Somehow, when you're a New Yorker, you'll always be a New Yorker. It's not that you necessarily plan to associate with the state for all eternity, it just kind of seeps into your skin like beet juice, or tie dye.
And there's nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. In fact, even though I haven't lived in New York for 20 years, I still call on my roots when convenient:
"Why are you walking so fast? We've got plenty of time."
"Sorry, I'm a New Yorker."
"Why so quick to hit the horn? Give the lady a minute to figure out where she's going."
"Uh, I'm kind of a New Yorker. And how annoying is she?"
Just last night we were having a typical family dinner conversation when a youngster-who-shall-not-be-named suddenly pouted.
"What's the matter, honey?" I asked.
"You interrupted me," he answered. "And now I don't remember what I was going to say."
Colin jumped right in. "You have to understand," he said, "Mommy's a New Yorker."
As if that explained everything.
Now I do have some regrets about my years in New York, a major one being that I never spent any time in Brooklyn. From what I hear, Brooklyn's got a pretty dynamite food scene. So next summer, on my yearly visit back east, I hope to change that.
You know where I'm going first? To One Girl Cookies, a Brooklyn bakery (68 Dean St.) owned by Dawn Casale and Dave Crofton. See, they name all their cookies after girls, which I find quirky and adorable. In other words, if you'd like a chocolate spice cookie with chopped pistachios, you'd order a Danielle, named after Dawn's sister. If you'd prefer a nut-covered butter cookie filled with apricot preserves, you'll request a Penelope. Craving an oat cookie with crystallized ginger? That would be Susannah.
You may wonder why I'm writing about a Brooklyn bakery I've never visited. Fair question. The reason is this: Dave and I got to chatting over email, and when he shared with me his recipe for hazelnut and chocolate caramel bars, I went gaga. You can see why in my pictures above -- you've got your chocolate, your toasted hazelnuts, your shortbread crust. What's not to love? After I baked them, I dropped off little care packages throughout the neighborhood. I think my zip code collectively gained 35 pounds.
We've been talking a lot here lately about real food, and I'll tell you this: if I'm going to eat something with no nutritive value whatsoever, something unquestionably and unapologetically caloric, I want it to taste exactly like this.
Her name's Connie.
Recipe for Connie Bars (Hazelnut and Chocolate Caramel Bars)
Adapted from One Girl Cookies in Brooklyn, New York (212.675.4996)
Dave Crofton was generous enough to provide the bakery's recipe. Below, I've written his instructions and incorporated some of my own advice.
Yields 15 large (3x3) bars or 30 more reasonably-sized bars
1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) hazelnuts
3 sticks (12 ounces) butter, divided
1 cup (7 ounces) light brown sugar
3 cups (12-3/4 ounces all-purpose flour)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup (11 ounces) light corn syrup
1 pound 4 ounces (20 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the hazelnuts until brown and fragrant. Dave suggests 12-15 minutes, but I kept mine in a few minutes longer. I also rubbed them in a towel while still warm to shed their papery skins (which I then discarded). Chop coarsely.
Keep the oven on.
Cream 2 sticks of the butter and the brown sugar (in an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment). Mix the flour and salt, and stir into the butter mixture. (I mixed on low speed until crumbly, about 2 minutes.)
Coat a 9x13 inch baking pan with nonstick spray and fit with a piece of parchment paper. Spread the crumbly crust mixture evenly in the pan and press it with your fingertips and the palm of your hand into an even layer. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, or until crust starts to turn golden. (I baked it 20 minutes and next time would bake it even a few minutes longer.) Cool.
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the remaining stick of butter, corn syrup, and chocolate chips until melted and smooth, stirring continuously. Use caution.
Pour over crust, and smooth with an offset spatula. Sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly.
Cool completely, then cut into bars.