Cookie Therapy


Ever since my untimely departure from the Mercury News last month, I’ve been baking almost every week.

So much so that with every new batch that comes warm out of the oven, my husband has taken to calling them my “layoff cookies.”

Which of course makes me chuckle. And which of course makes me think of the movie “Waitress” and its hilariously named pies, where right from the get-go you know: It’s personal. Oh, boy, is it ever.

No, I can’t say that I’ve been stirring up any “Journalism Sucks” cookies. Or any “Mercury News Mad-eleines.” Nor have I been rolling out any “MediaNews Mud Pies.”

But the thought makes me laugh. And gets me to thinking: Just what would actual newspaper layoff cookies be like: Would they be black-and-white butter cookies dipped in both dark and white chocolate ever so messily? Would they be rolled-out sugar cookies cut into the shape of alphabet letters, with a few not-quite-perfect askew ones? Or would they be bittersweet lemon meltaways with a flavor that vanishes like yesterday’s news?

I can’t say I had any of that in mind when I tried this recipe from the new The Essential Chocolate Chip Cookbook (Chronicle Books, $16.95) by former pastry chef Elinor Klivans.

The coffee and white chocolate chip blondies just appealed to me with their smear of melty white chocolate, reminiscent of just-out-of-the-oven homemade cinnamon buns.

Two tablespoons of coffee mixed into the batter lend a lovely cafe au lait lilt. These soft, chewy, perky cookies are a sure-fire pick-me-up anytime you need a little lift.

Coffee and white chocolate chip blondies

(makes 16 to 25 bars)

1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons instant coffee powder, dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons white chocolate chips, divided use

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and line pan with a piece of parchment paper that is long enough to extend over two opposite sides of the pan. Butter the paper.

In a small bowl, stir flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smoothly blended, about 1 minute. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl as needed during mixing. Add eggs, dissolved coffee, and vanilla and mix until blended, about 1 minute. The mixture may look slightly curdled. On low speed, add flour mixture, mixing just until it is incorporated. Mix in 1 cup of the white chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake just until top feels firm when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack. Immediately sprinkle remaining 3 tablespoons white chocolate chips over the top. Let chips sit for 10 minutes, then use the back of a teaspoon to gently smear melted chips to create large marbleized swirls of white chocolate. The swirls will not completely cover the bars. Cool until topping is firm, about 1 hour. These are thin bars and may sink slightly in the center as they cool, because the center is especially moist.

Loosen sides of bars from unlined sides of pan and use ends of paper to lift bars from the pan. Use a large sharp knife to cut bars into 16 or 25 pieces and then a wide spatula to help slide the blondies off the paper.

The blondies can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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  • Nice looking cookies. Nice photo too.

    This may be a silly question. Why do you butter the pan if you’re gonna line it with parchment paper anyway?

    My layoff cookie would but a rolled out cookie, cut into the shape of a fist with a finger (guess which) extended. Hey, you can make a whole line of cookie cutters called Subversive Cookie Cutters, a la subversive cross stitch (

    Or not.

  • Hah! Your layoff cookie is aptly descriptive!

    And glad you liked the photo. I’m still finding my way as a photographer, so thank you for all the support.

    I would say you butter the parchment for added insurance that the cookies will release easily from both pan and paper. I actually lined my pan with aluminum foil large enough so that the edges hung over the top of the pan. I also buttered the foil. Then when the pan was cool enough after baking, I used the edges of the foil to lift the whole shebang out of the pan. Then, the foil easily peeled away from the cookies. Voila!

  • Carolyn, Great to find your wonderful food writing again. I’m not much of a baker (“Fire up the grill), though I think my Weber cookbook did come with a chocolate chip recipe.
    Anyway, I’m afraid newspaper layoff cookies would have to be made with a cookie-cutter. That’s where we’re headed as newspapers shrink their staffs. A few wire stories, a few stories from consolidated, regional news operations and very little that is original or distinctive.

  • These look great! My layoff cookies would be a batch of bitter brownies, not these luscious gems. When is technology going to allow me to reach into the screen and taste one!

  • re: Mike Cassidy’s comment: “I’m not much of a baker (”Fire up the grill”)…

    I love Rita Rudner’s line: “Men like to barbecue. Men will cook if danger is involved.”

    And I agree with regard to what’s happening at the Merc. I have need a reader for 30 years and am dismayed at the skinnying of what was once one of the finest papers in the country.

  • I just want you to know, i had to read this post 4 times. It is one of the wittiest, best written posts I’ve ever read anywhere.

    I’m not sure what my layoff cookie would be, but I’d probably disguise a bunch of nasty ingredients in it (blue cheese, ketchup, black licorice, squid, lard, etc…), and then mail it to the office as a goodbye present to them.

    (I just made an Elinor Klivans chocolate cake on Sunday – delish)

  • Well, no wonder I haven’t seen any of your articles for awhile! I figured you were on vacation or something. Had no idea! Well, now I have nothing left to look forward to in the Wednesday Merc. Sad. I’ll just keep checking in with you here. 🙂

  • Enjoyed the writing and style. Also delightfully punnie.The food section of the SJMN hasn’t been the same without you. Management really tossed their cookies when they let you go.

  • Those look fabulous!

  • My new go to cookie is some version of the blondie. They are always chewy which is key to a good cookie. I like the combination of your blondie.

  • You have a really wonderful blog. And those cookies? Wow!

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