Usually when I say it, I mean food that is delicious and filling, is probably not very good for you and evokes some sort of safe-as-houses feeling inside. Food that offers comfort to you.
But, over the past year or so, I think I understand its other meaning -- perhaps its primary meaning.
Food can be a way of offering comfort to others, of saying what we don't quite have the words to say.
There's a reason why, in a time of crisis or sadness, the standard response is to whip up a casserole for the family in need. We want to show we care, to offer comfort, and we do so with our favorite recipes.
It's definitely what I do. I've experienced the loss of two loved ones recently and both times, for lack of knowing quite what else to do, I baked a batch of my salted oatmeal cookies. In fact, one of my friends has started calling them my "funeral cookies."
Similarly, since my dad passed away nearly a year ago, every time I visit my mom I bring her a whole load of individually frozen homemade meals, to try to make things a little easier for her.
In my way, I'm offering what comfort I can by offering food made from the heart.
An old friend recently hit a pretty rough patch on the road of life, and, given that I live too far away to drop by and offer a hug, I baked these cookies for her instead (casseroles don't ship very well!).
Apparently, my comfort foods of choice are primarily baked goods.
I know I don't need to sell you on the awesomesauciness of Nutella, so I won't. Suffice it to say that you can really taste it in these cookies, which, in addition to being huge, have lovely crunchy edges and a slightly softer center (if you don't overcook them which, if you do, doesn't change the excellent flavor, just the texture).
So whether you need to offer a little comfort or just receive some, I think these cookies will probably do the trick.
(PS: If you like Nutella, you'll also like my recipe for homemade Nutella poptarts -- and learn how to make your own chocolate hazelnut spread!)
Nutella Cookies(adapted from Cuisine At Home magazine)
Note: The dough must be chilled, so these are not a make-on-a-whim cookie.
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup Nutella
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a small bowl, whisk together the first four ingredients and set aside.
With or in a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until very creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly in between. Next, add the Nutella and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Lastly, beat in the flour mixture. Cover the bowl and chill the dough for at least four hours.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Scoop the dough by approximately 2 tablespoons full each (a heaping #40 scoop is perfect) onto prepared baking sheets (I like lining mine with parchment paper) -- they spread quite a bit, so give them lots of room.
Bake cookies until the edges are set but the centers still seem soft, approximately 15 minutes. Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack.