I suspect I might not be the only person to have those Ah-ha! moments when you realize you have taken someone or something for granted. I had such a moment last Saturday night as I wandered through Winnipeg’s Exchange District with a group for the annual Nuit Blanche. The event is an annual all-night or night-time arts festival where museums, private and public art galleries, and other cultural institutions open and are free of charge – the centre of the city is turned into a de facto art gallery, providing space for art installations, performances (music, film, dance, performance art), themed social gatherings, and other activities.
As much as Winnipeg’s geographic location brings me a certain level of frustration, its virtual isolation has made it possible for the city to be unusually self-sufficient. There is a broad array of industries stemming from the natural shipping routes founded over a century ago. Despite the Panama Canal (as Grandpa Johnstone often bemoaned to be the start of Winnipeg’s cross-continental shipping woes), this city is vibrant, diverse, culturally active and (sometimes) energetic. The evening of Nuit Blanche was such an occasion – it makes you wonder where the throngs of people are usually hiding on any other Saturday evening. Private art galleries were open into the night, a blacksmith was demonstrating his talents near the Cube, the Rainbow Trout bike jam (read 300-strong bike caravan) clogged the streets and our very own Winnipeg Art Gallery was transformed into a nightclub to celebrate its newest Dali exhibit – to just name a few events of the evening.
Before setting off to experience and explore Nuit Blanche, Wally – my running pal – and Kaj hosted a dessert and wine pre-event. Through the week leading to the soirée, I wrestled with my options – wine or dessert! I finally settled on an interesting option pulled from the Martha Stewart’s Cookies cookbook: Surprise Cookies. Some of the same ingredients used for hot chocolate go right into these crowd pleasers. Cocoa powder gives them their chocolate flavour, while marshmallows are the squishy centres. Slathered on top is a chocolate frosting that hides the marshmallow – creating a delightful surprise! The cake-like cookies were often compared to the ubiquitous Viva Puff!
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 12 large marshmallows, cut in half horizontally
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, milk, and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add reserved flour mixture; mix on low speed until combined.
- Using a tablespoon or 1 3/4-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto ungreased baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies begin to spread and become firm, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Remove baking sheets from oven, and place a marshmallow, cut-side down, in the center of each cookie, pressing down slightly. Return to oven, and continue baking until marshmallows begin to melt, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- Place confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk in butter and cocoa powder. Add milk and vanilla, and whisk until well combined.
- Spread about 1 tablespoon of frosting over each marshmallow, starting in the center and continuing outward until marshmallow is covered.
HINT: To stack cookies, wait until frosting dries, then place waxed paper in between layers to keep frosting from smearing.