Growing up in the 70's I was unfortunate enough to have parents who, with the exception of Upstairs, Downstairs, didn't watch television--which was kind of ironic since my father put food on the table by writing commercials. Regardless, they were pretty strict about TV watching and, like all forbidden fruit, the machine my father called the 'idiot box' became even more desirable than it might have had I been allowed to watch more than one hour a day. So, when I was still too young to have homework, I came up with lots of ways to become a worthy couch potato.
There was the daily visit to our next door neighbors' for a Coke and a few blissful minutes of The 4:30 Movie. Weekends spent in my grandparents' den where I'd pretend to be asleep, with one eye open, just until Carol Burnett tugged at her ear. And when I was home from school with the flu I'd plant myself in front of the set in my parents' bedroom and, from I Love Lucy to The Price is Right to The Mike Douglas Show, not move all day. Plus I lied when a parent called from work, "No, I'm not watching TV, just resting." If only my parents had understood that if they'd allowed unlimited television time Charles Dickens might have beaten out The Brady Bunch for my attention Friday nights at 8pm. Well, maybe not.
But the most devious plot was the mutual blackmail between me and a certain babysitter. She was 15, lived in the building and one Friday evening after The Partridge Family, when I should have been getting into bed, we made a deal (hah!). She'd let me stay up for the very racy Love American Style if I kept my mouth shut while she went to grab a smoke with the elevator man. My lips were sealed! But, can you imagine? I was eight and left alone in the apartment with my sleeping younger siblings. Not surprisingly, I learned a few years later, she had been sharing a lot more than a cigarette with Juan.
While doing all this covert TV watching I was struck by how many commercials there were for things I'd never seen or experienced. What were Buster Brown shoes and where did you get them? All the TV kids had them. And Dolly Madison snack cakes. Charlie Brown was filled with ads for them but I'd only seen Drakes and Hostess in the market--I wanted to try a Zinger! What about the Avon lady? She never rang the doorbell of apartment 9D. I felt like I was missing out on so much.
When the Girl Scouts announced some editing of their cookie line I thought of my childhood envy. The Scouts were another thing under the as only seen on TV category. I was so jealous of those cool pins and badges and that special camp. No one I knew in the city wore the green uniform. But what really got me were the cookies. Suburban friends bragged about how many boxes they sold and how chewy the Samoas were--yet another injustice of my childhood. Since then I've contributed quite a bit to the Scout effort through my annual Thin Mints purchase. And every year I am excited to put my boxes in the freezer (everyone knows they are better ice cold) and ration them out slowly to last as long as possible. And that's where it gets screwy: I actually never finish them. I seem to have cookie amnesia; when it comes time to place my order I simply forget how mediocre they are! Time to make them myself.
Although I'm no longer curious about Zingers, and realize how hideous Buster Brown shoes were, I'm not willing to give up on my fantasy of the perfect chocolate mint cookie. I found this recipe online ages ago and the results are definitely badge worthy--a cocoa cookie covered in dark chocolate and infused with the cool of mint. Now, if only Peter Brady could share them with me.
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Child of the 70's Real Chocolate Mint Cookies
Adapted from bakingbites.com, October 2005
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2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
6 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp peppermint extract
10 oz Ghiradellli 60% Cacao Chocolate Chips
1 stick butter
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
In small bowl whisk together flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt.
In bowl of an electric mixer cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
With mixer on low add milk and extracts and beat until combined, it will look a little curdled.
With mixer still on low, add flour mixture until fully combined.
Scrape dough out onto a cutting board, knead to smooth it a bit, divide into two pieces.
Roll each mound of dough into logs around 1 1/2 inches in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 1-2 hours until dough is very firm. (Tip-to prevent your logs from having one flat side, save the cardboard tube from a roll of paper towels and cut down the length to give you two sort of cradles. Place logs in cardboard tube halves and then freeze)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Using a very sharp knife, slice dough into rounds no more than 1/4 inch thick.
Place cookies on sheets leaving 1/2 inch between cookies.
Bake 13-15 minutes until cookies are firm at the edges.
Cool completely on wire rack.
Place chocolate and butter in microwave bowl and microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring between nukes, until mixture is smooth and liquidy. Add peppermint extract and stir vigorously to distribute evenly.
Carefully drop cooled cookies, one at a time, into chocolate. Frankly, it's just easier to get in there and use your fingers to coat both sides. Then scrape cookie against side of bowl to remove excess and place on pan lined with wax or parchment paper. If while dipping the chocolate gets too cool and thick, briefly pop back in microwave.
Leave cookies to set, 30 minutes to one hour. Store cookies in airtight container between layers of wax paper, in the freezer of course!
Yield: 6 dozen cookies