PITTSFIELD >> Brandi Scalise's new cookbook is based on a little white — shall we say, chocolate — lie.
It took her six months to perfect her All-Nighter cookie — a rich dark chocolate recipe with a kick of coffee, macadamia nuts and tart cranberries — and when friends raved and requested the recipe, she fibbed.
"Everyone wanted the recipe," said Scalise. "And I thought, 'No way, you can't have it.' So I lied and said I was writing a cookbook, so you can't have it."
Ten years and 41 perfected cookie concoctions later, Scalise's once imagined cookbook is hitting shelves. "Cookie Classics Made Easy," (Storey Publishing) is a delicious, no-fuss page turner for any baker or cookie lover.
The recipes are created and presented with ease in mind. Scalise, a single mom to a 6-year-old daughter and manager and hairdresser by day at Lotus Salon and Spa on Williams Street, doesn't have time for fussy recipes that require cookie slats or freezing the dough for hours.
"People are intimidated by baking and it shouldn't be like that," said the mom, who has no culinary arts background other than taste-testing her mother's annual haul of Christmas cookies as a child. "You should be able to play with it. I'm by no means measuring things perfectly and scraping them off with a knife for a level measurement. I'm throwing it in. I've got stuff to do."
The recipes — broken up into categories: chocolate love, fruit and nut, sugar and spice and all-time favorites — are designed for one-bowl mixing. The ingredients are listed in order of what goes in the bowl, with easy-to-read font. According to Scalise, who primarily uses a KitchenAid electric stand mixer to do the hard work, all you need is 30 minutes, basic ingredients and simple tools to make homemade cookies in your kitchen.
There are standby favorites — like oatmeal raisin, shortbread and snickerdoodle — and fabulously named new treats like Berkshire Road, a cookie that takes its culinary cue from Rocky Road ice cream with almonds, chocolate chips and marshmallows. Or there is a trail-mix packed cookie named Hit The Trails Running, and a Brandi Alexander cookie that promises the flavor of the cocktail, "but without the buzz."
Scalise's daughter came up with some of the cookie names, but others came about organically. The Out-of-this-world Chocolate Chip was named after one of the salon's clients — who regularly get to test out the manager's baked treats while waiting for appointments — exclaimed that the cookie was, indeed, "out of this world." The All Nighter was named after Scalise came into work, bleary eyed, after spending all night working on the recipe.
For the Pittsfield native, who never imagined her passion for cookies would go this far, the all-nighters pulled to perfect these recipes is worth the effort.
"The first time I got to hold the book in my hands I walked around all night with it," she said of the cookbook, available in major retail stores, including Barnes & Noble. "I treated it like a newborn baby."
"Don't eat this cookie at night or you will have trouble falling asleep. This rich dark chocolate cookie with sweet-tart cranberries, crunchy macadamia nuts and coffee has a ton of different flavors; it's like the Fourth of July in your mouth," writes Scalise in her book.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons instant coffee (I use Folgers)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder (I use Hershey's Special Dark)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F/175 deg. C. If using regular (nonstick) cookie sheets, line with parchment paper.
Combine the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, instant coffee, salt, and baking soda in one large mixing bowl. Mix well, preferably with an electric mixer, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the cocoa powder and mix, then add the flour and mix again. Add the chocolate chips, macadamia nuts, and cranberries, and mix well.
Using a 11/2-inch cookie scoop or a large rounded teaspoon, scoop out the dough and drop about 11/2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.
Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until you can smell a wonderful chocolate aroma filling the air. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.