Friday, August 10, 2012

Alice Waters’s Chocolate Crackle Cookies

Before words like “localvore,” “sustainability,” and “organic” hit the American mainstream, there was Alice Waters. She opened her restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, California in 1971, and from the beginning used ingredients that were local, seasonal, and organic. And a food movement began…Which I'm sure explains why she is number 2 on the Gourmet Live 50 Women Game-Changers list.

I’ve admired Waters for a number of years, but not only for her dedication to supporting local farmers and using seasonal ingredients. My admiration also comes from her help in creating the Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California. This living classroom, and the kitchen built to go along with it, provided the teaching staff the opportunity to not only show children where their food comes from and how lovely something freshly grown can taste, but also ties subjects like math, history, social studies, and science to the kitchen and garden. (This photo of Alice Waters came from the Chez Panisse website.) 

Remember helping Mom or Grandma in the kitchen? Or picking vegetables from the backyard garden? I do, and those are some of my most cherished memories. But in today’s busy, zooming culture, I’m afraid those memories for this generation of children may be missing.

It is so important that our children understand where the food they eat comes from, who grows it, and what’s in it. My mom and grandmothers showed me. In my first marriage, I tried to show my stepkids by having make-your-own pizza nights and baking cookies. Looking back, I could have done so much more, but I let our busy lives get in the way—a mistake I wish I could correct.

The first thing I remember making with my mom was chocolate chip cookies. That is why I chose this yummy cookie recipe to honor Alice Waters instead of one featuring fresh produce. In her book, The Art of Simple Food, she wrote, “For children, simple home baking provides a wonderful introduction to the kitchen: It teaches basic lessons in organization, measurements, mixing, oven use, and clean up. For many cooks, baking cookies was the spark that ignited a lifelong passion for cooking.”

That’s the way it was for me, and hopefully that same passion will be passed along to the generations to come.

So grab the nearest kid and bake come cookies!

Chocolate Crackle Cookies
Adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

1 cup blanched almonds
2 tablespoons and 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy (or coffee, if you prefer)
2 eggs, at room temperature
Granulated sugar, for rolling
Sifted powdered sugar, for rolling

In a food processor, place the almonds and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Process until the almonds are chopped very fine. Pour into a bowl and sift the flour and baking powder over the top. Mix to combine and set aside.

In a heat-proof bowl over simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Stir in the brandy (or coffee) until smooth and set aside off the heat.

In the bowl of a mixer, whip together the eggs and 1/4 cup sugar until the mixture is light and creates a ribbon, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the chocolate mixture and the almond-flour mixture.

Place the dough into the refrigerator and chill to firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Fill one small bowl with granulated sugar and another with the sifted powdered sugar.

Roll the cookie dough into 1-inch balls. Place them into the granulated sugar and roll until coated, and then repeat the process in the powdered sugar. Place the coated balls onto the baking sheets 1 inch apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking process, until the cookies have cracked on top, are firm around the edges, but still soft in the middle. Be careful not to overbake.


  1. Linda, I love crackle cookies…I used to make them for my kids all the time! You have just inspired me to dig out that recipe! Yours look wonderful! Very nice post!!

  2. I love chocolate pixies and those sound even better with the almonds. I agree. Alice Waters really led the way to healthier and more tasty food.

  3. I love them, too, and don't know where my recipe came from. I was hoping this was it, but mine doesn't have almonds. In fact, I LOST my recipe and my daughter-in-law, who had just the ingredients list, had to send it back to me. I might have to try them with the almonds, Linda!

  4. These are wonderful! I tried rolling half my batch in unsweeetened cocoa powder instead of powdered sugar, just as an experiment. They don't look as dramatic as the white ones, but they taste declicious.

  5. Freya, what a great idea! Thanks for sharing!