other cookies I make, these have a few different steps; you make the cookie dough, chill it, and make a frosting to spread between the cookies once they’re baked. Using a tiny, circular cookie cutter, I make a little round window in half of the cookies just as I pull them from the oven (and they’re still warm) to let the minty, white chocolate cream peek through but you wouldn’t have to do this step (although, you could also make that little window any shape you like with any tiny cookie cutter!)
I’ll probably pull out the stand mixer and bake a batch, dancing to Sylvan Esso in the kitchen tonight while my laundry from the trip spins. I have to get it done to fly again later this week, back to California for a little bit more ride: Ride, eat, share, repeat.
I hope you dig in and enjoy this one — they’re perfect for spooky gatherings in the coming week. (How is it almost November already?!)
xo – L
- makes 25-30 sandwich cookies
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
- peppermint oil (to taste)
- In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade, combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and baking soda and pulse several times to mix completely. Cut the butter into about 12 equal chunks and then add them to the bowl. Pulse several times. Next, combine the milk and vanilla in a small cup. Then, with the food processor running, add the milk mixture through the feed tue and continue to process until the mixture clumps around the blade or sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a large bowl or cutting board and knead it a few times to be sure that it's blended evenly.
- Working quickly (so as not to warm the butter too much,) form the dough into a log about 16 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the log in wax paper or foil and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
- When its time to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Use a thin, sharp knife to score the dough log in 1-inch intervals, the cut 6 very thin slices per inch, placing them 1 inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and back to front halfway through the baking time to be sure they're baked evenly. The cookies will puff up and deflate; they are done about 1 1/2 minutes after they deflate.
- If the cookies aren't baked enough, they won't be crisp when they're cool. In that case, return them to the oven to bake for a few more minutes then cool again. As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, press a 7/8 inch cookie cutter (or improvise with a bottle cap!) into the center of half of the cookies. Remove the little cutouts when the cookies have cooled completely, then its time to fill the cookies!
- To make the filling, place the white chocolate in a small, microwave-safe bowl and warm in the microwave on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring with a rubber spatula incrementally through the warming. Warm just until the chocolate is melted and runs easily off the spatula. Next, you'll flavor it with the mint oil by adding just 3 drops of oil to start. If you like your cookies very pepperminty, you'll want to add quite a bit more...just add slowly and in droplet increments. Once the taste is to your liking, spread 1/2 teaspoon of filling almost to the edge of a cookie without a cutout, then set a cookie with a cutout hole on top, squishing just a bit with your fingers as you stick them together. Repeat with all of the cookies.
- When the filling is set, the cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or frozen up to 2 months.