I’d like to clarify one thing: Los Angeles is not laid-back. I can illustrate this with a recent happening in Runyon Canyon which involved the lady in the picture below. It was immediately clear she was mad. To conflate the English and American uses of the word, she was both insane and angry. She strode up the hill, got very close to us, pivoted and marched back down. She did this a few times, and we took some surreptitious photos, which she seemed to know about even though she couldn’t see anything.
“Are you taking pictures of me?” she barked, striding up the hill again, ski hat and sunglasses obscuring most of her face. We assured her we were not, and continued on our way. But however far we got, she would find us, get very close, then pivot and stride in the opposite direction. It was like some sort of drama school exercise to do with spatial awareness. Specifically the work of Rudolf Laban, which she would have excelled at.
Each time she came near, she raised her voice, and started talking very loudly into her cellphone. It wasn’t clear if there was anyone real on the other end, but it was obvious she was talking about movies: meetings, castings, budgets were mentioned. And it occurred to me that this was like a mad and intense version of what happens in LA every day. This is a city of creatives. Imagine living in a city peopled only by librarians or lollipop ladies* (which would be nice, I think; you would have a wide selection of reading material while being able to cross the road safely).
I never thought I’d come to the conclusion that there is such a thing as too much creativity. Being surrounded by people who are expressing themselves all the time is quite frightening, particularly when there are also yawning canyons, deep bowls of dust, fissured, cracked earth. There are mountain lions and rattlesnakes in the vicinity. Hawks hang in the air. LA is quite wild enough.
In keeping with today’s theme, these cookies are very intense. They’re little explosions of citrus and chocolate, and leave you feeling quite caffeinated and in need of moisture. They use a lot of butter, so this is an opportunity to use the good stuff, if you can get your hands on it. They aren’t soft, but snap in the mouth, and have a crystalline, sandy quality. The flavour of orange is not subtle (the recipe asks for the zest of 5 oranges, no less) and the dark chocolate is strong and edgy. Children may well turn their noses up at them. All the more for you.
Orange chocolate chip cookies
Adapted from Dan Lepard, The Guardian
350g plain flour
½ tsp salt
150g icing sugar
200g unsalted butter, slightly softened
Finely grated zest of 5 oranges (have yourself an orange juice)
200g chocolate chips (or a block of dark chocolate roughly chopped)
Put the flour, salt, icing sugar, butter and zest in a bowl and rub together into a smooth, soft dough (or you can use a food processor). Add the chocolate and work quickly to combine. Either divide the dough in two, and roll each half into a cylinder, or pat the entire amount of dough into a wide, flat disc. Wrap in plastic wrap/clingfilm and put in the freezer to firm up (you can leave it there for a month).
To bake, heat the oven to 170C/335F. Line a baking tray with parchment/baking paper. Take the dough out of the freezer and let it soften slightly for about ten minutes. It needs to stay firm for slicing. Using a serrated knife, cut out thinnish rounds (0.75-1cm). Alternatively, place the whole disc of dough between two sheets of cling film/plastic wrap and roll out to the same thickness, and then use a pastry cutter. The first kind will look like coins, the second like your more conventional cookie.
Sit the cookies on the lined tray about 2-3cm apart and bake for about 15-20 minutes (I don’t know the fierceness of your oven), until lightly browned and crisp. Remove from the oven, transfer to wire racks and leave to cool.
An additional recipe
Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Three Good Things on a Plate
These cookies can form the basis of a lovely chocolate tiffin, or refrigerator cake. Put 200g of broken up bits of dark chocolate, 110g butter and 1 tablespoon of syrup or honey into a heatproof bowl. Stand this over a pan of just-simmering water until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Roughly chop 75g of crystallised ginger (or a handful of raisins and/or dried apricots) and crush the cookies to small chunks. Pour the melted chocolate over the ginger/dried fruit and cookies, and mix. Tip this mixture into a lined loaf tin. Smooth out, leave to cool, then transfer to the fridge for several hours to set.