The Flaming Christmas Wreath and a Recipe for Spiced Chocolate Cookies


In this column, Katherine Knowles divulges recipes you can make in your tiny New York City kitchen.

Jon strides out into the cold to collect the Christmas tree, returning with a shoulder full of pine needles and a heart full of Pioneering Spirit.

On goes the Christmas Music Playlist. Out come the 12 Days of Christmas baubles, the wooden star from Poland. Nostalgia occurs.

“Do you remember,” says Jon, untangling fairy lights, “the year of the Christmas Wreath?”

That was 14c, our first studio on the top of an Upper West Side walk-up — too tiny for both a tree and people to fit. Even so, the bright scent of the wreath made its presence felt, dominating the overheated air — the same green scent that’s on my hands now, as I move one glitter icicle to a different branch to achieve better balance. And all was well until January, when Jon decided that the best way to deal with the dead wreath would be to “just chuck it on the fire.”

It pretty much exploded. Flaming needles shot out onto the cream rug with a soft yet significant “whoomp.”

Once the smoke cleared, and we’d stamped out the glowing embers into smears of black, we looked at each other with a new appreciation for, well, life, really.

“Jesus Christ!” I said, in keeping with the seasonal theme, I suppose.

“Ah,” said Jon. “I did not expect that to happen. Every day’s a school day.” Then we had a stiff drink.

Cinnamon Chocolate Cookies
If you are indulging in similar acts of festive nostalgia, these are the kind of cookies that you probably want to have baking in the oven. They’re easy to make — the kind of shortbread log that lives in the freezer, giving you the ability to bake a batch at a mere moment’s notice, when the dough-making is a distant memory. “I’m fooling people into thinking I’m the kind of person who bakes!” you may gloat. Then you will remember, “Shit! I actually DID bake. I rule.”

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks of butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (not hot chocolate powder, real cocoa powder)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 tsp espresso coffee
1 egg
(This recipe makes about 20 cookies)

Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy — about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa, flour, cinnamon, and salt.
Add the egg and espresso to the butter sugar mixture and beat gently until incorporated. Add the flour mixture in a couple of batches, mixing gently and scraping down the sides.
Divide the dough in half so that it is easier to manage, then roll each lump into a fat sausage. Wrap the logs of dough in wax paper, then freeze for at least 2 hours, or up to a month or so.

When you want to bake the cookies:
Take the log out of the freezer and let it warm up for 5 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Slice the cookies into fat coins (press them back together again if they break up) and lay on a lined baking tray. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. They’ll firm up as they cool, and they’re best served warm.