There’s nothing like a world war, losing both your parents in a car accident and going to live in a strange town with a stranger relative to make you really, really hungry.
When all of that happens to Lewis Barnavelt in “The House with a Clock in its Walls, “ his hearty appetite finds a welcome home with Uncle Johnathan and Mrs. Zimmerman, whose very special chocolate chip cookies are served the night of Lewis’ arrival in New Zebedee—and on many occasions thereafter, through thick and thin, good and evil, hairiness and hairierness.
As the three munch the famous morsels and play poker, Uncle Jonathan tells Lewis about the wizards who once lived in the house, and of the mysterious clock walled up inside the structure: a clock that is ticking down the minutes to the End of the World. To fight the wizards’ power, the three will need sustenance, and Mrs. Zimmerman’s cookies are just the ticket.
But what made Mrs. Zimmerman’s cookies so darned gobble-able? Well….. there are a few things. They are all, as you can imagine, kind of weird.
First of all, they—like Mrs. Zimmerman—have a bite.
The bite comes from a mixture of strange things to find in cookies: black pepper, cinnamon and cayenne pepper plus a couple spoonfuls of strong coffee. They are not exactly spicy and won’t burn your lips off, but they do wake you up a little when you’re playing poker in the wee hours.
The cookies also have chopped up prunes in them. Mrs. Zimmerman put them in as a joke once because Uncle Jonathan calls her Pruny, but they liked them so much she added them to the recipe.
These are actually also double chocolate chip cookies: a fudgy cookie sprinkled with chocolate chips. For Lewis, who likes chocolate chip cookies even more than Welch’s fudge bars, this makes Mrs. Zimmerman’s extra, extra special. Watch the oven, because mine is terrible and you could burn them. Start with 10 minutes and 350 degrees and see how it goes. Makes things exciting!
Mrs. Zimmerman’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 tablespoons strong black brewed coffee
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken up
½ cup salted butter
2 cups flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon EACH ground cinnamon, fresh ground black pepper and chili powder
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs, beaten slightly until combined
1 cup chocolate chips
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans (you can leave these out if you don’t like nuts)
½ cup finely chopped prunes
Melt the bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler or in a saucepan over a slightly large pan of boiling water. Keep an eye on it!
Let the mixture cool, and mix in the butter a little at a time, stirring until smooth. Add the honey, cinnamon, black pepper and chili powder and mix well.
Combine the flour and baking powder until well combined.
Stir the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture and combine well.
Add the beaten eggs and stir until completely mixed.
Fold in the chocolate chips, pecans (if using) and prunes.
Drop by tablespoons onto a lightly greased baking pan.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes depending on your oven’s weirdness and how ooey gooey you like them.
Serve with ice cold milk and Balkan Sobranie cigarettes.