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This is the first of a three part series, kind of like “Jaws 1, Jaws 2 and possibly Jaws 3. I will be covering the travels and food obsessions of the three sisters, also known as “The Klass Girls” – Klass being our maiden name.
My middle sister Susan will be celebrating her big Six-Oh-No in October, but she likes to be ahead of the curve and wanted to travel with us six months before this auspicious occasion. This wasn’t terribly surprising considering her penchant for being ultra prepared for any occasion.
Without going into a lot of detail, I would guesstimate that at least 75 emails went back and forth between the three of us: should we see a play in New York? (yes) What play? (Warhorse) Did we want to buy train tickets ahead of time? (yes) Should we use a travel agent for hotels and air? (THANK YOU Pam – firstname.lastname@example.org.) How many pairs of jeans? (2) How many shirts? (4) Do we want to do a day trip to Bruges? (yes) Oh, and don’t forget a great raincoat and waterproof shoes. You get the picture, except with every single question came pages of dialog.
Our youngest sister lives on the East Coast and Susan and I are on the West Coast, so we converged in New York City at dawn and planned to leave for Amsterdam late the same day. The two West Coast girls needed to take individual, 6-hour long, red eye flights. Considering that neither of us is very good at sleeping on an airplane (or sleeping much at all, for that matter), we weren’t gleefully looking forward to this part of the trip, but we muscled through and met up at baggage claim – ready to roll. We decided to check our tiny carry-on bags to New York which, of course, involved phone calls at midnight to Susan. Admittedly, it was a welcome change to march on the plane with only my small backpack and not to have to hoist a tightly packed bag into the overhead bin. Yet we wanted that carry-on for train travel in Europe.
Anyway, the first twelve hours before we departed for Amsterdam and then the final three days of our trip were spent in New York City with Kay. We hit the ground running and ate a remarkable breakfast at Normas, found a delightful yarn shop (score), and finally sampled Levain’s cookies. Why did all three of my offspring know about Levain Bakery and why hadn’t they filled me in? Where had these cookies been all my life? Granted, I know how to make a good cookie – but these world-famous, six-ounce pieces of heaven are to die for!
On the way back from Amsterdam we stayed in New York for three days and shopped. Not one who loves shopping, I only like to do this with my sisters. We ate at the Shake Shack, Mario Batali’s Eatily, ABC Kitchen, Carnegie Deli… we stuffed ourselves silly. We also saw a play, visited Ground Zero and continued to eat and hoard the dark chocolate treats we bought in Belgium. Susan, by the way, lost 3 pounds on the trip and I most likely did too because my pants were a little looser (remember I don’t weigh myself). This shows you what a lot (like all day) of brisk walking will do…along with dark chocolate.
During this trip, I became obsessed with Levain cookies. We ate them both before our Europe trip and afterwards while in NYC, took a few on the plane for emergency fuel and visited their bakery. Of course I pumped the bakers about how many ounces per cookie, what was in them, etc. I then found a “copycat” recipe online, which I promptly delivered to my sisters and brother. Susan was the first to have a go at them, and reported that they were very, very close to what we had in New York. This recipe and pictures are her rendition of the type of cookie I loved the most there: Chocolate peanut butter! And the raw dough balls can be frozen for baking later on if you can’t fathom making a 12 of these monsters.
Oh So Chocolaty Peanut Butter Chip Cookies (Levain copycats)
Makes 12-13 large cookies
- 2 sticks cold regular (salted) butter, cut into 8 slices
- 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup dark Dutch processed cocoa powder, sifted (I use Sharfenberger)
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp table salt
- 3/4 tsp baking powder (aluminum free)
- 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (Guittard)
- 2 cups peanut butter chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and put a rack in middle of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle, cream together butter and sugar until well blended and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs and beat until well-incorporated, then add in cocoa powder.
Sift together flour, salt and baking powder until just combined, and mix in with the egg/sugar mix just until combined. Gently fold in remaining ingredients.
Transfer dough to a clean counter and gently mix dough by hand. Divide into 12 equal weight balls, about 4 oz each (I used a #50 cookie scoop) and place on cookie sheet. I only put 6 per sheet. Bake in the preheated oven 16-20 minutes. Remove the parchment and cookies to a cooling rack. Keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.