I was the only person in Miss Duckler’s kindergarten class without a sibling. I had wished so long for a sister. But I had also wished on a star for a Baby Alive doll, and that never came true. So when my Aunt Jeannie picked me up from school and shared the birth of my sister April, I couldn’t really believe it. I started cheering, and skipping in circles. “I have a sister, I have a sister!”
As we drove off in her silver El Dorado Cadillac, I was dying with anticipation. I wanted to see what April looked like, hold her, and be one of the first voices she heard. Breaking the news that we would have to wait till morning before we could go to the hospital, Jeannie pulled out a bag of her just baked chocolate chip mandel bread. “They’re still warm,” she said, trying to comfort me.
Biting into the heavenly biscuits, still warm, with puddles of melted chocolate, my mood lifted.
When we arrived at her house, she led me to her secret freezer—“The Just In Case.” The just in case was hidden in the back of the basement and it was only to be opened on very, very special occasions. It was stocked with decorative cookies and cakes that we feasted on. When my belly was full, she taught me how to measure, whip, and separate eggs so we could re-stock for future festivities.
She also taught me the magic of transforming recipes using swaps from her bag of tricks, even though I never saw an actual bag. “If you are missing a couple of ingredients and can’t get to the store, or if you wanted to lighten the sugar, butter or dairy content in a recipe to make it a little healthier and a little more waistline friendly, I have all the tricks!” my aunt boasted. When I left Aunt Jeannie’s house, I not only had a new baby sister, but several baking secrets—many of which were top secret and could be used for baking desserts on nights that meat was served.
Recipe reprinted with permission from My Fat Dad, A Memoir, of Food Love and Family with Recipes by Dawn Lerman
3 cups of flour (plus more for kneading)
1½ tsp aluminum-free baking powder
¼ tsp of salt
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 cup melted butter or oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract or orange juice
½ cup of chocolate chips, semi-sweet
Butter, oil, or parchment paper for the baking sheet
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In another bowl combine the beaten eggs and sugar until smooth. Whisk in the butter or oil, the vanilla extract, and the almond extract or orange juice and then pour into the dry ingredients until in turns into dough. Then stir in the chocolate chips. Make into a large ball and chill in a glass bowl covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator for two hours.
Grease a baking sheet or cover with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and wait five minutes so the dough is more pliable. Coat your hands with flour and remove the dough from the bowl. Knead the dough, and divide into two pieces. Form each piece into a roll about 3 inches wide. Place the rolls side by side onto the prepared baking sheet. They should stretch the length of the sheet. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees, until the rolls have started to turn brown. Then reduce the heat to 250 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes.
Remove the rolls from the oven onto a rack. Let cool about 10 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Then slice them diagonally about every ½ inch. Return the cookies to the baking sheet and lay them flat. Return to the oven and bake until lightly golden, about 30 minutes at 250 degrees. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before serving. The cookies will get crunchier as they cool.