Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chocolate Espresso Cookies

 I've only been a Mean Girl once in my life.  During a summer program,  when the laws of the high school universe that confined me to being a dorky outsider temporarily did not apply.

Bella was tall, beautiful, and on first glance, you would have thought she would be the Mean Girl. She was a swimmer and a basketball star.  There were four girls in our shared room, and almost immediately she began to inform us of how wonderful she was.  Bella was ahead of her time. Back then, it was still kind of unfashionable to quote your math SAT scores and talk about your leadership positions on your college resume.

"You want to go to Harvard?" she said to me.  "Harvard is so over.  I wanna be rich and make a lot of money, so Ah-am going to Wharton."

Bella was from Texas and spoke with a slight twang.  She bought FURNITURE for her section of the room. And  I mean, like a standing wardrobe for her clothes, not milk cartons. Granted, it was cheap furniture from the Coop, but still. Furniture!

She wore Calvin Klein to bed. This was when Calvin Klein was Calvin Klein.

When they served salty snacks at the study group, not only did Bella not partake, but she informed us that she hated salt so much she had to take salt pills when she was on the swimming team, because she was so fit she sweated more salt than she could take in through her food.

I should have been the victim that summer.  Yet, during that first critical night of confessions, when Bella said, "Ah can't believe all of the politicians are taking away money from our school district and giving it  to poor schools this year.  There's nothin' but Mexican kids in those schools. Our basketball team couldn't afford matching sneah-kahs this year," something shifted.  I remember saying something stiff about how I had written an award-winning play in support of affirmative action, and fully expected the other girls to turn against me.

However, several days later, one of my other roommates said:  "You know, I think Bella is kind of snotty."

"Yeah," the other one chimed in.  "I mean, I like nice clothes, but what's the point of getting dressed up if that's how you look ALL the time?"

It may have been the see-through beige shirt with the black bra 'underwear as outerwear' look paired with a mini skirt and strappy black sandals.  The look was arresting. Bella may have been new money and Texan, but she did have great taste.  The rest of us favored sandals, shorts, and t-shirts, and our thighs were pasty white. Bella had a non-enhanced permanent tan.

Her clothes, her Republican politics, and her odd habit of not closing the door when she went to the bathroom and singing, as if we were not there, gave us rich fodder.

By the second week, I was the ringleader.  "Ah don't bother to WASH my CALVIN KLEINS, honey--I jus' throw 'em away when ah am finished," I would drawl, in an exaggerated voice.
Bella was not nearly as awful as I thought she was at the time. A day before the end of the program I accidentally spilled black hair dye on her beautiful, color-coordinated, tastefully taupe and black striped sheets.  (This was my Depressed Girl phase, hence the black hair dye). Bella forgave me with a sweet smile and I cried because I felt so bad.  "Don't worry about it honey, they are extra-long and won't fit mah bed at home."

When my mother got a divorce from my father, she gave up coffee, so I had only drank instant coffee up until that point in my life.  During that summer it was very exciting for me to be able to drink real coffee from the cafeteria at the program.

Of course, Bella had bought a fancy coffee machine for her room so as not to have to sully her lips with inferior brewed java, and she left all of her furniture and many of her clothes behind her when she left. One roommate got her discarded clothes; the other her books; I got the coffee machine.  I took it home, installed it in my kitchen, and tormented my mother with the smell of the real stuff.

My coffee addiction is now in control and I am down to one mild cup a day, versus my grad school years, but it is always a well-brewed French or espresso roast. 

Many coffee cookie recipes use instant coffee. To this day, I can't stand the taste of instant coffee, and even the tiniest bit my palate...

When you see the real coffee grounds in the recipe, you might think: is this a typo?  Fear not--I am not the first person to use them. They are an ingredient in David Chang's Compost Cookies, after all.

These cookies are intense, and not for everyone. You need to really love chocolate and coffee. The flavor is rich and complex, yet the actual ingredients are fairly minimalist.  Kind of like a black Calvin Klein bra from the early 90s.

Chocolate Espresso Cookies

--yields 24 cookies--


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon espresso coffee grounds (from brewed coffee, not instant)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened coca powder

6 tablespoons melted butter
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon espresso or strong coffee

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips


1. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, coffee grounds, and salt

2. Beat cocoa and butter together, add eggs and liquid espresso.

3. Fold dry into wet.  Fold in chocolate chips. Chill for one hour.

4. Scoop, then roll into 1-inch balls. Bake on two parchment-lined cookie trays for 10 minutes.  Cookies will look underdone immediately after being removed from the oven.


  1. I've always wanted to try a coffee-based cookie. Thanks for the tip on GF crust--I may try a cheesecake!

  2. @The Blonde Duck--from what you described of the group, I think cheesecake is a 'sure thing.'

  3. These look really good. Does the coffee have to be ground superfine? (Deep dark confession #2: I buy good coffee but grind it in the store. Dealing with whole beans at 5:00 in the morning is a little much.) If so, I have a grinder around here someplace that might get some use now.

    My friends turned into mean girls in the 9th grade and would single out one of our own to be ostracized. Once she was destroyed, they'd move on to another girl in the group. I somehow managed to extricate myself from the clique without either having to participate or be the target, but I was always a little bit on the fringes with them anyway. A couple of years later, they joined a church group and would actually say things like, "Jesus loves you!" unprompted, which never seemed very sincere, but at least they stopped making other girls cry all the time.

  4. @flurrious--the coffee doesn't have to be ground superfine. Spread out over 24 cookies and baked, I couldn't detect any grittiness. I don't grind my own coffee every day, either. I guess that is my idiot/maniac thing going again. I can't tolerate instant, but I'm not into coffee enough to grind it fresh or even shell out for a coffee maker that grinds it fresh every day.

    It's strange how quickly some girls grow out of that phase(although some never do). One of my favorite books of all time Cat's Eye by Margaret which deals with the subject. I was usually on the receiving end, except this one time, and that is probably why I am so fascinated by girl bullying. That and because it seems to turn so many stereotypes about female weakness ass over teakettle.

  5. nice posting. thanks for sharing